The GI Bill, also called the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was signed into law by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide benefits to World War II veterans. Today, the definition of the GI Bill is broader in scope. 

The GI Bill is an overarching term that refers to any education benefit earned by Active Duty, National Guard, Selected Reserve members and their families via the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The overarching goal is to help veterans and service members of the armed forces cover a lot of the costs associated with getting education or job training

Several different programs make up the United States GI Bill and have different levels of eligibility and benefits.

GI Bill Background

The GI Bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. government in the 20th century. In 1947, nearly half of college admissions were for veterans, clearly making use of the GI Bill. 

There have been multiple different versions of the bill since the initial version. 

Today, the main purpose of the bill is to provide educational benefits to active service members, along with eligible veterans who have been honorably discharged. These benefits also extend into technical training and vocational training.

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There are a variety of different types of training covered under the four GI Bill programs, including:

  • Associate programs
  • Bachelor programs
  • Graduate programs
  • Vocational programs
  • Non-college degree programs
  • Apprenticeships
  • Licensing and certifications

Evolution of the GI Bill

The original version of the GI Bill ended in 1956. Since that time its been updated multiple times, including the following:

Each of these updates changed the benefits provided by the GI Bill pushing the main focus of the bill today towards education and enhanced career prospects. 

GI Bill Programs

The GI Bill is comprised of several different programs that can be administered based on eligibility and duty.

When most people think of the GI Bill, college education immediately comes to mind. However, the GI Bill has expanded to include a variety of different types of training. 

This is covered in greater depth below, but here are a few different types of training supported:

  • Vocational and technical training programs
  • On-the-job training and apprenticeship training
  • Reimbursement for job-necessary licenses and certificates
  • Flight training (for those who have a private pilot’s license)

Below you’ll learn about the four main programs that comprise the GI Bill.

1. Post-9/11 GI Bill

Who it’s for

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers education benefits for people who have served on active duty after September 10th, 2001 for 90 days or more

What makes it unique

Here are a few unique parts of this bill:

  • Covers up to 100% of tuition
  • A monthly housing stipend or allowance
  • Up to $1000 per year on books and education supplies
  • Can transfer GI Bill benefits to your family
  • The “Yellow Ribbon Program” will help pay for more expensive private schools

There is a wide range of applications beyond traditional college education as well, including job training programs. 

What you can use the bill for

Here’s what you can use the bill for:

  • College degrees including associates, bachelor, or graduate school
  • Vocational and technical training in non-college programs
  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Job licensing or certificate reimbursement
  • Flight training
  • Work-study programs
  • General tuition assistance
  • Reimbursement for national testing programs like SAT, AP, CLEP

Essentially, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover your full tuition and related fees, give you up to $1000 per year on books and supplies, and even provide a monthly housing allowance to help pay rent. 

If you qualify you can also obtain a one-time relocation allowance and transfer unused benefits to family members. 

Eligibility

The amount of time you’ve spent on active duty will determine the percentage of total benefits you’re able to receive. 

The VA uses the following scale to determine eligibility:

  • 100 percent. 36 months or more of service, or 30 continuous days with a discharge due to a service-related disability
  • 90 percent. At least 30 months of service, but under 36 months
  • 80 percent. At least 24 months of service, but under 30 months
  • 70 percent. At least 18 months of service, but under 24 months
  • 60 percent. At least 12 months of service, but under 18 month
  • 50 percent. At least 6 months of service, but under 12 months
  • 40 percent. At least 3 months of service, but under 6 months
  • No benefit if service was less than 90 days

The housing stipend is paid based on your current credit load as a student and how long you served in active duty. 

2. Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty

Who it’s for

The Montgomery GI Bill for active duty helps service members who have served at least two years pay for education and training by offering monthly payments. 

What makes it unique

The bill provides over $76,000 in cash and additional support programs.

