Top 5 tips for using GI Bill education benefits

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Top 5 tips for using GI Bill education benefits

by: Kim Suchek | .
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published: November 14, 2012

I know many of you are working hard to complete your education, using the G.I. Bill or have transferred it to your dependents. I would like to briefly touch on five of the facts you must know to help make the process of using this benefit easier.

1. You have 10 -15 years to use your G.I. Bill benefits:  Once you have separated from the service you have 10 years to use ALL of your benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and 15 years to use your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Although separating from service is when your timeframe starts; if you rejoin active-duty service for more than 90 days, during the 10-year period, your 10-year timeframe is reset. In other words, you get 10 years from your LAST discharge date.

2. The GI Bill is NOT Federal Financial Aid:  The GI Bill is not considered Financial Aid in the traditional sense. College and University financial aid departments do not consider the MGIB financial aid because it is normally paid directly to you, not the school. Most schools will require you to sign a promissory note or apply for student loans to pay them upfront. You will then be required to pay these loans back with your GI Bill payments. This also means you ARE eligible for student loans, scholarships and Pell Grants along with the GI Bill. Remember: Although un-taxable, GI Bill benefit payments reduce the amount of student financial aid you are eligible to receive.

3.You can stop and start using the GI Bill as needed:  Unfortunately, many military families believe that once you apply for benefits you have to remain enrolled in school to get the full benefit. This is NOT true; you can use the GI Bill for any period of time, take time off and re-apply to use it again at a later date. (Remember the timeframe outlined in No. 1.)

4. A “month” of benefits doesn’t always mean a month: The GI Bill provides 36 months of education benefits. The term “months” can often be confusing; the 36 months of benefits does not mean you have only 36 months to use it, nor does it mean you must use it all in one 36 month period. There are two ways the term month is used. One way for active duty and another for veterans. The following should help you to understand this aspect of the Montgomery GI Bill.

• FOR VETERANS: Every time you use the current maximum “payment rate” of MGIB benefits you use a month of your 36 months of benefits. In this example a “month” doesn’t really mean a month. The VA says: “if you are a veteran and you receive $5,284, and your full-time MGIB rate is $1,321, divide $5,284 by $1,321. Your entitlement charge is four months.

• FOR ACTIVE DUTY:  If you are on active duty and you go to school full time for four months, but your tuition is only $1,000, you will still be charged for four months of your 36 month entitlement. In this example a “month” actually does mean a month.

5.The GI Bill pays according to the number of credits you take:  The GI Bill payment rates are based on several factors, the biggest being your credit load. For example, let’s say a full-time student using the Montgomery GI Bill will get up to $1564 a month, while a half-time student would only get half that amount. It is also important to know that the MGIB payment rates increase every year. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays according to several factors, the main factors being number of months served on active duty and the number of credit pursued. You can apply for the GI Bill by filling out and following the instructions on VA Form 22-1990, Application for Education Benefits.

I wish you and your families’ success during your educational goals. Please do not forget all the scholarships and grants that are available to you and your families. Be diligent as there are time frames on applying and the amount being granted.

Best wishes from my family to yours.

Kim Suchek

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to share a story or situation, contact me at Kim@MilitaryResourceBooks.com and visit my website for updated information and other resources not listed in my book.

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