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Can I Use What is Left of My GI Bill After I Get a Bachelor’s Degree to Help Pay for a Master’s Degree?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello my name is Jarrod and I’m about at the end of my initial 3 1/2 year active duty contract and of course I have to fulfill the other 4 1/2 years with IRR. I’m thinking about getting out and going back to school to finish up my undergrad degree. I basically have 2 questions for you. The first question is that once I finish up my bachelor’s degree can I use whatever I have left over to help pay for the cost of a master’s degree. The second question is how do you find out exactly how much of the GI Bill that you have left over? — Jarrod

A: The easiest way to find out how much GI Bill benefits you have left is to request a new Certificate of Eligibility. You can do that by submitting VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website.

As far as how much you have left, it can depend on which GI Bill(s) you have. If you signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) when you first came in and paid your $1,200 contribution, then you probably still have benefits left under that GI Bill. However, you also have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which can get you some additional benefits.

If you have either GI Bill, then you started out with 36 months of benefits, however, if you have both GI Bills, you can get up to a total combined benefit of 48 months under the Rule of 48.

To get the 48 months though, you first have to use up all of your MGIB benefits and then switch over to the New GI Bill. You got 36 months under the MGIB and would get an additional 12 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But, if you switch to the New GI Bill with months of MGIB left, you only get the same months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the MGIB and not the additional months.

The advantage of switching with benefits left is the higher pay-out under the New GI Bill. Plus, when you have used up the last of your switched benefits, you get a prorated amount of your MGIB contribution back.

If you declined the MGIB when you enlisted, then you start out with just 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. The benefits you have left you can use until exhausted or until you hit your GI Bill delimitation date(s).

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