GI Bill Top Questions Answered

Man with question marks drawn over top of head
(Adobe Stock)

Leaving the Military?

Download the FREE Transition App Today

Here are the most asked questions about the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Who is Eligible?

You're eligible if you served a minimum of 90 days on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. This covers active duty served as a member of the Armed Forces or as a result of a call or order to active duty from a reserve component (National Guard or reserve) under certain sections of Title 10 of the U.S. Code.

The following types of reserve/Guard duty count toward eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

  • All Title 10 active duty supporting named contingency operations.
  • Title 32 service for the purpose of organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training the National Guard.
  • Title 32 service under section 502(f) for the purpose of responding to a national emergency.
  • All voluntary active duty, with the exception of active duty for medical care and medical evaluation.
  • Title 10 service under 12301(h) for the purpose of receiving service-related medical care.
  • A reservist who receives a Purple Heart for service occurring on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
  • Service under 12304, 12304(a), and 12304(b) orders, mobilization to provide assistance in response to a major disaster or emergency, or for preplanned missions in support of combatant commands.
  • Individuals ordered to active duty under Section 12301(h) of Title 10 to receive authorized medical care, to be medically evaluated for disability or other purposes, or to complete a required Department of Defense health care study.

If you are a veteran, you must have an honorable discharge. If you served at least 30 days on active duty and have a disability discharge, you are also eligible.

Is There A Time Limit On Using My GI Bill?

Depending on your military separation date, you may not have a time limit on using your GI Bill.

If you left the military after Jan. 1, 2013, you have no time limit on using your GI Bill.

Those discharged prior to that and using the Montgomery GI Bill had 10 years from their discharge date to use all their GI Bill. Those discharged prior to Jan. 1, 2013, and using the Post-9/11 GI Bill have 15 years from their discharge to use all their GI Bill.

How Do the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills Differ?

The older Montgomery GI Bill requires service members to pay $100 a month for their first 12 months of service. Then when a student is attending college, it pays a set dollar amount per month directly to the student.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn't require an upfront contribution and covers tuition at public colleges and universities, paying the school directly, and up to a certain amount at private institutions. It also provides a housing allowance.

Does the Length of Time Served After Sept. 10, 2001, Affect My Level Of Benefits?

Yes, the amount of tuition and stipends paid under the Post-9/11 GI Bill will vary depending on your school, number of classes taken, and your length of post-Sept. 10, 2001, active-duty service. Here is a quick reference showing the percentage of total combined benefit eligibility based on the following periods of post-9/11 service:

  • 100% - 36 or more total months
  • 100% - 30 or more consecutive days with disability discharge or Purple Heart medal
  • 90% - 30-36 months
  • 80% - 24-30 months
  • 70% - 18-24 months
  • 60% - 6-18 months
  • 50% - at least 90 days, but less than 6 months

What Are The Benefits Of This Educational Assistance Program?

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers several education assistance benefits. The three major benefits include:

  • Up to 100% of tuition.
  • A monthly housing stipend.
  • A stipend of up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies.

If you attend less than full time, you will receive a portion of the payment based on the number of units of study. These payment rates are paid according to the length of your period of service as listed above.

What Are the Current ‘Payment Rates’?

The Monthly Housing Allowance rates change every year; click here for more information.

The MGIB Payment rates increase every year; click here to see the current payment rates.

For more details see our Post-9/11 GI Bill Overview page.

Can I Stop And Start Using My GI Bill Benefits As Needed?

Yes. Many people falsely believe that once you apply for benefits, you have to remain enrolled in school to get the full benefit. You can use your GI Bill for any period of time. Take time off and re-apply to use it again at a later date.

You can also use it as you progress toward your education goal. If you use your benefits wisely, your GI Bill benefits can help you finish your associate degree, work on your bachelor's, and later, complete your master's degree.

How Is My Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefit Amount Determined?

The GI Bill benefits provide 36 months of education benefits. The term "months" can often be confusing. The "36 months" of benefits does not mean you have only 36 months to use it, nor does it mean you must use it all in one 36-month period.

There are two ways the term month is used. One way is for active duty, and the other is used for veterans. The following should help you to better understand this aspect of the GI Bill.

For the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

If you go to classes full time for either one month or 30 days, you use one month worth of benefits. For example, if your classes go from February 1 to March 15, you use 1.5 months of benefits (one month for February since it is a calendar month and half a month for March since you were in classes for 15 days).

For the Montgomery GI Bill:

If you are a veteran, you are basically charged one month of entitlement for each month of full-time training you take.

If you are on active duty and you go to school full-time for four months, but your tuition is only $1,000, you will still be charged for four months of your 36-month entitlement.

If you are using your GI Bill for training other than college or vocational training, there are different rules. See our Flight Training, Apprenticeship/On-the-Job Training, or National Testing Programs pages for specific information.

