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Can I Use My Remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill Entitlement for Vocational Pilot Training?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: An odd situation: I am in the National Guard and being I have done time on active duty and I am pretty sure I qualify for Post 9/11 GI Bill now. I have always been enlisted in the Guard and I claim currently claim the Chapter 1606 GI Bill. I want to do vocational pilot school and I am wondering if it would be beneficial to use my remaining 13 months by switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill or if there is a way to exhaust my GI Bill then switch over. I am a graduating senior this May 2014. Any tips? I want to maximize my benefits and I eventually want to pursue higher education as well.

A: First, let’s establish that you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You active duty may have qualified you as Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible, depending on the type of active duty. If you deployed under a Title 10 in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan for more than a 90-day period, then you most likely have the Post 9/11 GI Bill at least at the 50% or greater tier.

However, if your active duty was Basic Training and AIT, then no you are not eligible as training time does not count as eligible time for Post 9/11 GI Bill purposes.

So assuming you are Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible, the most you could get in entitlement by switching would be the 13 months that you have left under Chapter 1606. If you first exhaust those months and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get an additional 12 months of entitlement.

I’m not sure what you mean by “vocational pilot”. If you mean you want to get your private pilot’s license, then your GI Bill will not pay for it (in most cases). However, if you already have your private pilot’s license and want to pick up commercial pilot certifications, then some of the costs would be paid for by your GI Bill.

Now let’s compare the two GI Bills to see which one would be the best one for you to use for pilot’s training. Under Chapter 1606, you could get up to $362 per month to go to school and you have to pay all of your own costs. Don’t forget you would also have your monthly drill pay, Federal Tuition Assistance and possibly some state education benefits. You would use up entitlement at the rate of one month for each $362 dispersed to you.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it would pay the lesser of either the actual cost of training or up to $10,970.46 per year, plus you would get the housing allowance and book stipend. Entitlement use would be one month for each month of school.

I think your best bet would be to focus on the here and now and switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It would pay the biggest share of your pilot training.

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