There are many versions of the GI Bill. The Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and the Forever GI Bill. Each program has its own benefits and requirements, but as this military benefit has evolved, so has the kind of education you can get. The most contemporary version of the GI Bill includes provisions for both degree and non-degree programs.
This is a big benefit to those who want to go to school but aren’t interested in a traditional four-year degree program. Some want to get work skills they can begin using right away, and that’s where the VA Non-College Degree Programs can help.
The VA official site lists a variety of options for those who want on-the-job training, work study, business training, and more. There’s a short list of programs offered by the VA which include, but are not limited to:
- VET TEC program
- Flight training
- Entrepreneurship training
- Work study
- Co-op training
- On-the-job training
These programs may or may not include a certificate or other credentialing, and while these are all excellent resources, there are still some who seek short programs aimed at specific industries.
In the same way that computer security experts require certifications, other industries such as heating and air conditioning (HVAC) repair, truck driving, auto repair, barber or beauty school, Emergency Medical Technician training, etc.
These types of education can be paid for using GI Bill funds via VA Non-College Degree Programs.
Who Qualifies For VA Non-College Degree Programs
There are three basic categories of those who qualify to use the GI Bill for non-college learning:
- Service members
- Qualified dependents (e.g. spouses and children)
But in order to qualify, two criteria must be met; the applicant must qualify for the GI Bill, and the non-degree program you enter must be at an approved institution.
The VA official site has some very basic information on its non-college degree programs page, stating the benefits include:
- Help paying for tuition
- Money for books and supplies, up to $83 a month for 2020 as an example. Your experience may vary.
It takes some deeper digging to find more specifics about what benefits are actually paid to you when using your GI Bill benefits in this way.
The Department of Veterans Affairs calculates the benefit differently for non-college programs. What can you expect? At press time, the following applies. The rates and other numbers are subject to change, this is an example from 2020 to give you an idea what past benefit amounts have been paid. Your experience may vary:
- Actual net costs (in-state) for tuition
- Actual net costs for fees
- Total amount cannot exceed $25,162.14 during the 2020 academic year
- Monthly housing stipend (paid to the student)
- Books/Supplies stipend (paid to the student)
In some cases a student may also qualify for a one-time-only benefit paid under the following circumstances–a one time payment of $500 payable to those relocating from “highly rural” areas.
VA criteria at press time for this benefit includes residence in a county “with 6 persons or less per square mile (as determined by the most recent decennial census)” and the student must either physically relocate at least 500 miles to attend OR “travel by air to physically attend an educational institution” when “no other land-based transportation exists.”
Benefit Amounts And How To Apply
The amount of money you could receive will depend on both the nature of the GI Bill program you are enrolled in and the nature and duration of your coursework. You should start the process by applying for VA education benefits at the official site. In general, the VA official site advises:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill pays for training offered at non-degree schools for in-state tuition and fees up to the national maximum (see above)
- Other GI Bill programs pay a monthly rate based “on your specific program and your length of active service”
What do you need to apply? At application time you will need access to the following information to submit as part of your paperwork:
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- Bank account direct deposit information so direct-to-student benefits can be paid to you
- Education history
- Military career
- Details about the school where you will attend
Request An Application And Apply By Mail
If you want to sign up by U.S. mail, call the VA at 888-442-4551 and ask to have the VA send the application to you. Be sure to ask where you should send your form since it must go to the VA Regional Claims Processing Office in the same location as the school you want to attend.
Apply In Person
You can apply in person at any VA Regional Office listed in the link above. You can also apply in person at your school with help from a school official in the Registrar or Financial Aid office.
Apply With A Veteran Service Officer (VSO)
A VSO can help you apply for VA education benefits of any kind. You can approach any VA-approved VSO such as the DAV, AMVets, state or regional offices with veteran programs, etc.
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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