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uncle_samIf you’ve served our country, it’s likely you’ve been promised the benefit currently known as Military Tuition Assistance (TA), although also frequently referred to as the G.I. Bill (or its official title, the servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944). However, its a misnomer to call it the G.I. Bill, as that really doesn’t exist anymore. The bill was a work of post-World War II legislation that provided a multitude of benefits to service members re-entering society, including low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, unemployment compensations and cash payments for tuition and living expenses to attend university or vocational education.

The original G.I. Bill had a major impact in creating what we now know as the middle-class here in America, and setting the standards of home ownership, professional employment, and college education that we associate with the American Dream (and which many people now struggle to attain or maintain). With our new G.I. Bill, or TA, Congress dropped a lot of the other benefits and focused on giving each service (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, and Coast Guard) the ability to pay up to 100% for the tuition expenses of its members for public four-year colleges. Our modern TA is based off of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

Each service will have an eligibility criteria, but rest assured, all services treat this money as grant money, meaning this is not a loan program – you do not have to pay it back. Actually, the TA should be viewed as receiving earned money just like a service member’s base pay. If a service member serves at least 3 years, they are eligible for this program in its entirety. If a member serves at least 90 days, they will be eligible for 40% of the education benefits. The act also provides the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or child after serving (or agreeing to serve) ten years.

Read the fine print

There will be an application process and lots of rules and regulations concerning how you can spend your TA monies, so be sure you’re following those requirements; the government won’t give you your money if you don’t spend it correctly.

  • 15 years after active duty the offer expires
  • $1200 enrollment fee paid by veteran
  • private school benefits max at $19,198 per academic year
  • maintain a certain standard of grades

Most military forces pay 100% of net tuition each fiscal year for their members if they attend a public institution. However, some states have set limits on how much tuition and fee reimbursement they will allow for their private institutions (some well below the military amount).

Know your other benefits 

There’s more than just tuition assistance included in the bill:

  • an annual stipend to cover eduction costs up to $1000
  • up to $2000 towards one-time licensing or certification testing available
  • monthly living expenses depending on zip code and military pay grade (E-5 with dependents)
  • one-time rural benefits for certain veterans
  • apprenticeships and other on-the-job training opportunities completely paid

Don’t give up this opportunity

The mission of the first GI Bill was simple – provide a way to repay all the young people who had risked their lives to protect the American way of life, and give them the chance to make a better life for themselves and their descendants. Education was an essential part of making that better life, and it still is. If you’re a veteran, don’t let this opportunity go by. It’s not a gift – you earned it.