GI Bill Benefits For Dummies

Like many veterans, when I got out of the military I had plans to head right back into another college program. I was sure I could go in, say I was a veteran with a GI Bill and the school would know exactly what to do to process my paperwork.

I was wrong! Many schools accept GI Bill benefits but do not have a veterans office or veteran representatives to help students like me navigate the different options we have when it comes to our benefits.

Keep reading to get a quick breakdown of the basics so when you walk into the administration office at your school you have an idea of what to expect when utilizing the benefits you worked so hard to earn.

1) Post 9/11 GI Bill

When most people think about the GI Bill this is the one they are imagining. It is available for up to 15 years after a service member separates from service and will pay for up to 36 months of school. In order to be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill a service member must have completed at least 90 consecutive days of service. However, that 90 day commitment will only entitle a member to 40 percent of their maximum benefits. In order to get 100 percent of the maximum payments, a service member must complete either 36 months of service or at least 30 continuous days and have been separated due to a service-connected disability.

This is also the GI Bill that comes with a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA)! However, there is a catch to the MHA clause of this GI Bill. The MHA is based on where the college you are enrolled in is located, how many credits you are taking, and if you are a traditional student or an online student. For students that are taking solely online classes, your MHA is going to be half the national average BAH for an E5 with dependents. Right now it is about $840 a month but it does change annually as BAH rates change.

Additionally, the MHA will be adjusted monthly based on your enrollment. This means if your classes end on a Friday and the next classes do not start until Monday your MHA stops for those two days where you were not enrolled as a full time student. Oh, and if you are a combo student, where some of your classes are online and some are on campus, you will get the full MHA rate, but again…it is based on where the college is located.

I know that sounds like a common sense thing because you probably assume people live pretty close to the college they have decided to attend, but there are programs in Military Friendly® schools such as Liberty University in Virginia that offer these mixed programs and have students traveling from across the country for a few classes that allow them to collect the campus MHA rate instead of the digital rate.

And finally, the Post 9/11 GI Bill has wonderful book stipends!  Students will get $1,000 a year and it is broken up per semester based on how many credit hours they are enrolled in. I will say from my experience I get about $125 for every 3 credit graduate level class and that more than covers my books since I order off Amazon rather than from the school. The extra book stipend money tends to go back to the school because despite using my Post 9/11 GI Bill, there are a few fees that are not covered so my out of pocket costs are balanced with book money.