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GI Bill

The GI Bill is a program veterans and those on active duty need to know about. Bankrate explains.

What is the GI Bill?

The GI Bill is a package of education benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs that gives active-duty military members, veterans, and in some cases their children and spouses, money to pursue degrees and training. Millions who have served active duty, including in the Reserves and National Guard, have received this benefit.

Deeper definition

  • The Montgomery GI Bill: The Montgomery GI bill is the oldest of the two GI Bills, and was passed to help vets returning from WWII attend college. The program has gone through a number of changes over the years. In general, service members must contribute $100 per month, and after completing a term of service — about three years for active duty members, more for Reservists — are eligible for a monthly education benefit for 36 months. The benefit may not cover all educational expenses.
  •  The Post-9/11 GI Bill: Benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill are available to service members who completed 90 days of active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001. Under this program, veterans can receive up to 100 percent of tuition and books, with lower percentages paid if a service member served less time. The Post-9/11 bill also offers a stipend for living expenses, based on an area’s cost of living. Living expenses average $1,611 per month.

Examples of GI Bill

The benefits can be used for:

  • Graduate or undergraduate degrees.
  • A certificate for technical or business training.
  • An apprenticeship or on-the-job training program offered through a business or union.
  • Correspondence courses.
  • Preparatory classes for tests like the SAT or GMAT.
  • Flight training.
  • Overseas schools.
  • Remedial training if it helps gain entrance into a program.
  • Entrepreneurship training to learn how to run a business.

GI Bill benefits may be available to the spouses and dependents of service members who were killed, totally disabled, wounded, taken hostage or taken prisoner in the line of duty. There are some restrictions on when and how long spouses and dependents can use the benefit. Children, for example, must use the benefit between the ages of 18 and 26, and can receive a maximum of 45 months of benefits. Spouses must use the benefit within 10 years of discharge, or within 20 years of the date a service member is killed while on active duty.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the largest of the programs. Around 700,000 veterans used it in 2014 and 2015. Nearly 92,000 people used benefits available to family members of wounded and disabled vets in 2015.

More than 1 million veterans used the GI Bill in 2015, which cost approximately $12.3 billion. California led the country in GI Bill claims, with 103,000 receiving benefits that year, followed by Texas, with 93,000, and Florida, with 80,000.

More than 189,000 veterans began receiving benefits for the first time in 2015, with 84 percent of them using the Post-9/11 program. More than 74 percent were enrolled full time, and more than half (53 percent) were pursuing an undergraduate degree. A total of 14 percent pursued a vocational degree, while 9 percent pursued a graduate degree.

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