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In My Situation, Which GI Bill Is Best for Me?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently active duty Army but am going through a med-board for an injury to my cervical spine. My state of residence is Connecticut which waives tuition if you attend a state school. I am trying to decide which GI Bill is best for me. How are the payments from the Montgomery GI Bill paid out? Do they go to school or to the service member?

A: Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) payments go to the student. Right now you would receive about $1,729 per month and have to pay your own education expenses which if your tuition is paid, wouldn’t amount to much – mainly books.

However the pay structure under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is different. The VA pays your tuition directly to your school, pays you a book stipend per term (up to the $1,000 yearly cap) and pays you a monthly housing allowance.

Being your tuition is already paid, the VA would not pay your school anything as the VA is the last payee when other forms of tuition-fenced aid is used. So all you would get is your book stipend of around $500 per semester and your housing allowance which averages $1,300 per month. However because the housing allowance is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take, your amount could be more or less than the average. So in your case, entitlement use and the amount you would get under each GI Bill (if your amount is average) is about a wash.

Another thing you should know is that if you are eligible for both GI Bills, you could get an additional 12 months of entitlement if your use your 36 months of MGIB first, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the extra time. If you plan to get an advanced degree after your bachelor’s degree, this method could be of interest to you.

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