The pay rates are based upon a variety of different factors, but mostly your current credit load. A full-time student can receive up to $2,122, while a student who’s only in school half-time will receive half of that amount. 

To be considered a full-time student you’ll need to take 12 or more credits per semester. If you’re currently active duty, then the GI Bill will reimburse you for tuition and expenses. 

There is a limit to 36 months of benefits. However, this refers to 36 academic months and not total months. This means you have up to 8 semesters of traditional college education covered. 

What you can use the bill for

The MGIB can be used to pay for a variety of educational programs including:

  • College, vocational, or technical courses
  • Distance learning courses
  • Flight training
  • Accelerated training programs
  • National testing programs
  • Certification and licensing exams

Eligibility

To be eligible you must have served at least 2 years of active duty and meet the requirements below:

  • You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
  • Entered Active Duty after June 30th, 1985
  • Had your military pay reduced by $100 per month for your first 12 months of service

3. Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve

Who it’s for

The Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) covers benefits for the National Guard and Military Reserve. It offers benefits for the Army, Air Force, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard Reserve. 

What makes it unique

It provides additional education support for Reservists and National Guard members who might not qualify for other aspects of the GI Bill.

What you can use the bill for

The benefits mostly fall under tuition assistance and assistance with education and related training costs. 

The following types of courses are supported:

  • Undergraduate and graduate degree program
  • Technical or vocational courses
  • Correspondence courses
  • Flight training
  • Apprenticeships and on-the-job training
  • Licensing and certification tests
  • Entrance examinations or national tests

Beyond the GI Bill, you’ll also have access to state tuition benefits and other programs.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve you’ll need to meet the following requirements: 

  • Have a six-year obligation to serve in the Reserve or Guard that was signed after June 30, 1985
  • Officers must have agreed to serve an additional 6 years on top of their original term
  • Have received a high school diploma or equivalent certificate
  • Initial active duty training is completed
  • You remain in good standing while serving in a Reserve or Guard unit

Once you leave the Guard or Reserve you won’t be eligible for these benefits.

Members of the guard and reserve can be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill if they were mobilized under the following:

  • Title 10 active duty supporting contingency operations
  • Title 32 service involving National Guard activities
  • Title 32 service responding to a national emergency 
  • Voluntary active duty, with the exception of active duty for medical care
  • Federal assistance in disaster response at the request of a governor
  • When the DoD mobilizes the reserves for combat support

Any of the above active duty time will qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Also, if you lost educational benefits when the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) ended, you may end up qualifying for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

4. Veteran Readiness and Vocational Rehabilitation

Who it’s for

If you’re a veteran who has a VA disability and an employment handicap, then you can qualify for Veteran Readiness and Vocational Rehabilitation benefits. 

What makes it unique

If you’re eligible you work directly with a counselor to help with education, job training, and throughout your job search.

What you can use the bill for

These services include things like training, counseling, education, and help with job placement.

Here’s a look at some of the services provided:

  • Vocational counseling 
  • Help with work readiness, resume development, and the development of job-seeking skills
  • A rehabilitation evaluation to determine skills, needs, and interests
  • Assistance finding and keeping a job
  • On-the-job training and apprenticeships
  • Case management, counseling, and a referral network 
  • Independent living services for veterans unable to work

Eligibility

To obtain VR&E services you’ll need to meet eligibility and entitlement services. To receive an evaluation you’ll need to have received an honorable discharge, plus have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%, or a memorandum rating of 20% or more.

VR&E benefits may be used within 12 years from the date you’ve stopped military service, or the date the veteran was notified by the VA of the service-connected disability.

If you are eligible, then you’ll need to complete an application and meet with a Veterans Readiness Counselor (VRC). If your counselor determines that you have an employment handicap as a result of your service, then you’ll be entitled to services. 

You’ll then work with your VRC to continue counseling and develop a plan to work on your rehabilitation and employment. 

