What You Need to Know About the Montgomery GI Bill
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces have earned many benefits with their honorable service, and the chance to continue their education after completing their commitment is among the most beneficial. While there are stipulations and various options to consider, the main takeaway is a very large potential return on one’s investment. To participate in the GI Bill, servicemembers pay $100 for 12 months during their active duty, with the potential return of $66,000 to be used towards their education at a later date.
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is an education benefit for servicemembers that can be used during or after active duty to help pay for college degree and certificate programs, technical or vocational courses, flight training, apprenticeships or on-the-job training, high-tech training, licensing and certification tests, entrepreneurship training, certain entrance examinations, and correspondence courses. Often referred to as Chapter 30, servicemembers who choose to use the benefit can receive up to $1,857 monthly (multiple that by 36 academic months or four years of schooling, the benefit is worth up to $66,000). If you’re still on active duty, you can contribute an additional $600 to the GI Bill to receive up to $5,400 additional benefits when you activate your benefits.
The MGIB is good for 10 years after honorable separation, and after the benefit expires, you will lose access to any potential benefits as well as your initial $1,200 investment. Other eligibility requirements include having completed high school or an equivalency certificate before applying, having served at least two years active duty, and having met additional VA requirements.
Once you’ve found a school that has a VA-approved training or education program, and have applied for your GI Bill benefits online using the VA's VONAPP program, you may be contacted by the VA to submit additional information; it typically takes 4-8 weeks to hear back on a final eligibility decision. Once you’ve been approved for your benefits, your monthly payout will depend on your duty status as well as your student status (full-time, half-time, or part-time). Additionally, you’ll need to complete the VA's Web Automated Verification of Eligibility (WAVE) process each month to continue to receive your monthly direct deposit payments.
Although you can begin to use this benefit after two years of service, the monthly payment while on active duty can be substantially lower than after you’re no long active duty. Be sure to check with your Education Service Officer before using your GI Bill or taking any college classes to make the most of your time and investment.
The VA also offers the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) for reservists with a six-year obligation in the Selected Reserve who are actively drilling, including the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Army National Guard, and the Air National Guard. This benefit has similar academic prerequisites, but applicants must also have completed their initial active duty for training (IADT) and remain in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit. Although your eligibility ends on the day you leave the reserves, if you are discharged from service due to a disability that was not caused by misconduct, you will remain eligible. Additionally, your eligibility period may be extended if you are ordered to active duty.
It’s important to note that the MGIB is substantially different from the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33), which requires that the applicant have served at least 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001 and have received an honorable discharge. It’s important to discuss your education goals with your Education Service Officer before applying and choosing the GI Bill that best fits your needs.
Written by Megan Hammons