Editor’s note: This is one in a series of pieces that make up the Military Times 2018 Benefits Guide. Read or download the entire e-book here.
If you served in the military after Sept. 10, 2001, you may be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, as well as those included in the “Forever GI Bill” that became law in 2017. Here’s what you need to know:
What it is: The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a generous education benefit for the latest generation of service members and veterans. It includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for textbooks and supplies.
Eligibility: The amount of time you spent on active duty determines your benefit level.
Though the Forever GI Bill will change these calculations starting in 2020, here’s how they stack up now:
- 100 percent: 36 months or more, or at least 30 continuous days and discharged due to service-connected disability.
- 90 percent: At least 30 months, less than 36 months.
- 80 percent: At least 24 months, less than 30 months.
- 70 percent: At least 18 months, less than 24 months.
- 60 percent: At least 12 months, less than 18 months.
- 50 percent: At least 6 months, less than 12 months.
- 40 percent: At least 90 days, less than 6 months.
- No benefit: Less than 90 days.
The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship Program allows children or spouses of service members who died in the line of duty on or after 9/11 to use the GI Bill.
These benefits are available at the 100 percent level to children between age 18 and 33, as well as spouses who have not remarried.
Transfer rules: Service members may transfer their benefits to a dependent, provided they have already served in the military for at least six years and agree to serve four more after the transfer is approved by the DoD.
The transfer must happen while you are still in uniform, however; veterans who have already separated from the military are not eligible to transfer their benefits.
What it covers: You can use your benefits toward an education at a college, university, trade school, flight school or apprenticeship program.
While the benefit covers all in-state tuition and fees at public institutions, it may not have the same reach at a private school. The national maximum able to be used at private schools for the 2018-19 school year will be $23,671.94.
Some schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a voluntary agreement with the Veterans Affairs Department to split school costs not covered by the GI Bill. This reduces or eliminates the amount students must pay themselves. This program is open to veterans or their dependents who are eligible for the full GI Bill benefit.
It will also be available to post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients and surviving dependents on the Fry Scholarship, in time for the fall 2018 semester.
The monthly housing stipend GI Bill users receive depends on the level of benefits they’re eligible for and how many courses they take. Starting in August, the Veterans Affairs Department will base your housing allowance on the cost of living in the location where you take the most classes — a change from current policy, which uses the ZIP code of a school’s main campus.
The housing rate is determined by DoD’s Basic Allowance for Housing scale and is paid at the same rate an active-duty E-5 with dependents would receive.
If you are pursuing a degree entirely online, you will receive half of the national BAH average.
Action items: You can apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill online or by visiting a local VA regional office.
If you’ve already chosen a school or program, arrange a meeting with the institution’s VA certifying official, who can help you get started.
More online: The GI Bill Comparison Tool.
If you’re already using your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, the stipend you receive for rent each month could look a little different this fall because of the previously mentioned location determination change.
Other changes on the books:
- Veterans no longer are required to use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits within 15 years of separating.
- Active-duty service members who are on the GI Bill are eligible for a housing stipend the day after they get out of the military, instead of the next month, VA spokeswoman Ann Richardson said at a recent military education conference.
- Housing stipends have dropped for new GI Bill enrollees (as of Jan. 1), putting them on par with what active-duty service members receive at the E-5 (with dependents) rate. Those enrolled prior to Jan. 1, 2018, won’t see a change.
- Reservists who are forced to leave school because of a mid-month activation will get their monthly housing allowances on a pro-rated basis. They used to lose the entire month’s worth of benefits.
- Post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients will be able to receive 100 percent of GI Bill benefits regardless of service length. They’ll also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program, as will dependents using the Fry Scholarship. Active-duty troops will qualify for Yellow Ribbon in 2022.
Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.