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If you’re a veteran who served after September 10, 2001, and you received an honorable discharge, then your GI Bill benefits can be a powerful tool to propel you to a hugely rewarding second act in civilian life. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a powerful resource that you can use to obtain the education or training you need to enter civilian life in the career field of your choice. The GI Bill can provide funds to pay for or reduce the cost burden of education and technical skills programs. It also provides additional benefits that can give you a leg up on pursuing the career of your dreams when you hang up your uniform for good. Let’s take a close look at what this legislation has to offer, so you can learn how to maximize your GI Bill benefits.
Paying for Tuition and School Fees
One of the best and most widely used benefits in the Post-9/11 GI Bill is tuition assistance. The GI Bill will fully cover up to 36 months of tuition and school costs for students enrolled in an in-state school. Students that attend private colleges and universities or out-of-state schools may receive up to $24,476.79 to cover their college costs. If you were discharged after January 1, 2013, you have an indefinite period to use these benefits. However, if you were discharged from the military before January 1, 2013, these GI Bill benefits will expire after 15 years.
If these benefits aren’t enough to defray all your private education costs, you may be eligible for further tuition support under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program. This program was specially designed to cover tuition and other costs that weren’t captured under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Therefore, if you’re worried about covering the costs of that out-of-state or private school you want to attend, see if the Yellow Ribbon Program could do it for you.
Tuition Assistance and Book Costs
After you use the GI Bill to cover your tuition and other school fees, you can keep using it to reduce your out-of-pocket costs further. For example, if you’re having a problem with a particularly tough subject while you’re in school, the GI Bill can help pay for a tutor or other educational assistance. The GI Bill will pay up to $100 per month, or $1,200 overall, to get you the assistance you need to improve your performance in a particular subject. Additionally, the GI Bill can help you cover the hefty cost of buying your books each semester; the bill will cover up to $1,000 for books and school supplies each academic year.
Obtaining Critical Training and Certifications
If you don’t plan to attend college after you leave the military, the GI Bill still has you covered. You can use your GI Bill benefits to obtain training and certifications you need to pursue work in more technical career fields as well. For example, if you want to work as a first responder in a city, state, or Federal government capacity, you can use your benefits to obtain your Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification. You may also be able to use your GI Bill to obtain the training required to obtain other professional certifications, including real estate licensing, network certifications, and project management certifications.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the aviation industry, the GI Bill may also be the ticket that gets you there. You can use your GI Bill to cover the costs of flight training, as well as the various certifications you need to operate certain types of aircraft or fly and land planes and helicopters under certain conditions. Then, you can use all the aviation training and certifications you obtain under the GI Bill to begin a new career in the aviation industry.
Apprenticing and On-the-Job Training
Another way to maximize your GI Bill benefits is by using them to cover costs incurred while participating in an on-the-job training program. If you decide to work in a trade that requires you to apprentice for a certain period to obtain the necessary qualifications, such as a plumber or electrician, you may have to work for a year or more at a significantly reduced wage to become qualified as a professional tradesman. It can be difficult to be in a rewarding apprenticeship program and make ends meet while you’re qualifying to serve in your profession.
Fortunately, if you’re in an apprenticeship that qualifies, your GI Bill benefits can help cover some of your key cost of living expenses while you’re working for less pay. GI Bill participants in eligible apprenticeships can receive up to a 100% housing allowance for the first six months of the program, and an 80% housing allowance for the second six months. The housing allowance continues at a continually declining rate for an additional 18 months. Each existing GI Bill program in effect has different rules and benefits for apprenticeships, so check and see which apply to you if you’re interested.
Transferring Your GI Bill Benefits
If you’re still serving in the military on active duty and don’t believe you’ll need to use your GI Bill benefits, you should definitely consider transferring them. Eligible active duty service members can transfer the GI Bill benefits they’re eligible for to their spouses and dependent children. Then, later, their dependents can use those benefits to cover most of the same costs and fees when they’re pursuing higher education and training programs.
There are some stipulations to transferring your benefits. The Department of Defense has to approve your transfer request. Additionally, you have to have served at least six years on active duty and must agree to serve four additional years. If approved for transfer, your spouse can use the benefits right away, and must use them within 15 years of the transfer date. Your children cannot use the benefit until you’ve reached 10 years of active service, and they must be at least 18 years of age or be high school graduates (or have an equivalent certification). Finally, dependent children are no longer eligible to use this benefit after they reach 26 years of age.
Maximizing Your Benefits
Whatever you want to do in civilian life, the GI Bill can help accelerate you into a successful and rewarding career. So, if you’re still on active duty or in the National Guard or reserves, talk to a career counselor to understand your benefits better. If you’ve already left the military and are interested in how you can use your GI Bill benefits, reach out to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to see how you can tap into the resources you need to pursue the career of your dreams.