GI Bill Education Information & Benefits

Introduction to the GI Bill

The GI Bill is one of the most popular military education benefits offered to those who join the Air Force, Space Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, or Coast Guard.

The GI Bill has been through many reforms over the years. If you have not explored your GI Bill benefits recently you may find things have definitely changed. Here’s what you need to know about the GI Bill as an active duty service member.

What Is the GI Bill?

Today’s GI Bill is a program operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs designed to provide education benefits to qualifying servicemembers and their families.

The GI Bill got its start as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. Back then it was commonly referred to as the GI Bill of Rights. Originally the GI Bill featured many financial benefits including unemployment and housing as well as education.

Learn more: Post 9/11 GI Bill Application Guide for Active Duty and Veterans

Expiration of the Original GI Bill

The original GI Bill was not an open-ended program; it expired in 1956, and back then nearly 8 million World War Two veterans had signed up for it. But over time, wars and police actions brought the need for the GI Bill into sharp focus for legislators and DoD planners.

There have been many important milestones for the VA GI Bill program, but among the most important are the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Forever GI Bill.

In 2008, the Post 9/11 GI Bill was created to offer reformed and enhanced education benefits for those with active duty service on or after September 11, 2001. Among the most important changes, an added housing allowance and the ability to transfer the GI Bill to a spouse or dependent.

The Forever GI Bill

The Forever GI Bill is not a newer, more enhanced program. Instead, it is a law passed to reform a wide range of GI Bill features including eliminating a deadline to use the GI Bill once a veteran has retired or separated from military service.

Not all colleges or universities accept the GI Bill. Some choose not to participate, others are not permitted to participate. You’ll need to find a school where you can use VA military education benefits such as the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon program, etc.

Learn more: Military Friendly Colleges

Benefits Under the Forever GI Bill

The GI Bill can be used to help pay for tuition, fees, housing, and books for public and private institutions approved by the VA. Various enhancements to the GI Bill along the way have added benefits such as the ability to transfer the GI Bill to a qualifying immediate family member.

One major set of changes? Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act, also known as the Forever GI Bill, enhances VA education benefits for Veterans, service members, and their families. Those enhancements include:

    • Reserve duty now able to count toward Post-9/11 eligibility
    • Added considerations for Purple Heart recipients
    • Extensions to the Yellow Ribbon program
    • Licensing and certification changes
    • Possible GI Bill refunds for students affected by school closures

Some of these enhancements were phased in over time. If you have not researched your GI Bill benefits in a while, you may be affected by phased-in changes to certain aspects of the program, be sure to explore any new options that may be open to you now.

The Forever GI Bill is not a separate GI Bill program, but a set of enhancements to the VA’s existing programs.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) is the GI Bill program new recruits are offered when they become eligible to apply for the benefit. This version of the GI Bill can help you pay for public or private school, certificate programs, or job training.

You may qualify if you or your spouse or parent have served on active duty after September 10, 2001, you may qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and its enhancements under the Forever GI Bill.

This VA education benefit offers assistance with:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Housing
  • Books
  • Supplies

The Post 9/11 GI Bill allows you to apply for benefits to attend school at a traditional college, an online course, certificate program, and job training but active duty service members who are willing to commit to a new term of military service may qualify to transfer this important VA education benefit to a spouse or school-age child.

Read more: Post 9/11 Application Guide for Active Duty and Veterans

Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty

The Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) can help pay for education and training programs for those Veterans who served at least 2 years on active duty.

  • Benefits are typically available for ten years after honorable active duty service.
  • Up to 36 months of educational benefits are offered.
  • The MGIB includes a $600 Buy-Up program that can increase the amount of GI Bill benefits paid to the military member.

Unlike the Post-9/11 GI Bill, this option is not transferable to a spouse or dependent. There is no housing stipend offered to the applicant.

To qualify you must fall into one of the following categories below.

