Forever GI Bill: For More Than Just CollegeUpdated: July 10, 2021
The Forever GI Bill was signed into law in 2017, with many provisions, upgrades, improvements, and many changes phasing in overtime to help expand veterans’ education benefits.
One of the most significant benefits of the Forever GI Bill is the ability to use GI Bill funds to complete training that is not strictly college-based. Those qualified to apply for the GI Bill can use this important educational benefit to get a variety of training and instruction that can help start a new career or continue an existing one.
Did you know you can use your GI Bill benefits to attend flight school, coding boot camps, even qualified tattoo schools? The availability of GI Bill options may vary depending on the school; it’s a good idea to ask about GI Bill options before you fill out any application paperwork or pay application fees to a school, program, or institution.
Types Of “Non-Traditional” Education Funded By The GI Bill
There are many different classifications and types of programs that may be covered by GI Bill funding. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Correspondence courses
- Vocational schools
- Non-college degree programs
- Entrepreneurial training
- On-the-job training (OJT) and apprenticeship programs
- Flight training
- Qualifying “boot camps” and other intensive courses
- National Testing Programs
- Tutorial assistance
Whether or not an individual program that may fall under one or more of these descriptions qualifies for the GI Bill depends on the school, it’s stage of completion of the certification process to accept the GI Bill, and other factors.
GI Bill benefits may be used for correspondence courses, which are defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a different type of learning than “distance education” for nonresident students. Lessons or exercises are delivered via mail, online, or some other form of communication, and then completed and returned for a grade.
GI Bill payments for correspondence course work is rendered quarterly, and is dependent on the VA receiving certification from the school for the student’s coursework. The type of GI Bill program you signed up for correspondence classes with will determine the amount you are qualified to receive. For example, those who started training under the Post 9/11 GI Bill may be eligible for either “the lesser of the net actual costs for in-state tuition and fees assessed by the school for the program being pursued or the maximum amount allowed by law.”
Non-College Degree Programs, Vocational Training, and the GI Bill
GI Bill payment options may vary greatly for non-college degree programs such as tattoo school, HVAC training, truck driver training courses, etc. The VA official site says of these programs, “The payment amount varies depending on the GI Bill program you are utilizing and the type of non-college-degree school you are attending. Payments are issued monthly after the training is completed.”
The amount of GI Bill funds available to you under such programs may depend greatly on the actual number of “clock hours” used for your course work.
GI Bill Coverage For Entrepreneurial Training
Those interested in starting their own businesses and want to use GI Bill money to learn how have the option to apply to use GI Bill funds to take approved courses. This applies only for classes offered by the Small Business Development Center and is not offered as part of the Dependents Educational Assistance program options under the GI Bill. Those who currently own and operate small businesses are encouraged to apply.
GI Bill Funds For OJT and Apprenticeships
Using the GI Bill for on-the-job training and apprenticeships is a bit trickier than applying for GI Bill benefits in association with a college program or non-traditional educational coursework for one important reason. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site, OJT/apprenticeship programs funded by the GI Bill “typically involve entering into a training contract for a specific period of time with an employer or union” and getting compensated accordingly (e.g., union plumbers, firefighters, and hotel management.)
Depending on the type of GI Bill program you are enrolled in, you may be eligible for up to 100% of your GI Bill housing allowance for the first six months of the apprenticeship/training, with a sliding scale in the subsequent six months and beyond. These rates assume the applicant has full GI Bill benefits. Discuss your specific needs with a VA rep if you have less than 100% GI Bill eligibility.
In some cases, you may wish to ask a VA rep about using the GI Bill for an initial training or vocational school and applying the remaining benefits to an OJT program or apprenticeship. This may be a useful option to explore if you plan to attend a coding boot camp, tattoo school, or other highly specialized form of learning that may require on-the-job training or apprenticeships as part of the career path of the student.
“Boot Camp” Training For Coding, Web Development, IT Security, Etc.
There are more GI Bill-accepting boot camp training programs than ever, and the Forever GI Bill includes a multi-year pilot program for adding more of this type of training (as well as other high-tech fields). The amount of compensation will vary depending on the length of the program, how many actual clock hours are spent on coursework, etc.
Since the nature and duration of boot camp-style training varies as much as the schools/organizations themselves, there is less standardized information on how the GI Bill can help an individual student. The best advice is to contact the boot camp and request information on using your Forever GI Bill benefits to attend. Some institutions may not have full VA approval for all available boot camp programs, others may be completely VA-approved.
Eligible applicants who have unexpired GI Bill are paired up with a Training Provider to train in one of the following VET TEC areas: computer software, information science, computer programming, media application, or data processing. Tuition and housing assistance are provided (housing limitations based on instructional method). This is a fast-track option for those interested in high-tech programs that do not offer college degrees.
Forever GI Bill Compensation For National Testing Programs
Those eligible for the GI Bill may apply for reimbursement for national testing programs such as ACT, LSAT, GMAT, and GRE. Compensation is also available for students who wish to take national testing to earn college credit via CLEP or DANTES testing. You may be eligible to be compensated for all “mandatory” fees, but some expenses related to taking such tests may not be reimbursed under the GI Bill program.
GI Bill Funds For Flight Training
This GI Bill option is different than many other types of education due to some important prerequisites including the requirement that the student is medically qualified and must have a private pilot’s license before the start of any GI Bill-funded coursework. The VA recognizes a difference between some types of flight training and what the official site designates as “vocational” flight training. Ask your VA representative about the major differences in GI Bill requirements for flying training coursework at a public, private, or vocational school. You can receive some qualifications such as Rotary wing, B747-400, Dual engine, and flight engineer.
Work/Study Programs And The GI Bill: The End of REAP
A law passed in 2016 ended REAP, also known as the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. According to the VA benefits site, new enrollees after Nov. 25, 2015, are no longer eligible to receive REAP.
Those who met the requirements from Nov. 24 and during the school’s last term, quarter, or semester ending prior to that date, continued work-study payments under REAP and were required to continue the certification and submission process in order to be compensated.
The VA continues to evaluate all certifications and determine program eligibility. You can receive work-study if you work at an approved college, vocational, or professional establishment. This also includes nearby VA facilities. Work-study may pay the federal or state minimum hourly wage, whichever is greater.
Forever GI Bill Compensation For Tutorial assistance
This may be one of the “best-kept secrets” of the GI Bill — the ability to get GI Bill funding for the help of a tutor. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the tutoring must be directly related to advancing your education, and compensation may vary. This type of payment is considered a supplemental benefit for those attending half-time or more and “have a deficiency in a subject, making tutoring necessary.”
Tutoring may not happen between semesters or quarters, and the monthly rate “may not exceed the cost of tutoring or $100”. A maximum of $1200 is available for tutoring help, and there is “no entitlement charge” for those attending under the Post-9/11 GI Bill or DEA.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News