Federal veterans education benefits have attracted millions to military service. The newest benefit – the Post-9/11 GI Bill – is particularly enticing, as it offers the most generous financial aid ever available to servicemembers. But it’s not perfect for every veteran. Military personnel should carefully study all seven education benefits before selecting one. The new GI Bill is not a one-size-fits-all piece of legislation. Veterans pursuing technical training might want to use the Montgomery GI Bill or Veterans Educational Assistance Program, while some Guardsmen will find they’re not eligible for the Post-9/11 benefit.

It’s crucial that the right decision is made, because once a veteran selects the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it is highly likely he or she won’t be able to switch to a different benefit.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

(U.S Code, Title 38, Chapter 33)

The Post-9/11 GI Bill took effect Aug. 1, 2009. The new GI Bill, catered to 21st-century veterans, updates education benefits to better reflect the cost of attending a public university or college. Servicemembers and veterans who have served at least three months of active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible to receive financial assistance for tuition and fees, and a stipend of up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies. A housing allowance is also available to those who qualify for it. Private education and graduate programs may even be covered at schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Benefits can also be transferred to family members.

Learn more about new GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill

(U.S. Code, Title 38, Chapter 30)

Military personnel may use the Montgomery GI Bill while on active duty after serving 24 months or more, or after separation. It requires a $1,200 buy-in, deducted from military pay, and includes a $600 buy-up option to enhance the benefit. The Montgomery GI Bill might still be the best option for veterans pursuing training at non-degree granting institutions. Other situations exist where the Montgomery GI Bill is still the best benefit for modern-day servicemembers.

Learn more about Montgomery bill

The Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve

(U.S. Code, Title 10, Chapter 1606)

The Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve is for current members of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard and Air National Guard who signed a six-year obligation to serve after June 30, 1985, or, if an officer, six years in addition to the original obligation. Like the regular Montgomery GI Bill legislation, the Selected Reserve benefit covers training at non-degree granting institutions, while the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t.

Learn more about Reserve bill

Reserve Educational Assistance Program

(U.S. Code, Title 10, Chapter 1607)

The Reserve Educational Assistance Program was established in 2005 to provide education benefits to members of the reserve components called or ordered to active duty in a time of war or national emergency, as declared by the president or Congress. Eligibility is determined by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. REAP benefits may not be received concurrently with any other GI Bill education benefit.

Learn more about REAP

Veterans Educational Assistance Program

(U.S. Code, Title 38, Chapter 32)

The Veterans Educational Assistance Program is available to veterans who served on active duty between Jan. 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985, and contributed their military pay to participate. VA matches $2 for every $1 paid. VEAP may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship or on-the-job training, and correspondence courses.

Learn more about VEAP

Survivors' and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program

(U.S. Code, Title 38, Chapter 35)

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program provides education and training opportunities to dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled or deceased because of a service-related condition, or who died while on active duty. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits, which can be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship and on-the-job training. Spouses may take correspondence courses.

Learn more about DEA

Vocational Rehab

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, sometimes referred to simply as the Chapter 31 program, helps veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for a suitable career or job. This may include attending a university, college, training program or private institute to receive a degree or certificate.

Learn more about VR&E