After completing service in the military and deciding to attend a higher learning institution, figuring out your GI Bill benefits can be quite challenging.
When I left the Air Force in 2009, I knew I wanted to attend the University of Missouri under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. What I didn’t know was that Missouri had its own state-sponsored programs that would make the older Montgomery GI Bill a much better deal.
These are the things no one tells you when you’re leaving the military to attend school, and, if you’re not careful, can end up costing you money. The GI Bill continues to be one of the best benefits to having served, but in order to get the most out of it, you’ll need to be prepared.
Understanding your GI Bill benefits can alleviate much of the pressure when starting college after the military.
Keeping Up With the Changes
The Post 9/11 GI Bill has gone through several changes since it was implemented in 2008. Keeping up on those changes can prove to be exceptionally important.
I learned this in August of last year when I received less than half of my expected stipend due to the change in policy that students on the GI Bill would no longer be payed across the breaks. Had I known this, I could have budgeted accordingly. As it was, September was a lean month.
With the upcoming troop cuts, more veterans might be looking to use their education benefits in the next few years. Here are some tips that may help:
Know where funds will be coming from, and where they will be routed to, and always follow up!
The most important thing is to call your school’s VA representative as soon as possible. He or she can help you decipher which benefits you qualify for and remove much of the guesswork.
Know that the VA will often be slow in processing your paperwork, especially in the beginning. This can mean a delay of several months before you receive your first payment, so it’s smart to have some money saved beforehand if possible.
Try to go to a school in your home state. The Post-9/11 GI Bill will usually cover tuition regardless, but there are also some terrific state-sponsored programs that usually only apply to residents and can end up making all the difference over a four-year program.
If you can, use the Montgomery GI Bill. Even if you receive less money initially, you are allowed an additional 12 months on the Post-9/11 GI Bill once your time on the MGI Bill has been completed.
Do you have your own experience with the GI Bill?
Please share your own stories and advice in the comments section.
Adrienne May is a military spouse. Her husband is an Army soldier and now is serving in the Army National Guard. Together they have three children from preschool to pre-teen. Adrienne has a Bachelors Degree in Sociology & Non-Profit Management, and is actively involved in family readiness and disaster preparedness on the state level. She spends her free time advocating for military family programs, homecoming transition programs and adequate veterans benefits.
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Adrienne May maintains Military Family Central for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation's leading VA-approved lender. As a mom of three, from toddler to teenager, and wife to a National Guard solider, Adrienne has built up a massive library of resources, tips, articles and contributors for military families of all shapes, sizes and branches!