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If I Do Not Receive an Honorable Discharge, Am I Still Eligible for My Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir, I have been on active duty since 16Oct2006. Since I was prior service Air National Guard, I was only required to fulfill a 4-year enlistment when I joined the USCG. I reenlisted on 15Oct2010, but currently in a situation where I might be receiving a discharge and its up in the air on what type of discharge I would receive. In the event I do not receive an honorable discharge, am I still eligible for my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits? Also, would I have the opportunity to transfer any of those benefits to my spouse?

A: The way you used the word “eligible” is what I want to focus on because I think there is a lot of mis-understanding on what it really means in regard to the GI Bill. To be “eligible” to receive minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you have to serve for at least 90 days on Title 10 orders, such as being on active duty. That in itself would rate you at the 40% tier. To get fully vested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill (100%) you have to serve for at least three years after September 10, 2001 (which you have).

Because you have met the “eligibility” requirements – serving the required amount of time on Title 10 orders after September 10, 2001 – you are fully vested for 36 months of benefits at the 100% level; that would not change regardless of which discharge you end up getting.

What can change, based on which discharge you end up getting, is your ability to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. With a discharge anything other than fully honorable, you would still have the benefits, but you would not be able to use them. Do you see the difference?

Now I’m assuming this is your first active duty enlistment. If it is not, such as you may have had some 90-day or more deployments ending in honorable discharge(s) when you were with the Air Guard, then you may have some Post 9/11 GI Bill “eligibility” under those terms of service.

If this is your only active duty enlistment and you do end up getting something other than fully honorable, there is an appeal process that you can use to request to get your discharge upgraded to honorable provided you can support your request as to why your current discharge is wrong. But let’s cross that bridge when or if that happens.

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