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Can I Still Use My Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits Immediately If I Join the Air Force Reserve?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir, I have currently served 2 years of a 4-year active duty enlistment with the U.S. Air Force. I plan on participating in the Palace Chase program and joining the Air Force Reserve after 3 years (fulfilling the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s 36 month requirement for 100% benefits). The question I have is if I can still use the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits I received from my active duty service immediately or will I have to wait until my time in the Air Force Reserve is up? Will being in the Air Force Reserve hinder me from using these active duty benefits in any way?

A: No, going into the Air Force Reserve will not impact you using your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at all. You can start using your Post 9/11 GI Bill immediately after you get off of active duty. But, you don’t have to hurry using them. You have 15 years from your date of discharge from the Air Force Reserve to use your 36 months of benefits.

As you probably know, by going to a public school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA will pay your tuition and eligible fees up to the resident student rate all the way up to and including doctorate programs.

If you are planning to go to a private school, then they will pay up to $17,500 per year. If you are paying out-state tuition or your private school tuition exceeds what the VA will pay, you will either have to pay the difference out of pocket or use your school’s Yellow Ribbon program if they have one.

Under the Yellow Ribbon, your school can pay up to half of the costs not covered and the VA will pay an equal amount. Ask first though, as not all schools include all programs in their VA Agreement and some schools are not affiliated with the Yellow Ribbon program at all.

Plus you will get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend once each semester (up to the $1,000 per year maximum).

Comments  (4)

I am about to get out of my active duty commitment was in for 8 years. I am currently looking at yellow ribbon services for college full tuition schools already paid for. Does that mean I can pocket my GI BILL if yes no or maybe can you go in detail how I can get my college paid for while pocketing my GI BILL?

posted by charles
6:10 am on May 27, 2012

The Yellow Ribbon Program benefits students who are:
- paying out-state tuition
- going to graduate school
- or attending a private school.

If your tuition would be paid in full, then all you would get by using your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement is the monthly housing allowance and book stipend. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the VA is the last payer, so if there is no tuition left to pay, they pay nothing toward your tuition.

posted by Ron Kness
7:27 pm on July 8, 2012

I used stafford loans to get my physical therapy degree so that I could go into the Air Force as a physical therapist. I served for 3 1/2 years before getting an honorable discharge and did serve for greater than 90 days after 9/11. My question is, can I use the GI Bill to help cover the school loans I incurred to get my degree?

posted by Hank Dutchover
3:41 pm on June 9, 2013

No you can’t Hank. School loans are covered by the Student Loan Repayment Program and not the GI Bill.

posted by Ron Kness
9:38 pm on June 11, 2013
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