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Am I Eligible for VA Education Benefits?

Do you know whether you are eligible for VA education benefits like the GI Bill? That is not the only VA education program you may qualify for as an active duty, Guard/Reserve member, spouse, or dependent. The rules and requirements of these programs vary depending on what you seek, eras of military service, and other factors.

The length of these benefits will vary. You may qualify for up to 48 months of VA education benefits, but many applicants only qualify for 36 months.

Am I Eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

The Department of Veterans Affairs states you may be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if you have been on active duty for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001. However, you should know that you cannot change back if you switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill from the Montgomery GI Bill.

Am I Eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill?

If you served on active duty, you may qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill-AD. In general, you must have served a minimum of 24 months on active duty and meet certain requirements, including having a high school diploma or GED OR 12 hours of college credit. You must also have an Honorable discharge and meet “other requirements.”

There are multiple categories of eligibility. They include but are not limited to the following.

Category 1

  • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit;
  • Entered active duty for the first time after June 30, 1985;
  • Paid into the GI Bill at $100 a month for the first 12 months of service;
  • Served continuously for between two and four years, depending on circumstances.

Category 2

  • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit;
  • Generally entered active duty before January 1, 1977;
  • Served at least a single day between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty through June 30, 1988.

Category 3

  • You don’t qualify for MGIB under categories I or II;
  • You paid into the program ($1,200) before separation;
  • Applicant served on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated after February 2, 1991;
  • You involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993;
  • You chose to voluntarily separate under either the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) program;
  • You chose to separate via Special Separation Benefit (SSB) program;

Category 4

  • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit;
  • Applicant contributed to the program ($100 a month for 12 months or made a $1,200 lump-sum contribution;
  • On active duty on October 9, 1996, had money left in a VEAP account on that date, and chose MGIB before October 9, 1997;
  • Full-time National Guard duty under title 32, USC, between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989, and opted into the MGIB program between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997.

Am I Eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve?

You may qualify for VA education benefits through MGIB-SR if you’re a member of:

  • Army Reserve
  • Navy Reserve
  • Air Force Reserve
  • Marine Corps Reserve
  • Coast Guard Reserve
  • Army National Guard
  • Air National Guard

The following must all apply:

  • You have a six-year service obligation in the Selected Service OR;
  • You are an officer in the Selected Reserve serving six years (that is in addition to your initial service obligation) AND;
  • You meet what the VA calls “ other requirements,” which may include finishing initial active duty for training (IADT), and you are in good standing in a Selected Reserve Unit.

Am I Eligible for Veterans Technology Education Courses (VET TEC)?

VET TEC is a VA program that offers tuition and housing funds to applicants in high-demand industries, including (but not limited to) computer software and data processing, media, and information science. One of the most attractive things about this program is that it does not count against or use up your GI Bill benefits.

You may be eligible for VET TEC if you meet all the following:

  • You are either NOT on active duty OR are within six months of retirement or separation;
  • You qualify for the GI Bill;
  • You have one day or more of unexpired GI Bill entitlement;
  • You’re accepted into a VA-approved program.

VET TEC does not allow payment of the housing stipend to those still on active duty when attending school.

Am I Eligible for the DEA, the VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program?

Are you the spouse or child of a veteran or service member who died, was captured, or is declared missing? Are you the spouse or child of a vet or service member with disabilities? Educational help may be available to you via the DEA program. These benefits, often described as Chapter 35 benefits, require you and the recipient to meet any one of the following:

  • The veteran or active duty service member is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability;
  • They died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability;
  • They are missing in action;
  • They were captured or forcibly detained in the line of duty by a hostile force;
  • They are in the hospital for a service-connected permanent and total disability and are likely to be given a military discharge due to the disability;
  • They are getting outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and are likely to be discharged

If you are a dependent child, you may qualify for benefits if you are between 18 and 26, but if you join the military, you won’t be able to use this benefit on active duty. Serving may extend your eligibility to use this program, but you typically can’t use it past your 31st birthday, according to the VA.

If you are the spouse of a veteran or service member, the Department of Veterans Affairs will offer you benefits “on the date we conclude that you qualify or on the date of the Veteran’s death.” Your benefits will last for 10 years. Certain circumstances may qualify for a longer benefit period; you may be able to qualify for a 20-year opportunity instead.

If approved, the VA offers a monthly payment meant to help pay for typical college programs (degree-seeking), certificate courses, educational counseling, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training.

Can I Transfer My VA Education Benefits?

You cannot transfer Montgomery GI Bill benefits to a spouse or school-age dependent, but you may qualify to do so using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Not everyone enrolled in the Post 9/11 program can transfer their GI Bill; the following requirements apply:

  • The service member has completed at least six years of military service;
  • The applicant agrees to an additional four years of service;
  • The dependent or spouse is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

You can only transfer unused benefits to a spouse or school-age child, and once you have transferred your benefits, you cannot use them yourself.

Things to Remember About VA Education Benefits

The rules mentioned here are current at press time, but VA benefits can change due to a variety of factors including new legislation or changes in federal law, changes in the VA programs themselves, or changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you have not explored your VA education options in a while, it’s a good idea to look at them now.

Among the reasons to review your options? Thanks to legislation such as the VETS Credit Act and other reforms, you may have options that weren’t open to you since the last time you reviewed the benefits. If a student attends a school using VA education benefits like the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and the school closes or is removed from the VA-approved list, you may qualify for restored entitlement of your VA benefit depending on circumstances.

Read more: When Your School Closes: The Veterans Eligible to Transfer School (VETS) Credit Act

There have been many changes in the last few years to these programs thanks to legislation like the Forever GI Bill. Review your VA education benefit options today; you may be surprised to learn what new options you might have.



About the author


Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.