Using the GI Bill
By James Middlekauff
Check it out! The GI Bill is now paying more than ever for full time students. If you ever wanted to go to school fulltime and have served on active duty since 9/11, now is the time. An education is essential in today’s job market. You have served your country and now it is time to use your benefits. A college education is the first step in starting your second career. Most military members leaving the service right now with an honorable discharge are eligible for several different versions of the GI Bill.
The first thing you need to do is determine which chapter(s) you are qualified to collect from. If you paid into the Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB), you are eligible for Chapter 30. If you served over 90 days of active duty after 9/11/2001, you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). If you are in the National Guard/Reserves, you are eligible for Chapter 1606 or 1607 and possibly Chapter 33. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Your school has a VA Certifying Official who is there to help you sort out your options.
First - Find out which programs are eligible to you.
Second - Do your research. Some programs will work much better for you than others.
Third - Apply for your benefits.
Right now, should you elect the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill you cannot go back to your old chapter, even if it means you will be losing money. This is why it is so important that you do your research before deciding which chapter to use. Not all chapters cover the same types of training. Ask yourself these questions before deciding which program to use:
Once you know which benefits you will be using, you will need to apply. The fastest way to complete the application is to complete a VONAPP (Veterans On-Line Application) at www.gibill.va.gov. You can also download any VA educational form from that website, such as the VA Form 22-1990 Application for Education Benefits, to be mailed to a VA Regional Office. You can also call 1-888-GIBILL-1 for more information. Any school authorized to accept VA Educational benefits has a VA Certifying Official who can also assist you. You should start this process as soon as you know where you want to go to school and which benefits you plan on using. Keep in mind that it can take up to 6 weeks or longer for your Certificate of Eligibility to be issued once you submit your application.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill also allows a service member who is still serving to transfer their benefits to their dependents. If you have served at least 10 years (6 if you are transferring to your spouse) and you plan on serving at least 4 more years you may be eligible to transfer your unused benefits to your family members who are enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). To transfer your benefits go to www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB/ and complete the Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB). After the transfer has been completed, your dependent will fill out a VA Form 22-1990e through the VONAPP system.
Transitioning from the military to an academic setting can be challenging. It is very important to research your desired career field and set feasible academic goals. Most schools offer academic advising that will assist you in making decisions regarding your academic goals. You will also need to be aware of the demands within your chosen major of study as well as the cost of living in your area. With a smart budget and a little bit of that military discipline, you can complete your degree with little or no school loan debt following you home. Keep in mind that there are other monetary resources available such as grants and scholarships. You should visit your school’s financial aid office and apply for financial aid at www.fafsa.org.
Sometimes students still need a little extra funding to pay for their education. The Veterans Affairs (VA) work study program allows you to earn Federal or state minimum wage (whichever is higher) for up to 1,300 hours per year (25 hours per week). This is a tax free benefit that allows you to work part time while pursuing your education, as long as you are enrolled _ time or more and using your GI Bill. As a VA work study student, you can work at any approved VA facility in areas such as health, certification processing, Voc Rehab Centers, County VA Offices, and even at veteran libraries. To apply, contact the Veterans Affairs Office at your school.
The GI Bill has provided financing for thousands of veterans seeking academic training. All you have to do is gain acceptance to a school and then, with your DD Form 214-Member 4 copy, go to your school or facility Veterans Service Office for assistance to start your benefits.
For more information, visit www.gibill.va.gov.
James Middlekauf is the Assistant University Registrar and Veterans Services?Certifying Official at the University of Central Florida.