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Is My Husband Really Not Eligible for Any GI Bill Benefits?

Q: My husband was in the Navy for 14 years. He got out in 2008. He says that in order to get education benefits he had to buy into it when he first joined, but he doesn’t remember doing it. I thought that all active duty personnel were eligible for education benefits. Is he really not eligible for any benefits because he didn’t pay money his first year in? And is there any way to check if he elected to pay or not (he has a horrible memory)? Thanks.

A: At the time your husband joined, that was the case. He had the choice while in Basic Training to either opt out of the Montgomery GI Bill or accept it and pay the $1,200 contribution through automatic deductions ($100 per month for the first 12 months).

While he was on active duty, you are right, he was eligible for education benefits through Tuition Assistance, but not after he got out . . . hence the need for the GI Bill post-service education.

But, that all changed in 2009 when the Post 9/11 GI Bill was added to the GI Bill family. Now your husband also has the Post 9/11 GI Bill (if he indeed has the MGIB too). So, if he wants to go to school, he has 36 months of entitlement that he can use.

When using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA will pay his tuition and fees directly to his school. Monthly, he will get a housing allowance based on the zip code of his school and the number of credits he is taking. At the beginning of each semester, he will get a book stipend paid at the rate of $41.67 per credit. If he chooses to go to a vocational-technical school, then he will get $83 per month in a book stipend, being vo-techs are usually not on a credit-type education system.

So except for one thing, it really won’t make a difference whether he has the MGIB or not. But if he does have it, then he will get his $1,200 MGIB contribution back once he exhausts his 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. It will come as part of his last housing allowance payment. I can’t look it up either as we are not affiliated with the VA.

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