Which GI Bill Is Better?

Updated: October 25, 2023
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    Which GI Bill is better? The answer to that question is not as simple as you might think. In some situations, one may be more advantageous than the other, and much depends on the individual student’s needs and goals.

    A Brief Background on the GI Bill

    The earliest version of the GI Bill, known as the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924, provided funds to veterans for lost wages based on time spent in uniformed service, according to History, Art & Archives. 

    The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly referred to as the GI Bill of Rights, passed in 1944 and included loans for farms and businesses, as well as education benefits and unemployment compensation.

    Approximately eight million veterans used their education benefits in the first seven years, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. 

    The Montgomery GI Bill

    There are two versions of the Montgomery GI Bill, one for active-duty service members and veterans, and one for members of the selected reserves.

    MGIB-SR for Reserve Members

    The selected reserve version of the Montgomery GI Bill, also known as MGIB-SR/Chapter 1606, offers education benefits for up to 36 months.

    The amount you receive depends on the type of training and whether you are enrolled full- or part-time. A full-time college student would receive $466 a month in FY 2024, with 2023 rates set at $439. Rates change every year.

    Montgomery GI Bill Active-Duty

    With the active-duty Montgomery GI Bill, those with qualifying military service may receive up to 36 months of education benefits, paid monthly directly to the student. How much they receive each month varies based on factors including:

    • Duration of military service
    • The type of education or training program
    • Whether they qualify for a college fund, or GI Bill kicker
    • Whether or not they have contributed to the $600 buy-up program

    You can use MGIB funds for approved college coursework, as well as attendance at business schools, technical, vocational or flight schools. You can also get an apprenticeship or on-the-job training using MGIB funds.

    There is no housing stipend. You are responsible for any education costs above the amount you receive under the GI Bill program.

    Your MGIB benefits expire 10 years after you retire or separate from the military. You can not transfer them to your spouse or dependents.

    Post-9/11 GI Bill

    Congress created the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act gave those on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001 added educational benefits, including the ability to transfer their GI Bill benefits to a spouse or college-age dependent child and a monthly housing stipend.

    Up to 36 months of education benefits are available under the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, according to the VA, including:

    • Tuition and fees: The Post- 9/11 GI Bill covers full and fees at a public, in-state institution of higher learning. Students can attend private or out-of-state schools, but tuition and fees are capped at $27,120.05 annually (for the 2023-2024 academic year).
    • Monthly housing allowance: Students attending classes more than half time receive a monthly housing stipend.
    • Books and supplies: Students are eligible for an annual stipend (up to $1,000 a year in FY 2023 & 2024).
    • Transferable benefits: Qualified service members can transfer their benefits to a spouse or child.
    • Yellow Ribbon program: Participating out-of-state or private schools provide grants, matched by the VA, to cover the difference in tuition above the annual cap.

    Service members generally have 15 years to use their benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill; however, the Forever GI Bill eliminated the expiration date for many.

    Forever GI Bill Modifications to the Post 9/11 GI Bill

    The Forever GI Bill legislation added extended GI Bill benefits to all Purple Heart recipients regardless of time served and added more options for transferring GI Bill benefits to spouses and dependents.

    The Forever GI Bill also eliminated the 15-year time limit for using the benefit for qualifying service members who were discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013, and added protections for GI Bill users who experience trouble with schools that close before the student can finish a degree.

    These modifications are for the Post-9/11 GI Bill only. The Forever GI Bill does not act as a new, stand-alone VA education program. Instead, it modifies the existing Post- 9/11 program.

    The Forever GI Bill made the following key modifications to the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

    • Eliminated of the 15-year limit to use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for those discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013
    • Modified of housing stipend payments
    • Authorized GI Bill funds for work-study programs
    • Gave veterans priority enrollment in educational counseling
    • Changed the rules for use of benefits at schools that close or are disqualified from the GI Bill program
    • Enhanced dependent and spouse access to the transferable GI Bill benefits.

    Comparing Benefits: Montgomery GI Bill-AD vs. Post-9/11 GI Bill

    Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD)Post 9/11-GI Bill
    The VA pays a monthly benefit (up to $2,358 in FY 2024) for up to 36 months of full-time attendance 

    Benefits increase on Oct. 1 of each year based on the average undergraduate tuition in the US
    The VA pays 100% of tuition up to the cost of the most expensive public state school’s in-state undergraduate tuition (maximum of 48 months of VA education benefits* but many applicants are eligible for only 36 months)

    Caps the rates for private and foreign schools, and updates those rates each year

    *Doesn’t include Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) benefits
    There is no access to the Yellow Ribbon Program

    $600 Buy-Up program

    Flexible online/in-person options exist
    The Yellow Ribbon Program option allows participating schools to waive some or all of the costs GI Bill funds don’t cover (with the VA pledging matching funds)

    Hybrid online/in-person learning options exist
    Payments go directly to the student.Payments paid directly to the school.
    It does not cover housing or supplies, and it is not transferable Offers a book stipend (up to $1,000 per academic year) and a housing stipend and can transfer benefits to qualifying dependents, but you must initiate the transfer while still serving
    You have a 10-year time limit to use your benefitsIf service ended before January 1, 2013, benefits expire after 15 years

    Due to the Forever GI Bill, there is no expiration date for the use of benefits if discharged after January 1, 2013
    Can go toward college degree and certificate programs, technical schools, vocational courses, flight training, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, technical training, licensing and certification tests, entrepreneurship training, some entrance exams and some distance learning options. Students may only be approved for certain remedial, deficiency and refresher courses that meet VA requirementsCan be used for college degrees (associate, bachelors or higher), Vocational/technical training including non-college programs, on-the-job/apprenticeship programs, licensing and certification reimbursement, national testing programs (SAT, CLEP, AP, etc.), flight training, correspondence training, work study, tuition assistance top-up and tutorial assistance

    Other VA Education Benefits

    The GI Bill programs listed above should not be confused with other VA education benefit programs that provide funds for school but are not part of the GI Bill. Such programs include:

    Written by Veteran.com Team