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If I Never Signed Up for a GI Bill Before, Am I Eligible to Do So for Any of the GI Bills Before I Retire?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am an active duty Navy dentist who will retire in June 2013, at 32 years. I had not planned on doing further education. I am single and have no dependents. I have not thought about any of the education bills people often talk about. I have never signed up for an education bill. Am I eligible for benefits after I retire in June 2013, or must I have signed up before? May I sign up now before I get set to retire and attend school under any of the plans noted. Thank for your help in the matter. Any help would be appreciated.

A: If you wanted the Montgomery GI Bill, you have to sign up for it and pay the $1,200 contribution fee before you retire. Under it, you would get $1,473 per month for up to 36 months to go to school, but you would have to pay all your own education-related expenses.

However, just for serving for at least three years after September 10, 2001, you are eligible for 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under this GI Bill, your tuition is paid for directly to your school by the VA.

Monthly you get a housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take each semester. You also get a book stipend at the rate of $41.67 per credit which for a full-time student runs about $500 per semester. There is a $1,000 per year cap so you would only get this for two semesters before you would hit your limit for that academic year.

And the best part is you don’t have to sign up for he New GI Bill nor do you have to make a contribution – it’s free!

When you get ready to use it, just go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you would get a Certificate of Eligibility showing which GI Bill you have and how much entitlement you have left. Be sure to take a copy of it with you when you register for school.

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