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8 Tips for Using the GI Bill

Tips for Using the GI Bill

8 Tips for Using the GI Bill®

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has offered some guidance on getting your GI Bill benefits in a timely fashion.

If you are currently using your GI Bill benefits, then you may have already received an email from the VA outlining the following information. Here’s a quick breakdown of their suggestions:

Plan Ahead

You can use the GI Bill Comparison Tool to estimate the general level of benefits you should expect.

Enroll as Early as Possible

Enroll in classes as early as you can and if at all possible, avoid changing your course schedule once you are enrolled.

Get to Know Your School Certifying Official

Get to know who your School Certifying Official (SCA) is and stay in contact with them. You can find your school’s SCA by again using the GI Bill Comparison Tool, finding your school, and then scrolling down to “Contact Details”. Every school that accepts VA benefits MUST have an SCA.

Familiarize Yourself with School Procedures

Become familiar with the procedure your school uses regarding requests for certification to the VA. Most schools use a similar process, but they must all certify your courses and enrollments to the VA before any money is released for your education.

Contact School Certifying Official if Adding or Dropping Courses

If you do add or drop hours or courses, contact your SCA as soon as possible to avoid any potential for overpayment. If the VA overpays you, you’ll be notified of a debt that must be settled before full access to your benefits is reinstated.

Updating Your Bank Account Info

If you have changed your bank account or moved to a new address, contact the VA Education Service to update your information. You can do this through either the:

NOTE: If the VA doesn’t have your correct information, your payment will be delayed.

Contacting the VA by Mail

If you need to contact the VA by mail, use the Regional Processing office handling your claim. You can find the office that services you and their mailing address on this website.

NOTE: If you use a different address than the one that services your claim, they may not receive your message.

If you are experiencing financial hardship due to a delay in payment, contact the VA’s Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551, between 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. The VA will expedite any hardship request.

General GI Bill Timelines

The VA is committed to processing enrollments as quickly as possible, and they process them in the “date order” they are received. Hence, get your enrollments in as soon as you can and you’ll be at the earliest processing times.

The VA makes every effort to process original (first-time) applications within 24 days of submission. For supplemental, or re-enrollment claims, the target is 12 days. The VA projects that they will continue to hit these target windows as they push through this Spring enrollment period. Keep in mind that unique factors may cause some claims to take longer. This is where staying in contact with your school’s SCA is important. They are your direct connection to your enrollment.

Additional Resources

  • The VA recently posted FAQs about protecting your benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • They also have a fact sheet that offers basic information and resources for students.
  • The VA has developed the COVID Coach App designed to help Veterans and their families cope with feelings of stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic. (Here’s a COVID Coach Demo video.) It is available for iOS and Android devices. Download the COVID Coach by visiting the VA Mobile App Store.
  • If you are nearing the end of your educational journey, the VA developed “A Guide to Furthering Your Career”, which has a ton of great information about entering the job market and entrepreneurship.

I know that my classes have already started.  I registered for them months ago. If you are struggling to discover which schools or education programs are available to you, we have a ton of information at College Recon that can lead you in the right direction.

Need to find additional funding sources for school? Check out our Scholarship Finder tool that can connect you with scholarship opportunities.

(Image courtesy of U.S. Army Media)






About the author

Terry Howell is a retired Coast Guard veteran, where he served for 20 years.

He is currently the Executive Director for Veterans' Legacies, a non-profit that works to preserve veterans personal stories to help educate our youth.

Terry is also the author of The Military Advantage, an annually updated guide to military and veteran benefits.