The GI Bill Kicker was established by Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 30, which permits each branch of military service to offer a kicker, or increase, to the basic allowance under the GI Bill when the new recruit signs up for military service.
This is offered to qualified enlistees with special skills or entering a critically staffed career field. The GI Bill Kicker is administered as part of each service’s college fund program such as the Navy College Fund, Army College Fund, etc.
You may have been authorized a GI Bill Kicker when you enlisted, but some forget they were offered this option and don’t take advantage of it. Use of the kicker is not automatic. The Department of Veterans Affairs may not know you were offered a kicker which is why it does not get applied automatically at sign-up time. As you’ll read below, you will be required to furnish proof you were offered the kicker so the VA can document it in their records.
GI Bill Kicker Basics
Each branch of military service has its own procedures, requirements, and guidelines for offering GI Bill Kickers and how they may be claimed. Some may not offer the program at all depending on current budget, legislation, and other issues. Others may offer it only to Guard/Reserve members. The availability of the kicker program will vary based on any number of variables.
The Kicker is not a program which can be used independently of the GI Bill. You must qualify for either the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post 9/11 GI Bill in order to use your kicker. If you were offered this benefit at enlistment time, you will need to provide the paperwork when you apply for your GI Bill benefits.
The official education website for the U.S. Army advises those promised a kicker, “the individual should receive a Department of Army Form 3286-66 upon entry to active duty with the incentive listed in section 1a”. If you cannot find your form, it may be available through your command support staff at your last base or you may need to request a replacement copy from the National Archives where applicable.
In cases where there is no record of the kicker at the VA, the form must be forwarded or otherwise provided to the VA when applying for VA education benefits.
The Army example here is specific to that branch of service and you may need to ask your command support staff for instructions if the forms or requirements for your branch of service are different, which they are likely to be.
These programs are always subject to change based on the most current defense budget, mission requirements, etc. Ask your command support staff, First Individual, Command Sergeant Major, Detailer, or Senior Chief for help with service-specific requirements.
Who Is Eligible For The GI Bill Kicker
Each branch of service administers its own version of the kicker and has its own requirements. In general they may be similar but the details will vary depending on the branch of service, whether the applicant is Active Duty, Guard, or Reserve, etc.
The U.S. Navy’s requirements for the kicker are a good example of what you might expect regardless of branch of service–the specific job titles and requirements will vary.
Here’s a look at the Navy’s rules, which include a reminder that many recruits may technically be eligible to receive a kicker but there are budget constraints. Not all who qualify will be awarded the incentive. Consider the Navy’s GI Bill kicker program to be first-come, first-served for those who do meet the criteria:
- Qualify for training in a selected Navy rating as a non-prior service enlistee.
- Enter active duty on or after Nov. 21, 1989.
- Agree to serve on active duty for an additional time
- Must be a high school graduate, no H.S. equivalency is accepted.
- Achieve an AFQT score of 50 or higher.
- Be 17-35 years old.
- Enroll in the MGIB Program and agree to pay the required $1,200 pay reduction.
- Receive an “Honorable” Character of Service. This does not include “General Under Honorable Conditions.”
Compare that with the Army National Guard requirements for the same benefit. For non-prior service enlistees:
- Enlist for a minimum six-year term of service.
- Enlist for a critical skill vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below.
- Enlist into a qualifying vacancy position in an Modification Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) or Medical Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) unit only.
- Have a minimum AFQT score of 50.
- Meets the Tier I educational requirements to be eligible.
As you can see, the nature of military service will dictate, at least in part, the eligibility requirements you must meet in order to be offered the kicker. There are provisions for prior-service enlistees and there is even a way for those currently serving in the Army Guard to apply for consideration. Those currently serving must meet the following:
- The soldier must reenlist or extend for a minimum six-year term of service.
- Reenlist or extend DMOSQ as the primary position holder in the grade of E-5 or below.
- The soldier’s MOS “must match the authorized military grade and skill qualification” in accordance with the position being extended or re-enlisted for.
How The GI Bill Kicker Is Paid
For those using the Montgomery GI Bill, the kicker may be paid as a portion of your usual monthly payment, but under the Post 9/11 GI Bill program that may come as part of your monthly housing allowance.
The length of your payments is identical to your GI Bill deposits and is divided over the entire 36 month entitlement period for full-time attendees. Students attending part-time will have their monthly payment prorated but the total amount paid over the entire course of the program is the same.
Like many financial incentives to join the military, the GI Bill Kicker program comes with caveats. If you fail to complete your education, if you are not given a military discharge that meets program standards, or if you terminate your enlistment early you may have your benefit terminated or it may be required to be paid back.
Much depends on circumstances, the branch of service you are in, and other variables, But in general, you should expect the following if you fail to meet program regulations.
- If you are disenrolled or lose your entitlement for GI Bill benefits, you also lose your GI Bill Kicker benefit.
- Programs that include partial months of training will be prorated for your actual attendance.
- Your kicker is prorated if you fail to complete the full active duty obligation.
Your Kicker entitlement is identical to your GI Bill entitlement. If you have full entitlement for one, you get full entitlement for the other. Ditto for those who have fewer than the full 36 months; for example if you have 15 months of GI Bill entitlement you are offered 15 months of Kicker, too.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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