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History of the GI Bill

History of the GI Bill

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush stated, “The GI Bill changed the lives of millions by replacing old roadblocks with paths of opportunity.”

The GI Bill has grown along with the country and helped fortify the United States, encouraging a stronger and more educated community through making higher education degrees, field-specific training, and affordable housing while pursuing goals more attainable for veterans.

GI Bill Humble Beginnings

The original concept of a bill to help veterans upon reentry into the workforce was conceived after the First World War in 1924, guaranteeing veterans a bonus for time served. Before this initial act, veterans coming back to their communities had no help finding affordable housing, getting training for new jobs, or attaining a higher education.

Years later, when hope was restored that service members would return toward the end of World War II, the influx of people in the workforce would exceed the opportunities unless further training and education were accessible.

The baby boom post-war also led to a shortage of quality affordable housing. The incoming service members would need housing, insurance, and opportunities to support existing and new families, as predicted by the National Resources Planning Board.

Without help and the chance for higher education, the returning 15 million men and women may face unemployment, not limited to personal losses, but driving the country into another depression. To help provide work and educational opportunities for these new veterans, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed what was then known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, as it was named when it went through Congress, into law on June 22, 1944.

This version of the act also provided farm and business loans and protection against unemployment. It would later be redesignated the Servicemember’s Readjustment Act.

GI Bill of Rights

Also known as “The GI Bill of Rights,” the act not only helped fund tuition it also provided help for books, equipment, and counseling. In the next several years, about eight million veterans were granted educational assistance through this program, including training, on-the-job training and higher education degrees.

The number of Americans with a college degree increased almost two-fold during that decade alone, and those with a postgraduate degree rose almost 5 percent, leading to a future generational increase of college graduates in the years to come.

By the time the bill expired, veterans had received over $14 billion dollars in benefits, including over four million home loans with billions of dollars in value. New veteran homeowners and the increased income taxes they paid with their higher education and higher salaries lead to a strengthening of the economy for an entire generation.

Types of GI Bill

Since its inception, the GI Bill has evolved in many areas. What started as a single benefits program to help those transitioning from war to peacetime has become three separate options offered to those depending on when they joined.

Payment structure and qualifications vary between the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The Montgomery GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill was named after Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery, who worked on the legislation in the 1980s. This version of the GI Bill had troops opting in to pay $100 monthly for one calendar year, with the federal government providing additional funds.

Troops were required to serve a minimum period for GI Bill qualification, have earned at least a GED and be discharged honorably at the end of their service period. There are two variations of the Montgomery GI Bill.

There are two categories of the Montgomery GI Bill, the MGIB Active Duty and the MGIB Selected Reserve.

The MGIB Selected Reserve, which includes reserve members and the National Guard, can qualify for a monthly rate to go toward studies when studying full-time.

The Active Duty MGIB provides a much higher rate for those who served a minimum of two years in active duty. Veterans who wish to use Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty benefits must have been honorably discharged

For the MGIB program, the student receives the payments, not the school. Dependents cannot use the funds for this program, nor do the recipients qualify for housing or book and supply funds. Active duty service members may pay additional monies into this fund to increase their benefits later.

Consider that these rates can change regularly depending on the following factors: duration of service, the educational program selected, contributions to the optional Buy-up program and the met eligibility qualifications. Most benefits must be spent within ten years following service.

Basic Eligibility

To be eligible for benefits for educational purposes through the Montgomery GI Bill you must have been honorably discharged and qualify by meeting specific combinations of criteria.

For example, you will qualify if you must have graduated high school, have the equivalent GED, or 12 hours of credit at a college; began active duty service after June of 1985, reduced pay for the first year of service, in addition to serving continuously for 3 years unless under a 2 year enlistment agreement or 4 years if in the Selected Reserve.

You may also qualify if you have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit; you began active service before 1977, and you must also still have entitlement from the Vietnam-era GI Bill as of 1989.

