Those who joined the military after August 2009 are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. For members of the military who enlisted prior to this date, it is likely possibly they can elect to change their benefits from older versions of the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill through a simple election process. However, they should be aware any changes made are permanent and can’t be reversed.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill allows members of the military to attend college and certain other educational pursuits while the government foots the bill for tuition. This is one of the many benefits available for service to our country.
In the past, the Montgomery GI Bill paid a set amount to those using the benefit with no regard to the cost of the program or other expenses associated with the educational program. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is generally viewed as a more comprehensive educational benefit that not only addresses tuition and book expense but also living expenses while the military member is pursuing the program.
The new bill pays tuition based on the most expensive state school in each state. Per hour tuition fees are set as well as other expenses such as administrative costs that are associated with most schools. As long as the program falls within these limits, the new GI bill will cover the costs of attending for those who are 100% eligible for the benefits.
While the Montgomery GI Bill was a set rate regardless of where the military member attended school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill can vary greatly from one state to the next. It is to the benefit of members who are eligible for the MGIB to thoroughly calculate the costs and benefits associated with both programs before switching to the new program.
In addition to covering tuition costs in most cases, the new bill also provides a $1,000 annual book stipend. In addition, a housing allowance is provided as long as the military member is attending school in person. The housing allowance is based on the zip code of the school and paid at a with dependents rate for an E-5. This allowance is paid monthly to the military member through direct deposit whereas all tuition payments are made directly to the school.
It is important to note that military members who attend classes online or who attend school while still on active duty will not be eligible for the housing allowance. In this case, in particular, it may be advantageous to remain with the MGIB program.
In some cases where tuition exceeds the benefit amount, the Yellow Ribbon Program may be of assistance. With this program, the school and the Department of Veterans Affairs contribute equally to, in most cases, make up the difference in what the new bill will cover. For instance, if the new bill only covers $5,000 in tuition per semester but tuition is $6,000, with the Yellow Ribbon Program, the school will contribute $500 and the VA will contribute $500 to make up the difference.
An advantage of the new bill is that it has clear guidelines attached stating how the benefits can be transferred to dependents of the military member. While the guidelines are strict, previous transfer programs were generally even less available under pilot programs that were never fully implemented.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, with the new GI Bill, military members can transfer their benefits at certain points in their career:
- Has at least 6 years of service in the Armed Forces on the date of election and agrees to serve 4 additional years in the Armed Forces from the date of election.
- Has at least 10 years of service in the Armed Forces (active duty and/or selected reserve) on the date of election, is precluded by either standard policy (service or DoD) or statute from committing to 4 additional years, and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute, or
- Is or becomes retirement eligible during the period from August 1, 2009, through August 1, 2013. A service member is considered to be retirement eligible if he or she has completed 20 years of active duty or 20 qualifying years of reserve service.
- For those individuals eligible for retirement on August 1, 2009, no additional service is required.
- For those individuals who have an approved retirement date after August 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2010, no additional service is required.
- For those individuals eligible for retirement after August 1, 2009, and before August 1, 2010, 1 year of additional service after approval of transfer is required.
- For those individuals eligible for retirement on or after August 1, 2010, and before August 1, 2011, 2 years of additional service after approval of transfer are required.
- For those individuals eligible for retirement on or after August 1, 2011, and before August 1, 2012, 3 years of additional service after approval of transfer required.
If eligibility requirements are met, the military member can transfer all or part of his benefits to any of his dependents including his spouse or child. The benefits may also be split between dependents if desired. Spouses who use the benefit while the military member is still serving are ineligible for the allowances and will only qualify for the tuition benefit of the bill.
If a child uses transferred benefits, the benefits must be used before the child reaches the age of 26. In addition, the child can receive all benefits of the bill, including the monthly and annual stipends, even if the military member is still on active duty at the time it is used.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides full details about the differences between the Montgomery GI Bill programs and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Active military and Veterans are encouraged to review all aspects of the new program and compare benefits before requesting a transfer to the new program as the decision is permanent and can’t be reversed once made.
For more information, visit our GI Bill Page.