Top 10 FAQs for Student VeteransUpdated: March 29, 2021
The Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions for Student Veterans include GI Bill benefits, receiving college credit for military training, eligibility, and more. We’ve even thrown in a few bonus questions for good measure.
Do I Qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?
To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, applicants must have 90 days minimum active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and still be on active duty. Also eligible are honorably discharged veterans or those discharged with service-connected disabilities after 30 days. Additionally, if you entered the Service under the Montgomery GI Bill but served after Sept 10, 2001, you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. In most cases, the Post 9/11 GI Bill has more benefits than its predecessor. Note: if you are Guard or Reserve, your eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill is BASED ON cumulative active duty time. You may qualify for a portion but not the entire benefit like your active-duty counterparts.
Am I Eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Forever GI Bill?
The Forever GI Bill is a modification of current GI Bill policies in various areas. This change went into effect in 2017. Your eligibility under the Post 9/11 GI Bill may affect how and when you may begin taking advantage of Forever GI Bill changes for such things as the Yellow Ribbon program, BAH housing stipend (reduced for some, higher for others who began using the GI Bill before the new BAH calculations went into effect). Eligibility considerations are similar to other benefits, length and dates of service, and cumulative active duty time. Calculate BAH here.
The Forever GI Bill is an enhancement of the existing Post 9/11 GI Bill program, and while some of those enhancements took effect immediately, others are phased in over time. The two main enhancements are eligibility and an end to the “15 year use it or lose it policy.” Learn more about the changes and when they take effect.
How Do I Find Out What Education Benefits I’m Eligible For?
You can discuss your education needs in person at your nearest VA office, but the fastest way to learn what student veteran education benefits you qualify for is to use the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill comparison tool for VA benefits, and check with your state government’s official site to see what state-specific programs for veterans might be open in your area. For example, in some states, tuition at state colleges is free for disabled veterans – benefits like this can stretch your GI Bill benefits, or you can consider transferring to qualifying dependents. When finding your exact benefits, you can read Military Benefits articles, use the VA comparison tool, or consult veteran service organizations (VSO). Please don’t make financial school decisions based on “what your buddy told you”, and beware of for-profit offers to help explain or use your benefits. Many predatory groups exist, so watch your six. You can also explore news and reviews of military education benefits and opportunities.
How Is My Post-9/11 GI Bill Living Stipend (BAH) Determined?
The Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance is based on the BAH rate for an E-5 with dependents. This rate is whether you were discharged as an E-2 or an E-6. The rate is an average and remains the same. For students, the GI Bill housing allowance is calculated using the zip code of your school. The housing allowance is adjusted annually, so rates may change over the full use of a student’s GI Bill benefits. The cost of living in Des Moines versus San Francisco is considerable, so factor that in when applying to schools.
The housing allowance location calculation is changed thanks to the Forever GI Bill; students first enrolled in an education program on or after Aug. 1, 2018, will have their BAH calculated based on the zip code of the campus where the student attends the majority of their classes as opposed to the location “of the institution of higher learning where the student is enrolled,” according to the VA. As of now, there are still no plans for the VA to repay housing stipend differences retroactively. If the location change calculation negatively affects you, for now, there is nothing you can do.
Can I Receive College Credit For My Military Training?
College credit for military training may or may not be offered at the school of your choice. You will need to discuss the nature of your military service with an admissions counselor to see what may receive college credit and what may not. It’s best to have your transcripts available from any courses you took during military service, and make a list of all training you received, such as leadership, quality management, and job-specific schooling such as mechanical or electrical systems, computer networks, etc.
You may be able to request transcripts from military technical schools, language institutes, etc. The nature and amount of college credit that transfers will depend on the school, applicable state or federal law, and the nature of your military experiences.
A few tips to keep in mind: you can get PE credit at most colleges for Basic Training. Yes, this is true, Basic is good for something more than teaching you to sleep standing up and finish your meal in 60 seconds. Second, when you ETS, print transcripts of your Basic Training credits, language school certificates, etc. Keep these along with several printed copies of your DD214 and, ideally, your medical records in a file. You can request transcripts later, but please don’t plan on that. Take your transcripts and DD214, and medical records and scan them into a computer folder. It can also be a good idea to leave copies with your family or someone you trust.
Why Didn’t I Get My GI Bill Payment Over the Break?
GI Bill payments are calculated based on classroom hours. During the break, when no classes are held, you are not paid for that time. Your GI Bill payment “clock” resumes when you attend classes after the break ends. It may help, especially if you have a brain injury, to write down the dates of your GI Bill payments and mark them on your calendar when there are school breaks. This way you can plan for pauses in checks, and it won’t come as a surprise.
Classes Are Starting and I Haven’t Received My GI Bill Payment Yet. What do I do?
