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Can I Use Tuition Assistance and My Post 9/11 GI Bill?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I just read this on a Post 9/11 GI Bill FAQ article on the HRC Website: “Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill affect the current Active Duty or Reserve Tuition Assistance Program? No.” However, I have read the only way to use both is Tuition Top-Up. My primary intention is to use my Post 9/11 GI Bill because I need the housing allowance, but in this case I only qualify for 70% of tuition. If I go the GI Bill route will I be able to use any Tuition Assistance?

A: I really don’t have sufficient information from your question to answer it accurately, but I can lay down the ground rules for using Tuition Assistance (TA) and the Tuition Top-Up program.

Let’s start with Top-Up first. Being you are at the 70% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier, I’m assuming you are in the Selected Reserve (SELRES). If that is the case, you would not qualify for the Top-Up program, as is also the case if you are retired.

For the active duty servicemember, Top-Up does work in conjunction with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, although in my estimation it is not a good use of benefits and here is why.

With Top-Up, your service branch pays your tuition in full. Then they bill the VA for the amount above what they are authorized to pay under the Tuition Assistance program rules.

If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA takes out a full semester’s worth of entitlement (usually four month) regardless of how much (or little) they had to pay your service branch.

If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill, they only deduct the number of months and days relative to what they had to pay, so Top-Up is a much better deal under the Montgomery GI Bill.

If you are in the SELRES, you can use Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) in conjunction with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Plus you would get your drill pay, and depending on the military education benefits your state offers, you may qualify for additional funding from your state.

It adds up when you consider all the options available. If you are not in the active military or any Reserve Component, then TA is not available to you either.

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