How Do I Use The GI Bill?

Updated: July 12, 2022

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    The GI Bill is a valuable education benefit for military service members and veterans.

    This tax-free benefit can help you pay for your tuition, books and even housing costs.

    Here’s what you need to know about using these benefits.

    Determine Your Eligibility

    First, confirm that you are eligible for GI Bill benefits.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs website details eligibility criteria and provides information about how much benefit coverage you can expect to receive.

    Post-9/11 GI Bill Eligibility

    Service members and veterans who served on active duty for at least 90 days after Sep. 10, 2001, may be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

    Purple Heart recipients and veterans who were discharged due to a service-connected disability may also qualify for these benefits, thanks to the Forever GI Bill.

    Additionally, eligible service members may transfer their benefits to a spouse or dependent child.

    Montgomery GI Bill

    To receive benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill, you must have two years of active-duty service and an honorable discharge.

    You must also have a high school diploma, GED or 12 hours of college credit.

    There are several categories of eligibility, which you can find on the VA website.

    If you are a member of the reserves or National Guard, you may qualify for Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve benefits. You must have a six-year service obligation and a high school or GED diploma.

    Find Your School

    What do you want to study? You can use your GI Bill benefits toward undergraduate and graduate degrees, training for specific trades or industries and even work-study programs.

    Once you’ve decided on your field of study, seek out a VA-approved school.

    Not all colleges, universities, training schools or other institutions can accept the GI Bill, though many do. The VA has a GI Bill Comparison Tool to help you learn more about the benefits you’ll receive at different schools. You can use this tool to search for schools by name or location.

    If you have a particular school in mind, contact its admissions department to ask if it accepts the GI Bill and how to get in touch with the certifying official.

    Certifying officials don’t work for the VA, but they can work with the VA on your behalf.

    Apply for Your GI Bill Benefits

    You can apply for your GI Bill benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs online, by mail (call 888-442-4551 for the application), or in person at a regional VA office. Or, you can apply for benefits by reaching out to your school’s VA certifying official.

    Required Documentation for Your GI Bill Benefits Application

    Before you begin your application, gather the following documentation:

    • Social Security number
    • Bank account and routing numbers where you wish to receive your GI Bill housing allowance and other payments sent
    • Relevant transcripts
    • Paperwork showing your current military status, such as your DD Form 214 or your current orders, along with a letter indicating that you are in good standing.

    If you apply through the VA, you may also need to provide the full name and address of the school you plan to attend or are attending and the degree or certificate you are pursuing.

    Processing Times

    The VA can process most GI Bill benefit applications in 30 days, according to the VA’s website. So, begin the process at least a month in advance.

    Once you’re approved, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility. Submit this document to your school’s VA certifying official.

    If you are not approved, you can request a decision review. You can find details about how to appeal on the VA website.

    Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


    About The AuthorJoe 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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