GI Bill Basics

By on April 27, 2017

One way that the government appreciates those who serve in the military is with a GI Bill to assist in offsetting the cost of a college education. There are many parts of the bill that should be understood when determining what benefits you are hoping to use.

Making Sense of Your GI Bill Benefits

At a minimum to qualify for GI bill benefits you must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty since September 10th, 2001. You must have been discharged due to a service-connected disability, or have served 90 days of aggregate active duty and:

  • Be honorably discharged from Armed Forces; or
  • Be released from Armed Forces with service characterized as honorable and placed on the retired list, temporary disability retired list, or transferred to the Fleet Reserve or the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve; or
  • Be released from the Armed Forces with service characterized as honorable for further service in a reserve component; or
  • Be discharged or released from Armed Forces for:
  • EPTS (Existed Prior to Service)
  • HDSP (Hardship) or
  • CIWD (Condition Interfered with Duty); or
  • Continue to be on active duty.

The percentage of tuition that the GI bill will cover is determined by the amount of time you have served. Currently 90 days of aggregate active duty will cover 40% of your tuition, while 36 months (including entry level or skills training) will cover 100% of your tuition. The GI bill will directly pay your tuition to the accredited school that you are attending based upon the number of months that you actively served.

Depending on your service, there are a few things to note about the GI bill. You generally have 10 years to use your GI bill benefits, but this time limit can be less, or in some cases longer, depending on your circumstances. You must not have declined your GI bill benefits in writing when initially enlisting. You must have contributed $100 per month for 12 months during your time in active duty. If you’re currently on active duty, you may use these benefits upon completion of two years of service.

Housing Assistance

In addition to covering tuition, the GI bill also offers a few other opportunities for assistance for veterans. For those attending school full time, and who are not currently on active duty, you are able to receive assistance with housing. The amount of assistance is determined by the zip code of the school that you are attending. Currently that average is $1,368 a month, but can reach upwards of $2,700 a month depending on the school. For those who are attending school completely online, only half of the national average of stipend is available.

Books and Supplies Assistance

The GI bill allows a stipend for books and supplies as well. This stipend is available up to $1,000 per semester. Paid at the beginning of each semester, the size of the stipend is dependent upon the number of hours taken. Currently the stipend will pay $41 per credit hour being taken. For a student taking a full time load of 12 hours, they will receive $492 to cover books and supplies.

Relocation Assistance

For those veterans living in rural areas there is assistance available to move in order to attend school. A veteran may receive a one-time relocation benefit payment of $500 to help cover costs to relocate for school. In order to qualify you must reside in a county with 6 persons or less per square mile (according to the most recent decennial census), and you must either physically relocate at least 500 miles to attend school, or travel by air to physically attend an educational institution if no other land-based transportation exists.

Transferring of Benefits

The Department of Defense has now authorized individuals who, on or after August 1, 2009, have served at least 6 years in the Armed Forces and who agree to serve at least another 4 in the Armed Forces to transfer unused entitlement to their Spouse (or dependent). Once the member has reached their 10-year anniversary they may choose to transfer the benefit to any dependent(s) (spouse or children). The Department of Defense may impose additional eligibility requirements and limit the number of months transferable to not less than 18 months.

The Department of Defense must provide VA with eligibility information before the VA can make any payments under the transferring of benefits provision. This provision is limited to those currently serving in the military (with some limited provisions for those retiring over the next few years).

Professional Licensure and Certification Testing

In addition to help with tuition, fees, housing, books, and relocation benefits, the GI bill also can assist with license or certification testing (eligible veterans can take multiple exams), work-study programs, and $100 a month for tutorial assistance.

There are many programs available to veterans to help offset the cost of gaining education and training for a future career as a civilian. Whether it is through tuition assistance, housing stipends, assistance with books and supplies for school, professional certification testing, relocation assistance, or even transferring your benefits to your spouse or child so that they can receive the education they desire. Make sure that you check with your local VA to see which benefits are available to you and which schools participate. Apply for your GI bill benefits through your local VA, they will be able to provide you with specifics in regards to what you are eligible for, and how to receive the assistance.

Take the next step - Let's talk!

Remember to speak with your financial, legal or tax professional for more information about the topics which interest you. Here are a few ways for you to share your ideas, learn more and interact with FinancialSafetyNet members, authors and expert advisors.
Have a question, but don't want to share it with everyone? Contact a financial advisor.
Want to contribute to the conversation publicly? Submit a comment.

Submit A Comment

About Arthur Conway

FSN finance and investment journalist - Arthur understands the confusion and difficulty individuals encounter budgeting and saving for everyday expenses, college and wealth building investment. Professionals are there to help, but first, Arthur wants to put the reins to your financial future back in your hands with just a little bit of knowledge and clear advice. Connect with Arthur at !

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.