In this series of articles I have covered many of the lessons I learned the hard way – through personal experience. The tips and tricks I have learned will help you navigate the process and “red tape” of military and veteran education benefits.

For this article I am going dive a bit deeper into an issue I addressed in my last article about the glitches that I experienced using my GI Bill.  Specifically, Glitch #1 – The GI Bill Certification Process. In that article I wrote about the impact of the VA certification process. As I pointed out, the process took nearly 45 days, and added unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation.

What I failed to cover in the previous article was that I had not learned my own lesson the first time.

Let Me Explain

A few years after graduating, I decided to enroll in a post-grad marketing certification program at my local college. My plan was to use the remaining 8 months of my GI Bill benefit to pay for it.

Like the time before, I submitted the GI Bill Certification request as I enrolled, inevitably the same delay came, but this time in the form of an erroneous denial of benefits letter. Apparently, the claims processor had denied my claim because he or she was not aware of a special rule giving an extra 12 months of benefits to those who were eligible for both Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Unfortunately, I had to drop my classes until this was settled; mainly because I didn’t want to pay anything out-of-pocket.

The Good News

The good news is eventually the VA figured out the error and paid the school.

The Bad News

The bad news is I had already dropped the classes and because the VA paid the school, I now owed the VA for the tuition for the dropped courses. Thankfully, I was eventually able to convince the school to refund the VA and I begged (okay appealed to) the VA to have the charges for the dropped classes removed.

By the time I had it all sorted out, I had only 6 months left until my GI Bill benefits were set to expire. So I not able to take the post-grad program. I reality, I cannot complain, I had used the GI Bill to cover the cost of both my BS in Communications and my MBA, so I came out way ahead.

NOTE: Thankfully, most of you reading this are now eligible for the “Forever GI Bill,” which will never expire.

Process GI Bill Certification BEFORE You Enroll

So, what is the lesson learned? Learn from my mistake – Process the GI Bill Certification application before you enroll!

Applying is simple – but it still takes up to 30 days. Click here to learn how to submit the VA Form 22-1990 (a.k.a. Application for VA Education Benefits)

NEXT STEP: The Reality of College Credit for Military Service

LESSONS LEARNED SERIES:

Personal stories from our Education Benefits author, Terry Howell.

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