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How Much Will My GI Bill I Got In 1996 Be Worth When I Retire After 20 Years of Service?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I signed up for the GI Bill in 1996 when I enlisted. At that time I believe it was worth $30,000. I will retire at 20 years in four more. How much will it be worth in total at that time?

A: If you are talking about the Montgomery GI Bill, which is what you had in 1996, it is worth $53,028 right now. On average over the last four years, the amount it pays has increased about $50 each year. Assuming that rate continues, in four years, it will have went up another $200 or up to $60,228. If you have a kicker or bought into the Buy-Up program, it would be even higher.

However, you will also be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under that GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees in full if you attend a public school. Go to a private school and they would pay up to $17,500 per year.

In either case you would get a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. The average monthly housing allowance right now is $1,200 per month. I can’t predict where it will be in four years from now as it fluctuates with housing and rental costs. In 2010 and 2011, it dropped for the Atlanta Zip Code. In 2012, now it went up.

Taking the safe assumption that it doesn’t go up, that would be $1,200 in your pocket, plus the book stipend up to $1,000 per year. So your housing allowance and book stipend would be worth $46,200 plus whatever tuition and fee costs the VA would pay. That amount could be as high as $52,500 ($17,500 X 3 years). So all in all, it could be worth $98,700, if you attended a private school.

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