In the United States, the term GI Bill describes any official program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs that provides education benefits to members of the nation’s armed forces. Benefits under these programs are accessible to active duty members, as well as some members of reserve forces and those who have completed their service. While many people use their benefits to pursue a four-year degree following their service, the bill provides assistance for many different types of training and professional development suitable for almost any kind of career goal.

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Montgomery GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill for active-duty members (MGIB-AD) was the primary form of official education benefits from 1984 to the 2008 enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These benefits are available to service members who entered active duty after June 1985 and took the year-long monthly pay cut as part of program enrollment. Active duty members must serve for at least two continuous years before they can receive educational assistance. Veterans who have been honorably discharged from service and certain members of reserve forces can also qualify for benefits under this program. The Montgomery GI Bill provides for up to 36 months of education benefits and is available for a maximum of 10 years.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

Many people who have at least 90 days of active duty service since September 11, 2001, including current active-duty members, can qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Service members who don’t qualify under other GI Bill programs and recipients of Purple Hearts are automatically qualified for benefits under this legislation. This legislation also provides for up to 36 months of education benefits like the Montgomery Bill, although the expiration period has been extended or removed depending on the date of program enrollment.

Choosing a Program

Anyone considering entering military service or who is currently on active duty should carefully consider their options before committing to a program. Service members who are eligible for multiple Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits programs must choose a single one to enroll in and forego benefits from the others, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Applicants must inform their regional VA office of their program selection in writing according to the department’s instructions before proceeding.

Types of Assistance and Application Process

While many veterans and active-duty members use their benefits to attend academic institutions following their discharge, this isn’t the only type of assistance covered by the GI Bill. The legislation accommodates a wide variety of professional development pathways, including business development training, on-site learning and certification programs. Active duty members who want to start taking advantage of their benefits can start the process by submitting VA Form 22-1990 (Application for Education Benefits) to the appropriate regional VA office.

Financial assistance for education and professional development is often considered a major perk for members of the US military. While there are some limitations and restrictions on GI Bill benefits, they are an undeniable asset for many of the people who take advantage of them during or following their service.