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

On June 30, 2008, the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act became law. The new GI Bill – cast as a GI Bill for the 21st century – provides many changes and improvements to the Montgomery GI Bill. But, after taking effect Aug. 1, 2009, the new GI Bill has also created a great deal of confusion for veterans, military personnel and college campus veterans coordinators.

Who is eligible?

  • Active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces with at least 90 aggregate days of active-duty service since Sept. 10, 2001
  • Veterans who performed at least 30 days of continuous active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and were discharged due to a service-connected disability
  • Veterans with at least 90 aggregate days of active-duty service who were released from the armed forces with service characterized as honorable and placed on the retired list, temporary disability retired list, or transferred to the Fleet Reserve or the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve
  • Veterans honorably released after at least 90 aggregate days of active-duty service for a reserve component
  • Veterans discharged or released due to hardship, a condition that existed prior to service or a condition that interfered with duty

How many months are covered?

Generally, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides benefits for up to 36 months. Veterans are limited to a total of 48 months of combined VA education benefits. Veterans who transfer Montgomery GI Bill benefits to the Post-9/11 program are limited to the amount of months remaining from their Montgomery GI Bill benefit.

What is the window to use it?

Individuals are generally eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for 15 years after the veteran’s last day of active duty, following at least 90 continuous days of active duty.

What costs are covered?

  • Established charges, like tuition and fees, based on the highest-cost full-time undergraduate training program at a state public institution of higher learning
  • A monthly housing allowance, which is equivalent to the base housing allowance for an E-5 with dependents, calculated according to the cost of housing in the region where there student is enrolled
  • A stipend of up to $1,000 per year is paid for books and supplies, provided proportionally by term: quarter, semester, trimester, etc. (Active-duty members are not eligible)

To receive 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit, a veteran must have either served at least 36 months after Sept. 10, 2001, or 30 continuous days of active duty and discharged with a service-connected disability. The minimum benefit, 40 percent, is paid for those who served on active duty at least 90 days but less than six months. Other percentages of the benefit are applied based on the number of active-duty months served. (See chart at right.)

What kind of education is covered?

The Post-9/11 GI Bill only covers education at institutes of higher learning, such as state and private colleges and universities. The benefit may not be used for flight training, correspondence schools, vocational schools, apprentice programs, on-the-job training programs, national tests or online distance education programs.

The “Yellow Ribbon Program” allows certain institutes, like private colleges, to enter into agreements with VA to pay established education costs not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. VA will match each additional dollar funded by the school, as long as the combined total does not exceed the full cost of the established charges. Only individuals entitled to the 100 percent benefit rate may use it.

GI Bill: Which version is better for me?

Now that the new version of the GI Bill is available, veterans must decide whether to stick with their current education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30) or switch to the new Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). What makes the decision tricky for veterans is the fact that once they switch from Chapter 30 to 33, they must stick with that decision; it is irreversible.

On May 1, 2009, VA began accepting applications for new GI Bill benefits (Chapter 33). Before veterans apply for those benefits, they need to take a look at all their costs and expenses, and find which benefit will pay more.

For veterans attending community colleges in certain states, the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30) may be the better option, since it pays a student $1,300 to $1,471 per month. But for veterans attending most universities and some community colleges, the new GI bill is superior, since it pays full tuition at state schools, provides a cost-of-living stipend and $1,000 for books. For qualifying veterans, monthly living allowances are based, state by state, on Base Allowance for Housing for the rank of E-5 with dependents.