How to get the most from the GI Bill

The GI Bill and other benefits can help cover veterans’ education costs, but it takes some planning to make sure you secure the benefits that are best for you. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Close text version

Have a plan

Ask yourself:

What type of career do you want and what type of education do you need to prepare?

How long do you expect it to take?

How much would the education cost without benefits?

This will allow you to figure out which benefits best suit your needs.

Know the limits

GI Bill benefits are often linked to:

How long you served
When you served
Whether you attend school full-time or part-time

You may not qualify for 100% of all benefits. Keep this in mind when determining your plan.

Choose your education

VA benefits can be applied to many different types of education:

Private or public higher education

Vocational training

Flight training (up to a maximum tuition)

Correspondence programs

Certificates

Explore the programs

(illustration copy)
Post-9/11 GI Bill
Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
Montgomery GI Bill
Reserve Educational Assistance Program
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment


You may be eligible for more than one benefit, and different benefits may be better suited to your particular educational goal. It may also be possible to combine benefits, but it's important to be careful with this option: Sometimes electing one benefit will forfeit your ability to use another.

Consider your timeline

SEPARATION

Montgomery GI Bill
10 years

Post-9/11 GI Bill
15 years

YEARS AFTER SEPARATION

If your last day of qualifying Active Duty was before January 1, 2013, you have up to 15 years after you separate to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill.1 The Montgomery GI Bill is usually valid for up to 10 years post-service. Each benefit can generally be used to cover about four years' worth of education. If you plan to be in school longer, you may be able to combine benefits to cover it.

Get more information

Navigating the GI Bills and other education benefits can be daunting, and different states have different rules.

Every case is different-the education benefits your friend used may not be the best option for you. The VA offers helpful comparison tools, and advisors can walk you through your choices.

Beyond the VA
There are a number of grants, scholarships and other programs meant specifically to help veterans and their families. A simple internet search can help you find scholarships for disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, those who plan to become teachers, and many more.  

How it might work

Meet Miguel
Served 24 months of active duty, from 2012 to 2014
Wants to become an electrician
Decided on a two-year community college in suburban New York

What he might get
FROM THE POST-9/11 GI BILL
Annual tuition (paid to school)
A monthly benefit to live on (paid to him)
A stipend to cover books and supplies (paid to him)

FROM THE MONTGOMERY GI BILL
A monthly education benefit
Must have bought into it during service
Source: IAVA/NewGIBill.org



  1. If your last day of qualifying Active Duty was on or after January 1, 2013, your benefits never expire. 15-year eligibility is from the last period of active duty of at least 90 consecutive days.
Close Disclaimer

The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.

Up Next

Contact Us

  • Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern
    Sat 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Eastern, Sun 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Eastern

    866.736.2205 Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern
    Sat 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Eastern, Sun 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Eastern
  • Schedule an appointment