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Must I Convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill Before I Leave Active Duty?

Q: Dear Sir or Ma’am, I am currently enrolled with the active MGIB. I am looking at separating from the Navy in a couple of years. I have asked the question and I have gotten a lot of responses which ended up saying “search for yourself.” I enlisted into the Navy January 18, 2005. I know I qualify for the Post 9-11 GI Bill, but how do I actually convert to that? My mentor has told me I need to do this while I am still on active duty. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

A: Your mentor is confusing the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits with applying for benefits. You can apply for benefits even after you are out. Just keep in mind your benefits expire 15 years from the date of your discharge.

To start using your benefits, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you will get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) that you will need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student.

The part you have to do while still on active duty is the transfer of benefits. That you can’t do after getting out. If you decide to go this route, you will have to extend your enlistment as one of the requirements is having at least four years left on your enlistment at the time you make a transfer request. The other two requirements are currently serving and having served for at least six years after September 10, 2001. While you meet two of the three requirements, you don’t meet the third one with only having two years left to serve.

It may or may not be something you want to consider. I just wanted you to be aware of the requirements. Now you know the difference between the using your benefit and transferring. With the rules being different between the two, it is easy to get them mixed up. So in the end, while it certainly would not hurt to get your COE while on active duty, it isn’t a necessity.

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