In this year’s defense budget debate, the political buzz has centered on the possibility of a reduction of benefits for active duty service members, military families, retirees and veterans. While this debate was negative news to every person who volunteered to serve their country, there is one benefit that is being paid out by the tens of thousands every year:
the Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill was approved in July 2008 and it provides education benefits to service members who served 90 or more days on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001. Military.com explained that the benefits are tiered based on the number of days served on active duty, creating a benefit package that gives current and previously activated National Guard and Reserve members the same benefits as active duty service members.
Unlike the previous veteran tuition assistance benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be transferred to the service member’s spouse or children.
Are you considering using your Post-9/11 GI Bill?
Here are 3 ways to stretch your GI Bill dollars.
Choose a Post-9/11 GI Bill-friendly school. Review the list of college and universities participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program. This voluntarily program ensures that service members will not pay any money out-of-pocket for tuition and fees. You earned these benefits; select a school that values veterans and military families.
Calculate and compare educational options. Veterans shouldn’t rush into the decision to attend college. Each student needs to work with the Department of Veteran Affairs, which administrates the tuition benefits for veterans, to ensure that he fully understands his benefits. The VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool provides unbiased and accurate information to compare different higher institutions.
For example, a veteran considering attending Harvard University is eligible for up to $19,198 per year for tuition, $2,454 monthly housing allowance, and $1,000 annual book stipend. Tuition at this private university is $43,938.
Let’s compare those dollar amounts with Arizona State University, a public university which currently has 3,000 veterans and dependents enrolled and has been recognized as a military-friendly college. At ASU 100 percent of the instate tuition costs (estimated at $10,156), along with the $1,000 book stipend and $1,461 for a monthly housing allowance are included in the GI Bill benefits.
Every veteran should aim to attend a school with a benefit estimate of 100 percent of instate tuition costs. You earned these benefits; don’t go into debt to get your diploma.
Be smart about online resources. There is a lot of false and misleading information regarding the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Beware of websites that claim to be veteran education organizations, but are not affiliated with the VA. The best source of information is the VA. Stick with them. You earned these benefits; don’t be scammed.