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If There is Such a Big Difference Between the Montgomery and New GI Bill, Can I Switch to the New One?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I went to basic training in January 2011 and apparently signed up for the MGIB (I was sleep-deprived and didn’t really know what was going on!), so I paid the $1200 over the course of a year. If there is such a big difference between what’s covered in the MGIB versus the new GI Bill, can I switch to the new one? And why don’t they just make the new GI Bill automatic, instead of offering the MGIB? I am currently 18 mos. into my 3.5 year obligation, but want to know more about what education options I have with what I’ve paid into. Thank you.

A: Really there isn’t that much difference anymore between what is covered by the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Before GI Bill 2.0 was implemented in January 2011, the big difference was that the Post 9/11 GI Bill would not pay for non-degree training, so if you wanted to take a vocational or technical course, you had to use the MGIB.

So with that out of the way, now the biggest differences are how each GI Bill pays and the amount. If you were to use the MGIB, it would pay you $1,473 per month while you were in school, as a full-time student with at least three years of service. Out of that amount, you have to pay tuition, fees, books and still have money to live on.

If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you still get 36 months of benefits, as you do under the MGIB, but instead the VA pays your tuition directly to your school; you get a monthly housing allowance that averages $1,200 across the U.S. and a book stipend once each semester that is generally around $500. However, there is a $1,000 per academic year ceiling, so you can usually get the book stipend for at least two semesters of a school year.

Yes you can switch GI Bills. To do so, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return you will get a Certificate of Eligibility back showing your months of benefits and which GI Bill you have.

Because the two GI Bills are gradually getting closer together, I imagine at some point the MGIB might be phased out, but for now it is alive and well.

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