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How Much Do I Have in GI Bill Benefits and How Do I Start Using Them?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello I am about to enroll in college. I’m 35 yrs. old and I am just curious to see what my options are with my G.I. Bill? How much do I have and how to go about using it? I was in the Navy and got out in 2008 I believe. Please if you can let me know soon because I’m starting classes in the fall.

A: Veteran education benefits vary according to which GI Bill you have. Being you got out in 2008, you could have both the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the new Post 9/11 GI Bill (PGIB).

To have the MGIB, you would have had to sign up for it when you first enlisted. Do you remember having $100 per month for the first 12 months taken out of your pay through payroll deduction? If so, that is what it was for and you would have the MGIB. If you signed a declination, then most likely you don’t have it.

You would however, have the Post 9/11 GI Bill as that is free to servicemembers having served for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001. If you served for at least three years, you are 100% vested; serving for less than three years puts you between the 40% and 90% tier depending on your length of service.

Individually, each GI Bill provides up to 36 months of entitlement. However, if you have both GI Bills, the maximum number of combined months of entitlement is capped at 48 months.

Using the MGIB, you would get up to $1,564 per month and you are responsible to pay all your own education expenses, including tuition, fees, books, etc.

However, if you use the PGIB, the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school (based on your tier percentage) and monthly you would get a housing allowance that averages across the United States at $1,300. Additionally, each semester, you would get up to $41.67 per credit in a book stipend. However, it does have a $1,000 per academic year cap, but that is usually enough to get it for two full semesters per year.

To start using either GI Bill, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you would get your Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when you register for school as a GI Bill student.

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