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Can I Still Get the Post 9/11 GI Bill Even Though I Initially Declined It?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a new service member and through basic training, however, I declined the New GI Bill not knowing exactly what it was all composed of. Now that I am in the Operational AF, I have looked into the New GI Bill and was wondering if I could still apply.

A: I think you are mixing apples and oranges in your question. Number one is you don’t have to apply or pay a fee for the New or Post 9/11 GI Bill. It is free to you just by serving on a Title 10 order for a minimum of 90 days after September 10, 2001.

The GI Bill you declined was the Montgomery GI Bill. That is the one offered at basic training and the one that you have to pay a $1,200 contribution fee – $100 per month for your first 12 months of service.

Generally speaking, the New GI Bill is a much better GI Bill anyway. If you spend at least three years on active duty and get out with an Honorable discharge, you will have 36 months of education benefits you can use … enough for four 9-month academic years of school.

However, you could also use your New GI Bill benefits while serving. It is called the Tuition Top-Up program. How it works is if you are using Tuition Assistance (TA), your service branch pays your whole tuition bill. The amount over what TA can pay by law is billed by your service branch to the VA.

The VA in turn deducts the number of months in your semester from your Post 9/11 GI Bill unused remaining benefits. If the tuition difference is small, you may want to just pay it out-of-pocket instead of burning up a semester’s worth of GI Bill benefits for what little bit you would get out of it.

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