GI Bill Guide – Benefits, Eligibility, Transfer, Refunds and More

The GI Bill is a valuable veteran benefit. This GI Bill Guide provides info on eligibility, benefits value, rules, transfers, refunds, etc.

Table of Contents
  1. Montgomery GI Bill Eligibility and Benefits
    1. Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
    2. Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
  2. Post-9/11 GI Bill Eligibility and Benefits
  3. Comparing the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law on June 22, 1944, he guaranteed educational support, unemployment pay, job training and other benefits to veterans of World War II. The veterans also received loan assistance for homes, farms or businesses. This treatise of veterans’ assistance came to be known as the GI Bill of Rights.

Reconstructed on several occasions to meet the needs and challenges of an ever-changing world, the GI Bill can seem like an uncharted battlefield to many service members returning home from distant nations. 

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (also known as GI Bill 2.0) is no different. To fully understand the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, compare it with its predecessor, the active-duty Montgomery GI Bill.

Montgomery GI Bill Eligibility and Benefits

The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) features two main programs that members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • MGIB-AD: Active-duty members of the armed forces who pay $100 per month for 12 months are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) monthly education benefits, once they have completed a minimum service obligation.
  • MGIB-SR: Drilling reservists who have a six-year obligation to the armed forces are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR).

Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

Veterans must enroll in an institute of higher learning (IHL) to use the MGIB. Veterans send their certificates of enrollment to the VA, which then pays them according to their benefit rate. The student’s course load (full-time, ¾-time, ½-time, etc.) determines the rate. Students are responsible for paying the school tuition and fees unless they receive full tuition assistance through another program.

Military members can use the MGIB while they’re on active duty. However, active-duty service members could also be eligible for tuition-assistance benefits, which may be a better option.

MGIB-AD benefits can be worth more than $77,400, as of the 2022-2023 academic year, based on the monthly full-time student payment rate of $2,210 (effective Oct. 1, 2022), multiplied by the 36-month limit. The MGIB does not offer any housing or book stipends.

Eligibility expires within 10 years of leaving military service.

Even though the MGIB is a voluntary program, MGIB refunds are available only to service members who are also eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. They can request prorated portions of their unused MGIB benefits once they have depleted their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

The MGIB-SR also offers 36 months of benefits to eligible reservists and Guardsmen. As with the MGIB-AD, the student’s course load determines the rate. A full-time student can receive $439 monthly (effective Oct. 1, 2022).

In general, eligible recipients must use their benefits within 14 years, and their benefits expire when they leave the selected reserve.

There are extensions in limited situations. When reservists are called to active duty, the VA extends their eligibility for the length of their mobilization plus four months – even if they leave the selected reserve. In addition, reservists who leave the service in certain situations may qualify for benefits for 14 years from the date of their first six-year obligation: if they separated due to a disability, were part of a unit that was deactivated between Oct. 1, 2007, and Sept. 30, 2014, or involuntarily separated during that time.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Eligibility and Benefits

With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, service members –including members of the National Guard and reserves – earn benefits based on active-duty service time. Active service includes active duty (Title 10) and National Guard duty (Title 32).

The following chart shows the service requirements necessary to qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, according to the VA:

Length of ServicePercentage of Maximum Payable Benefits
At least 36 months100%
At least 30 continuous days on active duty and
honorably discharged due to a service-connected disability
Received a Purple Heart after Sept. 10, 2001100%
At least 30 months, but fewer than 36 months90%
At least 24 months, but fewer than 30 months80%
At least 18 months, but fewer than 24 months70%
At least 6 months, but fewer than 18 months60%
At least 90 days, but fewer than 6 months50%

Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits cover the cost of in-state college tuition. There are also stipends for books and a monthly housing allowance based on the basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates for the category “E-5 with Dependents.”

Comparing the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)

Service members enlisting in the military post-1985 had to pay $1,200 toward their educational benefits. When the Post-9/11 GI Bill came into effect on Aug. 1, 2011, service members who served at least 90 days of active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, qualified for benefits, with no payment required. Eligible veterans earned their benefits through time served on active duty, having an honorable discharge due to a service-related disability or receiving a Purple Heart.

With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays up to 100% of in-state public-school tuition directly to the college, or up to $26,381.37 (effective Aug. 1, 2022, for the 2022-2023 academic year) to private universities. Eligible students can also receive stipends for both books and a monthly housing allowance, even if they take all of their courses online.

Currently serving troops who agree to re-enlist for an additional six years of active duty can transfer their educational benefits to a dependent who is enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). 

Whereas the MGIB’s benefit period spanned 10 years, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pushed it to 15.

The Forever GI Bill expansion eliminated GI Bill benefit expiration dates for Post-9/11 GI Bill veterans who were discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill also expanded the list of eligible programs. Some educational programs include traditional college courses for associate’s,  bachelor’s or master’s degrees, vocational or technical training, flight training, national testing, professional certifications and occupational licensing.

Another attribute of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program helps veterans pay the higher costs of tuition at out-of-state, private, foreign and graduate schools, according to the VA.

How much you’ll receive through the program depends on the agreement the school has with the VA. Participating schools agree to contribute a portion of the tuition and fees, and the VA matches that amount.

Here is a brief recap of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and costs compared to the MGIB:

Benefits and CostsPost-9/11MGIB-ADMGIB-SR
Buy-in requirementNone$1,200None
Minimum length of service
to qualify
90 days of active aggregate service (after Sept. 10, 2001) or 30 days continuous service if discharged due to a disability(minimum duty varies by service date, branch, etc.); exceptions may applySix-year service obligation
Who receives payment?Educational institution receives tuitionVeteran receives paymentVeteran receives payment
Books and supplies stipend$1,000 per year, paid to the student at the beginning of the termNoneNone
Housing stipendBasic allowance for housing (BAH) rate at “E-5 with Dependents”; paid monthlyNoneNone
Are benefits transferable?Yes, under limited circumstancesNoNo
Time limit to useNo expiration for veterans discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013

15-year expiration for veterans discharged on or before Dec. 31, 2012
10 years14 years while in service; expires on separation
Yellow Ribbon ProgramYesNoNo

If you are currently eligible for the MGIB and served at least 90 days of active duty after Sept. 11, 2001, you may be able to transfer your benefits to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you have already used your MGIB benefits, you may be eligible for an additional 12 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, according to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. Contact the VA if this applies to you. If you have exhausted your Post-9/11 GI bill benefits, you may qualify for an MGIB refund

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