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Do I Have Longer Than 48 Months to Use My Post 9/11 GI Bill and Complete My Degree?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been in the Army for 11 years and have been active duty for 5 of those years. I am currently on active duty orders with the Utah National Guard. Because of my work schedule, I plan on only taking one or two classes and then adding more each semester depending on how much of the work load I can handle. My question is, from what I have read it seems like the GI Bill is available only for a length of time. Since it will obviously take me much longer to complete my degree than the standard 48 months what would you recommend I do?

A: You are confusing me right off of the bat. If you are actually in the Army, then how can you have been on active duty for 5 out of the 11 years? Either you would have been in the Army for all eleven years or not. The Army does not have a part-time or inactive program, so I have to question whether you mean you are actually in the Army, or if you are in the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) program – a National Guard or Army Reserve program – which is different from being in the active Army.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to your question, but first I have to ask, why are you using your GI Bill now? If you are in the active Army, you could be using Tuition Assistance and preserving your Post 9/11 GI Bill to use later or to transfer to your spouse or dependent children once you are eligible for the transfer option?

If you are actually in the Army, you could also use the Tuition Top-Up program, but that is not available if you are AGR. Even though you wear the U.S. Army tab on your uniform, the programs available to you differ depending on your branch of service.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill gives you 36 months of benefits that you have 15 years from your date of discharge to use. So while you can use your GI Bill benefits now, you do have up to 15 years after you get out.

The 48 months comes into play if you first use up your 36 months of the Montgomery GI Bill and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the 12 additional months. However, 36 months is enough to get a four-year degree by going to school for four 9-month school years.

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