Which is better when comparing the Post 9/11 GI Bill vs. the Montgomery GI Bill? The Department of Veterans Affairs official site reminds applicants to choose wisely. It says in part, “If you’re eligible for more than one education benefit, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, you must choose which benefit to receive, a decision that’s final and cannot be changed.”
And unfortunately there is no simple answer to the question of which is better between these two programs. The VA advises that for “most” the Post 9/11 GI Bill is better, but not always.
A Major Difference Between The Two GI Bills
The most important difference for some when reviewing the Post 9/11 GI Bill versus the Montgomery GI bill? Transferability. Those who sign up for the Post 9/11 GI Bill can transfer their GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent.
The Montgomery GI Bill does NOT feature this and if your main priorities include being able to transfer your benefits, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the better option. This is NOT the only major difference, but it’s a make-or-break from some.
One very important issue to remember–transferring your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits is only possible under specific circumstances as described in DoD literature:
- You meet a minimum service requirement of six “cumulative years” as a member on active duty, in the Selected Reserve, or “a combination of both” on the date of election, AND you agree to serve an additional four years in the Uniformed Services from that date.
- You must retainable for four years from the date of your election to transfer benefits, and “not be precluded from serving for four more years prior to approval of your election by policy or statute”.
When transferring to dependents, they must be under the age of 23 to receive transferred Post-9/11 G.I. Benefits. VA rules state that in cases where the initial transfer of benefits to a dependent child “between 21-23 years of age, the dependent child must be a full time student at an accredited institution of higher learning.“
A Simple Choice In Limited Cases?
Students who want to pay for school using the GI Bill who aren’t sure which way to go have some big choices to make but that said, chances are good that the Montgomery GI Bill may serve some students better in cases where the applicant plans to attend classes online only with NO in-person attendance AND the college credit rates doesn’t exceed a certain threshold.
When choosing the Montgomery GI Bill, it’s key to remember Post 9/11 GI Bill rules do not allow a full housing stipend for those attending college online-only. Partial payments are authorized in such cases. That will make the difference for some, but not all depending on circumstances, academic goals, etc.
GI Bill Participation Variables May Apply
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a GI Bill comparison tool that allows you to view the benefits offered by school. This can be important because not all educational programs support all GI Bill possibilities. For example, not all colleges participate or are eligible to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program (see below).
The availability of options like Yellow Ribbon can be extremely important and if you feel the Montgomery GI Bill option is the better one, keep in mind that there is no Yellow Ribbon Program offered outside the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Details Of Montgomery GI Bill Benefits
Those with qualifying active duty military service qualify under the Montgomery GI Bill for up to 36 months of education benefits. The benefit money that is not paid directly to the school for tuition and fees is provided to the student. The amount of the monthly benefit varies based on:
- Duration of military service
- The type of education or training program
- Whether or not the applicant qualifies “for a college fund or kicker”
- Any contributions to the $600 Buy-Up program
Montgomery GI Bill funds can be used to pay for include but are not limited to:
- Traditional classes at a university or college
- Business schools
- Technical schools
- Vocational programs
- On-the-job training
- Flight schools
There is a time limit in most cases to use the benefit once you retire or separate from the military under the Montgomery GI Bill program. This benefit, unlike the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the modifications made under Forever GI Bill legislation, does NOT allow you to transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent.
Montgomery GI Bill For Reservists
There is a Montgomery GI Bill benefit offered to members of the Selected Reserve. This is called the Montgomery GI Bill-SR (aka MGIB-SR). This benefit is paid for up to 36 months as a flat amount according to the VA officials site. In 2021 that amount was listed as just under $400. This amount is subject to review each year and is listed as a reference only.
Details Of Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
Military members who served or after Sept. 11, 2001 are eligible for the expanded educational benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
The VA official site states, “You may be eligible if you served at least 90 aggregate days on active duty* after Sept. 10, 2001, or received an honorable discharge “from active duty for a service-connected disability after serving 30 continuous days following Sept. 10, 2001.”
Those benefits include:
- Up to 36 months of education benefits
- Transferable benefits to spouse or dependents
- A monthly housing stipend paid based on attendance and the type of attendance
- Those with 100% of their benefit have “the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees” covered by the GI Bill
- Annual stipend for books and supplies
- Yellow Ribbon program matching funds from “participating private schools” to offset the cost of attending a private institution
Under this program, those with military service that ended before 2013 have 15 years to use the benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, VA rules state your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit will not expire. Those who want to attend a private college will find the costs of many such institutions exceeds the GI Bill benefit.
This is why the Yellow Ribbon program in the list above is crucial–the Post 9/11 GI Bill combined with Yellow Ribbon funds makes private school attendance possible for many who would not otherwise be able to afford it.
Post 9/11 GI Bill funds can be used to attend a traditional college or university as well as many other types of programs including but not limited to:
- Independent study
- Distance learning / online education
- Vocational and technical programs
- Licensing and certification reimbursement
- Non-college degree programs
- Certification and national testing
- On-the-job training
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News