If you are entitled to more than one GI Bill program, you may be eligible for a maximum of 48 months of entitlement when using benefits under two or more GI Bill programs.

Note: Individuals eligible under MGIB-Active Duty who elect to receive benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill are entitled only to the number of months they had remaining under MGIB (including any revoked months of transferred entitlement) up to a maximum of 36 months.

Are There Additional Benefits?

Yes, the additional benefits include the following, which are not charged against your 36-month entitlement:

  • Tutorial assistance may be paid up to $100 per month, not to exceed a total of $1,200.
  • Work study is authorized for individuals training at 3/4 time or higher.
  • A one-time payment of $500 is available for veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pursue a program of education if they:
    - Live in a county with six persons or less per square mile (as determined by most recent decennial Census); and either
    - Physically relocate at least 500 miles to attend school; or
    - Travel by air to physically attend school if no other land-based transportation exists.

Is There A Limit To The Benefits If I Go To School Half-time?

If you are enrolled at 1/2 time or less (or on active duty), you are not eligible for the monthly housing allowance. You are eligible for an appropriately reduced stipend for books. The amount of tuition payable is the applicable percentage shown above at a rate the lesser of:

  • Authorized charges; or
  • Up to $27,120.05 if you are attending a private or overseas school.

Is There a Limit To Benefits for Active Duty?

Active-duty members are not eligible for the monthly housing allowance. The amount of educational assistance payable is the lesser of the:

  • Authorized charges, as computed above; or
  • The top-up amount not covered by military tuition assistance.

I Was Promised The College Fund When I Joined. Will I Still Get That Extra Benefit?

Individuals are eligible for a kicker (College Fund, Reserve Kicker) under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If eligible, you will be paid the kicker each month as an increase to your housing stipend, even on active duty. Although as an active-duty service member, or a veteran training at 1/2 time or less, or you are pursuing distance learning, you will receive your monthly kicker payment at the beginning of the term.

I Elected To Make Additional Contributions Under The "Buy-up" Program. Will I Get The Additional Benefit?

You will not receive an increased amount for additional contributions ($600 buy-up) paid under the Montgomery GI Bill, and you will not be refunded this amount under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Will My $1,200 Enrollment Fee Be Refunded?

Yes, Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty contributions (excluding $600 buy-up) will be refunded at a proportional amount -- based on the number of months remaining under MGIB at time of Post-9/11 GI Bill election -- of the basic $1,200 contribution. This refund will be included in the last monthly stipend payment when Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement exhausts. If you don't use up all of your benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you will not receive a refund of your original $1,200 Montgomery GI Bill contribution.

Does The Post-9/11 Gi Bill Have An Expiration Date?

No. There is no ending date for your GI Bill eligibility UNLESS you left the military before Jan. 1, 2013. Then you have 15 years from the date of discharge to use your benefits.

Can I Transfer This Benefit To My Family?

Yes, see our transfer page for details.

What If the New Post-9/11 Gi Bill Isn't Enough To Cover My Costs At a Private School?

Institutions of higher learning may elect to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program to make additional funds available for your education without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement. These institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution.

Only veterans entitled to the maximum benefit rate, or their designated transferees, may receive this funding. Active-duty service members and their spouses are not eligible for this program. Child transferees of active-duty service members may be eligible if the service member is qualified at the 100% rate.

To receive benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program:

  • You must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • You must not be on active duty or a spouse using transferred entitlement.
  • Your school must agree to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
  • Your school must have not offered Yellow Ribbon to more than the maximum number of individuals, as stated in their participation agreement.
  • Your school must certify your enrollment to VA and provide Yellow Ribbon Program information.

You may be eligible if you fit the following circumstances:

  • You served an aggregate period of 36 months on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001.
  • You were honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability and you served 30 continuous days after Sept. 10, 2001.
  • You are a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on the service eligibility criteria listed above.

Learn more about the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Is The GI Bill Considered Financial Aid?

Not in the traditional sense. In most cases the school financial aid department does not consider the GI Bill financial aid because it is normally paid directly to you, not the school.

This also means that you are eligible for student loans, scholarships, and Pell Grants along with the GI Bill. But it is important to note that your GI Bill income will reduce the amount of student financial aid you are eligible to receive.

Will I Have To Pay Taxes On My GI Bill Benefits?

No. Your GI Bill is not taxable.

How Do I Apply?

You can apply for the GI Bill online using the VA's website. For more details, see our GI Bill Overview and get started using your benefits today.

Bonus Tip! Fill out the VA Application ASAP. The current time for processing a GI Bill Application can be over 6 weeks. This means it could take over a month to start receiving your benefits. If you apply well before you plan to start school you can reduce the wait time by months.

Keep Up With Your Education Benefits

Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, can help. Subscribe to to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues