Education Benefits for Veterans
When your EAS is approaching, or you’ve been separated from the U.S. Armed Forces for some time and are considering your next step, it’s important to carefully review the educational and training benefits available to benefit your future. Whether you’re wanting to return to (or attend for the first time) a college classroom, or want to learn more about a professional-level hands-on vocation, there are resources and funds available to help make this a reality.
One of the best-known educational benefits is the GI Bill, a benefit available to veterans for a certain time period (typically within 15 years after separation) that pays the veteran’s tuition and potentially living assistance for attending school after being honorably discharged or retiring. The veteran will have paid monthly into the system during his or her service time, and then receives a substantially higher return on the investment to use towards continuing education in a VA-approved institution for up to 36 months (the months do not have to be consecutive). In some cases, these funds may also provide assistance for buying your materials and textbooks, and also paying for your housing while attending school.
There are numerous variations on the GI Bill that an active duty servicemember, reservist, or veteran should review and understand to see which would be most beneficial to his or her goals and situation (you can talk to you Education Service Officer, your nearest Veteran Service Officer, or use the VA’s online GI Bill Comparison Tool). For example, you may be eligible for the:
- Post-9/11 Bill (Chapter 33)
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) GI Bill (Chapter 1607)
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Bill (with special services for veterans with service-related disabilities)
- On-the-Job Training and Apprenticeships in the private sector
Additionally, active duty and reservists may be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill, also known as Chapter 30, a program that assists active duty servicemembers who have completed a minimum service obligation and have enrolled, paying $100 per month for 12 months. These funds are dedicated to helping them pursue higher education degrees, certificates, and other education and training while still serving. Active duty and reservists may also be eligible for the Post-9/11 Bill so it’s important to understand the differences between the two programs.
Educational institutions do not recognize funds from the GI Bill as financial aid as it is typically paid directly to the veteran. Once you’ve applied for the Post-9/11 bill, been accepted, and enrolled in your approved institution, you may also notice a “VAED TREAS 310” deposit to your account, which is the VA Book and Supply Stipend of up to $1,000 annually (or $500 per semester). This fund is paid out approximately two weeks prior to the first day of classes at the rate of $41.67 per credit hour enrolled; the amount you receive depends on how many classes you are taking. These non-taxable funds are yours to spend as you see fit, as the VA does not require receipts from the recipient. Similarly, the GI Bill pays a pro-rated Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) – based on the local Basic Allowance for Housing for that area – in the month following each month of enrollment (you will receive the payment at the first of the month following each month you’ve been enrolled).
Veterans looking to learn more vocational or hand-on skills – including jobs like firefighter, union plumber, and hotel management – can leverage numerous educational benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill and on-the-job apprentice programs. These programs allow veterans to learn a trade or skill through training on the job rather than by attending a formal program of classroom-based instruction for a degree or certificate. A veteran generally enters into a training contract for a specific period with an employer, is paid a percentage of a journeyman wage, and at the end of the training period, the gains job certification or journeyman status. If the veteran is using the GI Bill, he is she is also most likely eligible for the monthly housing allowance.
In some cases, the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill may be transferrable to an active-duty servicemember or reservist’s spouse or child, or split them between the two. This option is only applicable while the servicemember is in active duty, and all 36 months of benefits, or any remaining benefits, may be transferred. The Department of Defense (DoD) rather than the VA determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family, but once the DoD approves the transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at VA. There are also two national survivor and dependent scholarships available – The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship) and The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program – as well as scholarships and state-level education benefits for survivors.
The VA education and training webpage, along with your nearest VA regional benefits office and Veteran Service Officer, can connect you with a long list of tools and services that can help you transition to civilian life, continue your education, choose your next best step, and get your skill set and resume career-ready. There may be additional educational benefits for you or your dependents that are unique to your state, so be sure to ask about those opportunities when meeting with a counselor, or check with your state’s Department of Veteran Affairs.
While the transition to civilian life can seem a bit daunting, there is a large network of resources and other veterans waiting to assist you, who have been in your shoes, and want to see you succeed. By leveraging these resources, you can make the most of the benefits your service had earned and make your life after the military successful and rewarding.