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I’m A Little Late in Getting Started Using My Post 9/11 GI Bill – Where Do I Start?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Where do I start? I am a Marine vet who is a little bit late in getting his education and would like to use my GI Bill to pay for schooling. I live in Oceanside, Ca. and want to attend a class for a BS in Business Administration. — Dana

A: Hi Dana. Whether you can use your GI Bill to get an education or not depends on which GI Bill you have and how long you have been out. The “shelf life” of most GI Bills start on the date of your last discharge. For the two most popular GI Bills – the Montgomery GI Bill(MGIB) and Post 9/11 GI Bill – it is 10 years and 15 years respectively. To qualify for the later, you had to serve for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001.

If you are eligible for both GI Bills but have been out over 10 years, don’t despair. You could still transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 5 years to use your 36 months of benefit.

Or if you still have time left on your MGIB, you could use up your 36 months of entitlement, switch GI Bills and get an additional 12 months of education benefits under the New GI Bill.

But if your goal is a bachelor’s degree, switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away is probably the best way to go. The VA would pay your tuition directly to your school and you would get a housing allowance monthly that rivals what you would get under the MGIB or more, along with a book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 annual cap).

Under the MGIB, the VA would pay you up to $1,648 monthly to go to school, but you have to pay your own tuition, fees and books. As you can see, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the better way to go.

As far as how to start – you begin by submitting VA form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. In return you’ll get a Certificate of Eligibility that you’ll need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student.

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