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Do I Have to Go to School to Receive the GI Bill?

Q: Do you have to go to school in order to receive the GI Bill? If so, how long until after I get out do I have to use it? I will be getting medically/honorably discharged at the end of 2010. If I use the GI Bill to pay for school, but my entire schooling is cheaper than the amount of my Bill, do I get any of the remaining balance? Thank you for your help.

A: It really depends on what you mean when you say “receive” the G.I. Bill. Your eligibility for the G.I. Bill comes from you serving in the military. To receive any education benefits in the form of pay, yes you have to go to school.

Being you are getting discharged at the end of this year, I’m assuming you are eligible for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. You have 15 years from your discharge date to use your G.I. Bill benefits.

Under that Bill, the VA pays your tuition and fees directly to your school, up to the in-state public school maximum for your state, and you would get a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 per year book stipend. Keep in mind, if you are still on active duty, taking online-only classes or going to school less than half-time, you won’t get the housing allowance.

To to answer your last question, I have to give explain how the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill works. Each state has their own maximum tuition and fees amount. The housing allowance is calculated based on the E-5-with-dependents rate for the zip code of your school, so there isn’t a fixed amount everyone gets like there was under the old Montgomery G.I. Bill. So no, you don’t get any remaining amount, because there isn’t any remaining amount. The VA might pay $12,000 per term for your course and pay $20,000 per term for someone else taking the same course as you, just at a college in a different location. It is all based on area cost-of-living expenses.

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