VA Education Benefits for Today

United States veterans earn VA education benefits while in service to their country. It is important to know the regulations of the program and to keep abreast of the latest changes to ensure you have adequate funds to complete your education.

New GI Bill

Recent changes in the GI Bill were made to overhaul the outdated Montgomery GI Bill. The Montgomery Bill, though useful, had far outlived its time, and many of the features of that benefit package were not particularly helpful to prior military personnel.

The new GI Bill was previously called the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and it cures some inadequacies of its predecessor by including tuition payments that go right to the school, a book and supply stipend, and a housing allowance. In other words, it gives you more of the tools you need to undertake successfully your education post-military.

The new benefit became effective August 1, 2009, and veterans are eligible to apply at anytime.

Who is Eligible?

Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine service members that are currently on active duty can use their benefits, as well as members in training overseas. Veterans must have a minimum of 90 days service after 9/11/2001 to be eligible for VA education benefits under the new GI Bill. Reserve members and National Guard members must have a minimum of three years active time since 9/11/2001 to be eligible.

Veterans are deemed eligible by percentage of the maximum amount based upon how long the active duty service was. Finding out what those percentages mean in dollars and cents can help with the decision about which degree or training will work best for the individual situation.

Setting Things Up

Check into the different options for training or educational program. Once the decision is narrowed to just a few choices, verify that these programs are approved to accept VA education benefits. Questions like these can typically be answered by the financial aid office in each particular school. Also, if you need help deciding on a program, meet with a counselor and look at the available degree programs.

Filling out an application is easy. The form is called the Veterans Online Application (VONAPP) by completing form 22-1990. If you are eligible as far as length of service and other than a dishonorable discharge, you do not have to have been eligible or have participated in the old bill to qualify for this new package of VA education benefits.

Once you apply, you can also qualify for a monthly housing allowance equivalent to the amount available to an E-5 with dependents. Of course, active duty military students do not get to double dip on housing.

A few other points of good news:

· You also qualify for an annual book and supply stipend of $1,000.

· You do not have to pay tax on your VA education benefits.

· You can apply and start next semester.

· You now have as long as 15 years to take advantage of the new VA education benefits. Time starts counting as of the day of your discharge from active duty.

If you are a veteran and want to use your VA education benefits, make a call or visit the military specialists at a campus of the school you want to attend. Do bring your DD-214 or Certificate, or your Certificate of Eligibility (this is for 22-0557) if you have already applied.