You can also qualify by finishing high school, having a GED and 12 hours of college credit; being ineligible for the Montgomery GI Bill through categories one or two, and having your service pay lowered by $1,200 before discharging.

You must also meet one of the following criteria: you voluntarily separated from the service using the Voluntary Separation Incentive or Special Separation Benefit program, or you involuntarily separated after February 2, 1991, if you were on active duty before September 1990, or involuntarily separated after November 1993.

Finally, you may also meet the standard if you have a high school diploma or GED or 12 hours of college credit and your service pay was lowered by $100 monthly for a year or made a contribution of $1,200.

You must also have one of these qualifications: active duty on October 9, 1996, with money left in a VEAP account, and chose MGIB before October 9, 1997, or were on full-time National Guard duty between July 1985 and November 1989, and chose MGIB between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997.

Related: Scholarships and Grants for Military and Veterans

Post 9/11 GI Bill

The events of September 11, 2001, changed the country. In the aftermath of the attacks, many felt the nature of military service had taken on a new urgency, and some also felt the GI Bill needed to change with the times, too.

By 2008, veterans and members of Congress lobbied for an updated version of the bill to be forged to fill in the holes that the original Montgomery GI Bill did not cover. In April of that same year, countless veterans voiced their needs on the steps of the Capitol. Their voices were heard and soon the new Post 9/11 GI Bill was developed.

In 2018, the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act amplified the previous benefits. Those who were granted a Purple Heart on or post 9/11, with the updated Post 9/11 GI Bill, were then eligible for 36 months of payments including funds for books and lodging, for tuition costs of public in-state higher education.

This meant that the full tuition price of in-state schools was possible for veterans, allowing many more to access higher degrees. Some assistance is also possible for attendees of private schools with a price cap ($26,000 at press time, your experience may vary.)

This variation of the GI Bill encompasses many needs of veterans by contributing to housing expenses, book stipends and potential help with relocation. The Post 9/11 GI Bill also allows for benefits transfer to the spouses and dependents of qualifying veterans.

This greatly boosted families who needed to continue their education overseas or online, adjusting benefits to a modern platform. It also allows for qualifying veterans to change their benefits to the new program even if they have already used some of their Montgomery GI Bill benefits.

Read more: Transferring Your GI Bill to Spouse and Dependents

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon program can help bridge the financial gaps to fund private institution degree programs, out-of-state tuition, and postgraduate degree tuition, but only at institutions that have Yellow Ribbon programs and when all eligibility requirements are met.

Forever GI Bill

As the needs of the workforce, community, and country continue to evolve, the need for veterans to have updated skills and education evolves, too. Thus, the GI Bill needed to adapt as well. By 2017, veterans and veteran lobbyists proved that there was, once again, a need for an update to the GI Bill.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or commonly known as the Forever GI Bill, became law on August 16, 2017. This new upgrade of the GI Bill (not a separate program) meant that service members who left after January 1, 2013 would no longer face a time limit to use their educational benefits.

With no more deadline, they had the option of using their GI Bill benefits anytime after service. The bill also added protection for those whose school closed before they could graduate with their degree.

The Forever GI Bill also allows for more flexibility with those who had only served part of the original time served requirement and allowed more Reservists to participate (see below).

Highlights include:

  • Purple Heart Recipients: Those who have been honorably discharged and were also awarded a Purple Heart, on or after September 11, 2001, may qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 100% level for up to 36 months.
  • Those who have served as Guard or Reserve members under 10 U. S. C. 12304a and 12304b will be able to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if they served on or after June 30, 2008.
  • Any time a Reservist was ordered to active duty to receive authorized medical care, be medically evaluated for a disability, or complete a Department of Defense (DoD) healthcare study on or after September 11, 2001, can use that time as active duty toward eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.
  • Active duty service members may use the Yellow Ribbon program.

Read more: Forever GI Bill Guide