There are two main benefits veterans have to utilize for college; the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. Certain GI Bill benefits extend to dependents of service members.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you can get full tuition coverage at a public university. The bill will cover tuition for private and foreign schools, check the VA Education Benefits Site for restrictions.
To be eligible for any tuition coverage, you need to have accrued one of the following since September 11, 2001:
- 90 days of active service all together.
- 30 continuous days of service if you were discharged because of disability.
To get 100 percent coverage, you need to have served 36 months or more. This percentage decreases until you reach 90-days, which qualifies you for 40 percent coverage. This bill has a 15-year limitation, however, if you were discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013, that limitation does not apply.
This is the only benefit that pays tuition directly to the education establishment. Students also receive a housing stipend and money for books and other supplies.
Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
There are two Montgomery GI Bills available to service members and veterans: one for active duty, and one for selected reserve.
Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
To qualify for the MGIB-AD, you need to have contributed $100 per month for the first 12 months of your active duty service, served for a two-year continuous enlistment, and were honorably discharged.
The bill pays out a monthly maximum of $1,994 and can pay up to nearly $72,000 over a 36 month period for a college education. The benefits are good for up to 10 years after your service completion.
Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
The MGIB-SR offers up to $11,000 over 36-months for Selected Reserve or Guard members. To be eligible, you must have committed to at least a six-year service obligation, completed initial active duty for training, and remain in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program (VR&E)
VR&E is under the GI Bill’s chapter 31 and applies to veterans with VA disability ratings and employment handicaps. The aim is to help disabled veterans to live an independent life.
To be eligible for VR&E, you need the following:
- An honorable discharge.
- A disability rating of at least 10% connected to service, or a 20% or higher memorandum rating.
If you are found eligible for and entitled to services, the VR&E offers comprehensive job finding, independent living, and rehabilitation assistance options.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)
The DEA program is for dependents of veterans. Current rates of allowance can be found here. Eligible people are the children or spouses of the following:
- A veteran who died or who is completely and permanently disabled because of active service.
- A veteran who died when a service-related disability existed.
- Missing in action or captured service members.
- Service members detained by foreign governments.
- A service member who has a total disability and is either receiving medical care or is about to be discharged.
Children of these service members have to be between ages 18 and 26. You can be married, but you can’t be in active service in the military and use your DEA benefit. You can get an extension for the amount of time you were serving, but it won’t extend past an individual’s 31st birthday. If you’re a spouse, you have 10 years to use these benefits, either from when you’re determined to be eligible or from when your spouse dies.
Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
The REAP program was for reserve members who were called to active duty. It ended on 25 November 2015, thanks to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Some people will continue to be eligible for REAP until November 25, 2019. However, in many cases, the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers qualifying reserve members if they were called to duty after 9/11 and generally provides a greater benefit.
If you were attending school using REAP benefits on November 25, 2015, or during a semester or quarter that ended right before that date, then you can continue to get these benefits until 2019. If you applied in 2015 but haven’t gone to school yet, you are no longer eligible for REAP benefits. The VA suggests if you are no longer eligible for REAP, to pursue your Post 9/11 benefits.
G.I. Bill and the FAFSA®
Using your GI Bill benefits does not prevent you from filing your FAFSA® for federal financial aid. Federal aid can help you pay for educational related expenses beyond just your tuition, including room and board, transportation costs, books, and personal expenses.
GI Bill benefits aren’t reported on the FAFSA®, so they will not impact the amount of aid you are eligible to receive under the FSA program. For more information on using your GI Bill in coordination with federal student aid, click here.