Category I

    • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • Entered active duty after June 30, 1985, and
    • The applicant chose to contribute $100 a month for the first 12 months of service toward the Montgomery GI Bill program. Applicant must have served continuously for 24-36 months or served four years if entering the Selected Reserve within a year of leaving active duty

Category II

    • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • Started active duty before January 1, 1977 (or before January 2, 1978, under a delayed enlistment program contracted before January 1, 1977), and
    • The applicant served between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty through June 30, 1988 (or through June 30, 1987, if you entered the Selected Reserve within 1 year of leaving active duty and served 4 years), and
    • The applicant had one day or more of GI Bill entitlement left under the Vietnam Era GI Bill (Chapter 34) as of December 31, 1989

Category III

    • High school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • The applicant does not qualify for MGIB under categories I or II, and
    • Contributed to the Montgomery GI Bill ($1,200) before retirement/separation
    • The applicant must have served on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated after February 2, 1991, or
    • Involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993, or
    • Voluntarily separated under the Voluntary Separation Incentive program or;
    • Voluntarily separated under the Special Separation Benefit program

Category IV

    • High school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
    • The applicant made a $1,200 contribution toward the GI Bill
    • Applicant served on active duty on October 9, 1996, had money left in a VEAP account on that date and chose MGIB before October 9, 1997, or
    • Started full-time National Guard duty under title 32, USC, between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989, and chose MGIB between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997

The Yellow Ribbon Program For Active Duty Servicemembers

One of the most important changes for active duty service members associated with the Forever GI Bill legislation? As of August 2022 active duty servicemembers are now permitted to use the Yellow Ribbon program. Doing so can help offset the costs of private schools with tuition above VA limits for public schools and universities.

Read about the VA Yellow Ribbon Program to determine your eligibility. Use this tool to find out if your school participates in the Yellow Ribbon program.

Learn more: List of Yellow Ribbon Schools

GI Bill Benefits Payments and Enrollment Verification

Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for tuition and fees are paid to the school, and benefits related to books and the housing stipend are paid to the student. Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits are paid directly to the student.

The student is responsible for paying the tuition using those funds. There is no housing stipend for the Montgomery GI bill.

Veterans using the MGIB must verify their enrollment each month with the VA. This is done using the Web Automated Verification of Enrollment (WAVE) website. Students can also call 877-VA-ECERT (877-823-2378) to verify enrollment.

Those using the Post 9/11 GI Bill previously did NOT have to verify enrollment but that has since changed. Students must verify their enrollment on a monthly basis to qualify for the Post 9/11 housing allowance.

You can verify via text messaging by calling the Education Call Center at 888-GIBILL-1 (888-442-4551) to set up and use your mobile phone for verification.

If Your School Closes

Did you know you may be entitled to a restoration of your VA education benefits (not just the GI Bill) if your school closes or is no longer approved for GI Bill or related benefits?

Read more: When Your School Closes: the Veterans Eligible to Transfer School (VETS) Credit Act.

Other GI Bill Benefits You May Qualify For


The VA Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program matches students to training providers to help develop high-tech skills.

READ: VET TEC GI Bill Program


The Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) features government contributions for educational assistance–the applicant pays into VEAP, the government pays two dollars for every dollar the applicant contributes up to a cap.

READ: Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

Survivors & Dependent Assistance

These benefits, also called Chapter 35 benefits, are for dependents and survivors of veterans who have died. These benefits may include:

    • Education & training
    • Tuition
    • Hhousing
    • Books and supplies

READ: Survivor & Dependent Benefits

Co-Op Training

A college or university may offer a co-op training program, featuring a option for full-time work experience between classes.

READ: Co-Op Training

Correspondence Training

Your VA education benefits may help pay for your correspondence training either online or by other means of delivery.

READ: VA Correspondence Training

Entrepreneurship Training

You may be able to use your GI Bill benefits for business training.

You must qualify for one of these programs to participate:

    • The Post-9/11 GI Bill
    • Montgomery GI Bill – Active or Selected Reserve
    • The Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

READ: VA Entrepreneurship Training

Flight Training

You may be eligible to use GI Bill benefits to pay for flight training or to advance your pilot qualifications.