If this is the first time you are using the GI Bill, it will take longer for the VA to process your request than if you are re-enrolling. Your school MUST submit enrollment verification in order for the VA to begin processing your benefit. In general, it will take a month to process a first-time claim and a week to process a re-enrollment. If the VA needs to verify your service or has other questions, the process can take longer.
In the fall, the VA is processing more claims, so the process may take longer. It is always a good idea to give yourself and your budget a couple of months’ buffer. If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill or GI Bill for Selected Reserve, you need to verify your enrollment monthly for your payment to be released. If you sign up for direct deposit, you will receive your payment faster than a mailed check.
If you are counting on your GI Bill BAH allowance for food and shelter and your payment has not arrived, you do not need to be homeless. Many VSOs can help you. To check the status of your enrollment and/or payment, you can call 888-GIBILL-1 (888-442-4551). You can select an automated update or speak to a claims specialist.
What Is Considered Full-Time Coursework During Summer Sessions for GI Bill Purposes?
Full-time summer coursework isn’t the same at all colleges. Much depends on how long the summer session lasts-four weeks, six weeks, 12 weeks, etc. You will need to consult the institution of higher learning you’ll be attending to learn how long their summer terms are and the maximum credit hours you can carry. Some programs (four weeks) may offer a three-credit hour workload that allows the student to draw 100% BAH, but the housing allowance is only paid for the time actually attending classes. You cannot draw the GI Bill housing allowance when you are not attending classes in the summer. Remember: you do not receive GI Bill payments during breaks.
Does the Length of Time Served After 9/11 Affect My Level of Benefits?
The amount of time in service after Sept. 10, 2001 may affect your GI Bill benefits.
For example, before 2020, those who served at least 90 days but fewer than six months were eligible for 40% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit. However, in 2020, that 40% eligibility was eliminated (thanks to the Forever GI Bill) in favor of a higher percentage of 60%, but the time-in-service requirement for 100% benefits remains the same. Applicants who serve 36 months or more after Sept. 10, 2001, are eligible for 100% of the GI Bill.
Because this can be confusing, here is what the VA says exactly, “[The Forever GI Bill] Eliminates the 40% benefit level and expands the 60% benefit level under the Post 9/11 GI Bill program. An individual with aggregate service of 90 days but less than six months of active-duty service (excluding entry and skill training) now qualifies at the 50% benefit level. An individual with aggregate service of at least six months but less than eighteen months of active-duty service (excluding entry and skill training) now qualifies at the 60% benefit level. This removes the 40% benefit level.”
Remember: if you are Guard or Reserve, your cumulative active duty time affects the percentage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill that you receive. For those of you whose service spans the multiple changes in VA education benefits, it is a good idea to check with the VA on what your specific benefits are and if there have been any changes that affect you.
Is There a limit to My Benefits if I Go to School Half-time?
Yes, GI Bill benefits, including the housing allowance, are affected by the number of credit hours you take. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (and the Forever GI Bill), if you are enrolled above half-time, you qualify for a monthly housing allowance (the BAH rate for an E-5 with dependents). The school must calculate the BAH percentage by dividing the number of credit hours by the number of credits considered to be full-time. A student with a rate of pursuit greater than 50% can qualify for the housing allowance, pro-rated as a percentage of the full-time attendance amount. The VA official site provides this example of how it works:
…if 12 credits is considered full-time, a course load of 6 credits yields a rate of pursuit of 50% (6 ÷ 12 = .50), whereas a course load of 7 credits yields a rate of pursuit of 58% (7 ÷ 12 = .58). In this scenario, a Veteran would need to enroll for at least 7 credits (such as two 3-credit classes and a 1-credit lab) in order to receive the housing allowance benefits.
Does the GI Bill have an expiration date?
Under the old Montgomery GI Bill, and the original Post 9/11 GI Bill, time limits were imposed on the benefits. This was often referred to as the “use it or lose it” policy. However, the Forever GI Bill eliminates that time restriction for service members with discharges beyond a certain date. Veterans who left the service after Jan. 1, 2013, will not have the 15-year time limit to use the GI Bill. That also applies to qualifying dependent children eligible for the Fry Scholarship on or after Jan. 1, 2013, plus all military spouses eligible for the Fry Scholarship.
What Is Transferability and Do I Qualify?
Transferability is when a service member (including Guard and Reserve) or veteran transfers their education benefits to an eligible dependent. Eligible dependents are immediate family members, including spouses and children. If your service spans several different versions of the GI Bill and especially if you were briefed right when the Post 9/11 GI Bill came out, you have heard many different answers to this question.
As of now, the most recent version of the Post 9/11 GI Bill states that active duty service members, and Guard or Reserve who are using their cumulative active duty time to qualify, must extend their service an additional four years to transfer their benefits. Note: this does not apply to veterans. The only change to this policy in the Forever GI Bill is if the veteran passes away, the benefit may be transferred to a surviving eligible dependent. Likewise, if the dependent passes away without using the benefit, the GI Bill may be transferred to a different eligible dependent.