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Would It be Better for Me to Stay With the Montgomery GI Bill or Convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a new airman with a BA. I want to use my GI Bill benefits for a master’s degree. I am not sure when I would start using the benefits. I know I have 36 months to decide whether to stay with MGIB or Post 9/11. What would your advice be on which one to stay with?

A: One of the big considerations to keep in mind is the difference in how entitlement use is calculated if you plan to also use Tuition Top-Up (a combination of Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill). How Top-Up works is your service branch pays your whole tuition bill and then subtracts out what Tuition Assistance can’t pay. That amount is then billed to the VA and they in turn deduct an amount of entitlement from your remaining balance.

If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), they deduct one month of entitlement for each $1,648 they have to pay back to your service branch. So if the VA pays back $4,944 ($1,648 * 3), then they deduct 3 months of entitlement. However, if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they deduct a whole semester’s worth of entitlement (usually four months) regardless of how much or how little they have to pay. So if you use the MGIB with Top-Up, your GI Bill benefits will last longer than if you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you are not using TA or Top-Up, know that you would not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance while on active duty, but you would get your tuition paid and get the book stipend. If using the MGIB, you get the full monthly amount, but have to buy your own books and pay your own tuition.

Generally speaking, if you are still on active duty, you are better off staying with the MGIB. The other thing to note is that after you get done using up your 36 months of MGIB, you can switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of entitlement.

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