READ: GI Bill Flight Training

Non-College Degree Programs

You can use the GI Bill to pay for specialized training programs, like:

    • HVAC Repair
    • Truck Driving / Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
    • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training
    • Barber / Beautician school

Using the GI Bill for these types of training programs can help pay for tuition. They can even cover some books and supplies for your training.

READ: Non-College Degree Programs

On-The-Job Training & Apprenticeship

The GI Bill may cover some expenses for training programs, like:

    • Plumbing
    • Hotel Management
    • Firefighting

READ: VA’s Apprenticeships & OJT

Work Study

For many VA education benefit programs, you can participate in work-study.

READ: VA Work Study Program

Qualifications & Eligibility For VA Education Benefits

Each program offered by the VA has eligibility requirements. Some have very specific requirements, and you may find that you qualify for more than one benefit. In some cases, you may be permitted to use more than one at the same time, but some benefits do not allow this.

An Extra 12 Months of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits?

It is possible that you may qualify for more than one education benefit. Since you can only receive benefits under one program at a time, you’ll need to decide which benefit to use first.

Here’s an example provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs:

“If you qualify for both MGIB-AD (Chapter 30) and MGIB-SR (Chapter 1606, you can receive 36 months of entitlement at your MGIB-AD payment rate, and then an additional 12 months of entitlement at your MGIB-SR payment rate, up to the maximum total of 48 months entitlement.”

The MGIB offers 36 months of benefits to eligible Veterans. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also includes 36 months of benefits. If you used MGIB benefits under Chapter 30, your Post-9/11 benefit will be reduced by the number of months of MGIB benefits you’ve used.

Those who used 24 months of MGIB, and then switched over to Post-9/11 would receive only 12 months of Post-9/11 benefit. However, if you used all 36 months of your MGIB, you will receive an additional 12 months of Post-9/11 benefit.

Furthermore, if you have a single qualifying active duty service period between August 1, 2009 and July 31, 2011, you may be eligible to use that one period of active duty to qualify you for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and another GI Bill.

GI Bill Calculator

Did you know that College Recon offers a BAH Calculator?

GI Bill Basic Allowance For Housing (BAH) Rates

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates are subject to change from year to year. If you aren’t sure how much you may qualify for, you can review the BAH rates for the Post 9/11 GI Bill for the current year.

Read more: Colleges with the Highest GI Bill BAH Rates


What to Know About Applying for Active Duty Education Benefits

After learning which VA education benefits you may be eligible for, gather the following information for the application:

  • Social Security number
  • Bank account / Direct Deposit information
  • Education and military history
  • Basic information about the school
  • Once you’ve gathered those items, you are ready to use the VA’s “Find Your Education Benefits Form” at, which is a drop-down questionnaire that will guide you through the process of applying.

You will be prompted to log in to the website. You have the following sign-in options:

  • Sign in with DS Logon
  • Sign in with My HealtheVet
  • Sign in with

If you do not wish to apply online, you have other options.

Apply by Mail

You can call 888-442-4551 to request that an application be sent to you. Here is a list of regional claims processing offices.

Apply in Person

You also have the option to go to a VA Regional Office and have a VA employee assist you with your application. Use this tool to find a VA regional office near you.

If you already have a school picked out, or even if you’ve been accepted into a school, work with your school’s certifying official. This person is usually found in the Registrar’s or Financial Aid office, and they can assist you with filling out your forms.

VSO Assistance With Your Application

If you need help applying for education benefits, you can also seek the assistance of a Veteran Service Officer (VSO). The VSOs are trained and certified in the VA administrative processes and can assist with all your VA-related needs. Veteran Service Officers are often employed by agencies such as the DAV, AMVETS, the American Legion, etc.

If you choose to work with a VSO, you will need to fill out an Appointment of Individual as Claimant’s Representative (VA Form 21-22). This will allow the VSO to work with the VA on your behalf.

After You Apply For GI Bill Benefits

Once you’ve submitted your application, it typically takes about 30 days to process your paperwork. In the meantime, you can take advantage of the VA’s educational and career counseling services available to you as a veteran and student.

Once your application is approved, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which you should make a copy of for your VA certifying official at your school.

Frequently Asked Questions About the GI Bill


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