You’ll work with your VRC on the following:

  • Determine your existing skillset and interests
  • Identify viable employment opportunities 
  • Explore the existing labor market
  • Create a suitable employment goal
  • Identify employment requirements and available training programs
  • Build a rehabilitation plan to achieve employment 

How to apply for benefits

Applying for GI Bill benefits is a pretty straightforward process. 

Here’s a three-step process you can follow:

1. Find a school/program

Not every school, or training program, accepts the GI Bill. So, it’s important to determine if the GI Bill is accepted before you decide to apply for any program or school.

You can use the VA School Comparison Tool to find schools, testing organizations, and different types of employers where you can use the GI Bill. This can greatly help to shortcut your search for a suitable program. 

2. Apply online

The next step to using your GI Bill benefits includes applying for them online, in person at a VA office, or via your school if you have a VA representative on campus.

If you are currently on active duty, then you’ll need to get approval from your Educational Service Officer before you apply for the GI Bill. 

While if you’re a veteran, then you’ll need to include a copy of DD Form 214 discharge paperwork.

3. Get documents together

There are several additional documents you need to order to receive your VA benefits including:

  • Your social security number
  • Your bank account and routing number
  • Any relevant transcripts
  • Paperwork that shows your current veteran status
  • A copy of DD Form 214 discharge paperwork
  • If you’re still serving, documents, or a letter that that shows good standing

Keep in mind that it could take a month (or longer) for the Department of Veterans Affairs to process your application. It’s not uncommon to get a letter from the VA that’s requesting more information about your application.

4. Enrollment process

The VA will then provide you with a Certificate of Eligibility which will show that you’re eligible for the GI Bill. You can then take this to the school or program that will enroll you and pass the information to the VA, so you can receive your benefits. 

Now, all that’s left is to go to class, enjoy learning, and take advantage of your GI Bill benefits.

Once you begin receiving your benefit checks you’ll need to complete the Web Automated Verification of Eligibility (WAVE) every month to continue to receive your benefits.

GI Bill FAQs

How much will the GI Bill pay for schooling?

The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes payment of tuition, a stipend for books and supplies, and a monthly housing allowance. The GI Bill covers all tuition at state institutions, but might not cover the full cost for private schools. 

However, if the school participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, then this cost can be greatly reduced or even eliminate the additional cost you’ll have to pay as a student.  

Can you use the GI Bill on active duty?

Yes, you can use the GI Bill as long as you meet the minimum requirements. However, if you use the GI Bill while on active duty you won’t receive a monthly housing stipend. So, there’s a chance that the total amount of benefits you receive could be much less than what you’d receive when you’re out of the military. 

Can you change schools with the GI Bill?

Yes, changing schools once you’ve started using the GI Bill is similar to applying for the GI Bill in the first place. You’ll need to provide your military service records, education history, and school transfer information. 

How to check the status of your benefits?

You can create an Ebenefits account to check the current status of your GI Bill benefits. This will also show you how many of the benefits you’ve used and what you have left. 

Can you transfer GI Bill to your dependents?

If you’ve already finished your degree, or don’t want to return to school you can transfer your GI Bill benefits to your dependents. To be eligible for transfer you need to have six years of active service, along with four more years of service once your transfer has been approved by the Department of Defense. 

However, if you’re an active duty service recipient of the Purple Heart you can transfer your GI Bill benefits to your family members at any time. 

If you’re a surviving spouse or child, then you might also be eligible for job training and education benefits. If you’re a surviving spouse or child you’ll apply for benefits via the same process highlighted above. 

Is there a time limit on GI Bill benefits?

Depending on when you got out of the military, you may not have a time limit to use your GI Bill. If you left the military after January 1st, 2013, then you have no limit. However, if you were discharged before that you have 10 years from the time of your discharge to use the GI Bill.

Do you have to use the GI Bill continuously?

No, you can start and stop the GI Bill and use the benefits as needed. You can use it to further your education or job skills training, and start and stop the GI Bill as needed.

GI Bill additional resources