Grants for military veterans are available in several forms, including the Montgomery GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill, and Yellow Ribbon Program. If you served in the military and received an honorable discharge, make sure you explore all the options available to you when you enroll in college. There is a time limit on your benefits, so consider your options early while the funds are still accessible. Once you know you’re going to go to school, contact the VA Department of Education and verify your benefits. Each school generally has a VA Representative or Veteran’s Advocate that can assist with the enrollment process and answer any questions you might have.
The Montgomery GI Bill
The Montgomery GI Bill is perhaps the best-known form of financial assistance for military personnel. The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) is the only option available to all veterans. There is a second type of GI Bill known as the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MDIB-SR) for reservists, but benefits end as soon as you leave the reserve.
You must plan ahead to take advantage of the MGIB-AD, as you enroll while you’re still on active duty. You will have $100 deducted from your monthly payment for a full year. Once you have completed the minimum length of duty determined by your branch, you’re eligible to reap the benefits of the bill you’ve invested in.
That $100 a month translates to up to 36 months of benefits paid to the student. Your monthly benefit amount is determined by:
- Your length of service
- Eligibility for other college funds
- Your category
If you choose, you may also contribute up to the $600 buy-up program. This can increase your monthly benefits, adding as much as $5,400 to your total financial assistance. These benefits are available for 10 years after your last date of active duty.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill was established for service members impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. To qualify for these benefits as a veteran, you must:
- Have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty that took place after September 10, 2001
- Receive an honorable discharge or discharge with a service-connected disability
- Wait 30 days post-discharge
If you were released from active duty before January 1, 2013, you must use these benefits within 15 years of your last date of active duty. This limitation does not apply to veterans discharged after this date. Full tuition and fees are available for up to 36 months for students who are attending a public in-state school. If you’re attending a private school, the bill will pay up to the national maximum toward your education.
Veterans Educational Assistance Program
The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) is a benefit program you may have contributed to during your time in the military. You must have entered service between January 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985, and opened your contribution account before April 1, 1987. Service members can contribute up to $2,700 to this fund. The military matches contributions 2-for-1.
If you’re an honorably discharged veteran and you made contributions to the VEAP, these funds are available for 10 years after your last date of active service. If you were in service during the eligible period for the VEAP, make sure you use any funds you might have contributed when you choose to go to school.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program offers supplementary assistance to students who are using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend a private school. If your school participates in this program, you can use it to access additional funds that help make up the difference between the national maximum and the actual cost of a private college. Schools may only award funds to a select number of students, so you should apply early to make sure you’re at the top of the list.
Utilizing the Yellow Ribbon Program does not impact the benefits that you receive from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If your school elects to participate, it will determine how much it contributes to students through the program. The VA then matches that contribution. Payments are made directly to the school. To be eligible for this program you must:
- Qualify for the maximum benefit rate for the Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Attend a participating school
- Be a veteran no longer on active duty
Grants for military veterans can go a long way toward covering the financial burden of continuing your education. Keep in mind, however, that these government-funded grant programs represent only a small portion of the financial assistance that’s available for veterans. There are many organizations that sponsor merit-based scholarships for military veterans, as well. If you’re not eligible for these grants, or your grants don’t cover the projected cost of your education, don’t lose hope. Many colleges offer scholarship programs just for veterans and families of veterans and may be willing to work with you to make college more affordable.