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Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901)

The Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901) was created by the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1981. Unlike other GI Bills, the eligibility window for this one was very narrow. Enlistees had to enter active duty after September 30, 1980, but before October 1, 1981. For those enlisting under the Delayed Entry Program, their entry date was extended to October 1, 1982.

This program was unique from all other GI Bill programs in that individuals had to be selected by the service branch to participate, so consequently not everyone entering active duty during the eligibility period qualified for benefits. The Air Force restricted eligibility to those enlisting only in certain specialties and from certain recruiting locations. Section 901 participation did not require any monetary contribution from servicemembers, unlike the $1,200 contribution required by the Montgomery GI Bill that came along in 1984.

Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901) eligibility

For selected individuals, eligibility could be acquired in two ways, either through an initial enlistment or reenlistment. To maintain eligibility, however, individuals had to fulfill their contracted enlistment period, serve at least 24 continuous months on active duty, or if less than 24 months, draw compensation for a service-connected disability.

First-term enlistees could still qualify for the Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901) if their discharge met one of the following requirements:

  • It was for convenience of the government
  • Due to hardship
  • A result of a disability incurred or aggravated during service

Another unique feature of Section 901 was that eligibility could be maintained even if the servicemembers discharge was characterized as "general". Normally, only an honorable discharge maintains GI Bill eligibility.

Transfer of benefits under Section 901

Not only did this GI Bill have unique eligibility requirements, it spread to the benefits side. Being ahead of its time, the program had a transfer-to-dependents benefit clause. This feature would not be seen again in a free GI Bill until the Post-9/11 GI Bill came out on August 1, 2009. The transfer option in itself had several complex service requirements. First, it only applied to selected individuals serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines.

Second, the initial contracted period of service had to be completed and the individual must have reenlisted before the benefits transfer option could be accessed. The Secretary of the Navy further restricted their policy in that it had to be the servicemember's second reenlistment, the reenlistment had to be for six years and at least four years of the second reenlistment must be completed.

Lastly, a living servicemember or veteran can transfer benefits to either a spouse or a dependent child. Only one transfer can be in effect at any one time, unlike the Post-9/11 GI Bill where the transfer can be spread among many members all at the same time. In the case of a deceased sponsor, unexpired benefits are transferred back to the family.

Applying for benefits under the Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901)

Education benefits were earned at the rate of 9 months of entitlements for every 12 months served while eligible. The maximum entitlement was capped at 36 months or four 9-month academic years. As with most GI Bills, entitlement has to be used up within a specified amount of time or the benefit is lost. For veterans, the delimiting date for the Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901) started on the day of separation from the military and ended 10-years later. For a dependent or spouse, eligibility ended 10-years from the date of the sponsor's discharge or 10-years after the sponsor's death, if deceased while still on active duty.

The uniqueness of this program still didn't end. There were two methods of payment or allowances--assistance and subsistence. Assistance was paid monthly to servicemembers or veterans, or the dependents of either, and could not exceed $4,219 per year. It was used to pay for tuition, various fees including lab and shop, books, etc. Subsistence, however, was only available to veterans and their dependents, and paid at the rate of $1,051 per month for a full-time student or $525.50 for a part-time student.

To start drawing benefits, eligible individuals had to select a degree-producing course taught at an accredited, VA-approved school using a traditional classroom venue. Next, VA Form 22-8889 (and if a veteran, copy 4 of DD-214) had to be submitted to the Waco Regional VA Office.