To access your GI benefits, you can apply online at the vets.gov website after you’ve been accepted into an approved program at an approved school. The term GI Bill refers to the set of education benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and available to service members who are Active Duty, Selected Reserve, and National Guard, as well as their families.
The Four-Step Process to Apply For GI Benefits
1. Apply to and be accepted by a qualifying program and school. If you’re not sure about the one you’re interested in, check it out on the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool. If you’re still not clear, check with the VA directly.
2. Apply online at the vets.gov website. The questions walk you through the process of determining eligibility, collecting the documentation you need, understanding the benefits available at the school you’re pursuing, and finding an accredited representative to help you through the project.
If you’re on active duty, you may need a letter from your Education Service Officer. Usually, the GI Bill is not the best avenue for those on active duty, so you want to evaluate all the options before committing. If you’re a veteran, you may need a copy of your discharge paperwork. If you are part of the Selective Reserve, you may need DD Form 2384-1, Notice of Basic Eligibility.
3. The school you are applying to sends your application packet to the right VA regional office. If you have not found a school by the time you’re ready to apply for GI benefits, you can still apply to establish what you’re eligible to receive.
In four to eight weeks, you’ll get a determination letter from the VA. In the meantime, they may ask for more information to complete your packet. Be sure to respond promptly so your application is not delayed.
4. You’re ready to start your classes as soon as you get the go-ahead from your school.
The Most Common Programs Under the GI Bill
The active programs under the GI Bill include the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Active Duty Montgomery GI Bill, the Reserve, and Guard Montgomery GI Bill, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program. Each program within the GI Bill has its own rules based on eligibility and duty status.
The Fry Scholarship and the Dependents’ Education Assistance programs are for survivors of service members killed in the line of duty or for children of totally disabled veterans.
What Kind of Training and Education Can I Get with GI Benefits?
Most regionally accredited programs are approved for the GI Bill, but there are other kinds of training that you might not think about. Here are some specific things your GI Bill can pay for.
- Programs leading to an associate’s, bachelor’s, and other advanced degrees
- Non-college degree programs focused on vocational or technical education
- Licensure and certifications
- National tests like the SAT or CLEP
- Pilot training
- Correspondence courses
- Work-study programs
- Last dollar scholarship assistance, known as Top-Up
You’ve served your country well, and you’ve earned your GI benefits. Follow these steps to get access to them and watch your future open up in front of you.