By Jason Blakemore, M.A., CRC
Many veterans have options when it comes to their VA Education benefits. With multiple chapters and multiple categories, it is important to know what you qualify for before applying as some applications require that you relinquish a benefit before applying for another. Although Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most used and most beneficial in many cases, it is not safe to call this the better benefit 100% of the time. This is why it is always a good idea to speak with a benefits counselor or a VA representative regarding the many options. I have included four FAQs below that may assist with some of the basic questions and concerns that come up.
- I am still on Active Duty. Should I use Ch. 30 Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill?
Most Active Duty personnel will retain more entitlement by using Ch. 30 Montgomery GI Bill. This is because, when added to Tuition Assistance (if available), the VA considers that funding in their equation and will remove less entitlement from the service member’s total entitlement. Once the service member retires or is discharged from active duty, a benefits review should be conducted by a VA counselor to determine the best time to convert to another VA program such as Ch. 33 Post 9/11 or Ch. 31 Vocational Rehabilitation.
- I just retired or discharged from the military. What do I need to do to set up my VA education benefits?
First, you will need to apply to the VA to activate your VA benefits. This includes sending your application and a copy of your DD 214 into the VA through VA VONAPP, fax or mail. VA VONAPP is a program that allows you to apply and upload documents such as your DD 214 and submit electronically. Once your application is submitted it takes the VA 2-4 weeks to respond with a Certificate of Eligibility. This will need to be given to the VA Certifying Official at your campus.
- Will VA pay for online programs?
Yes, VA pays tuition for online programs, the same as a brick and mortar program. With the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the BAH rate may be reduced for an online program but all other benefits are applicable, if the program has been approved by the VA.
- I would like to attend a foreign or abroad campus. Does GI Bill cover those programs?
Yes, VA covers tuition, pays a monthly living stipend (BAH) and also gives a book and supply stipend each term/semester for the abroad programs which is the same as the CONUS programs. You would need to check with VA Education to ensure that your desired school and program is VA Approved ahead of time. You may inherit more travel and living expenses beyond what BAH pays depending upon the cost of living but VA benefits remain steady and constant for these programs too.
Benefits and entitlement can be different from person to person so the best advice would be to speak to someone who knows VA Education benefits. Please see the following links and information for further assistance with all things VA.
VA Education – 1-888-442-4551
Jason Blakemore works for the Department of Veterans Affairs and is housed on campus at Webster University. His job responsibilities include providing assistance to active duty military members and Veterans about such topics as the GI Bill and VA education benefits. All programs offered by Webster University have been approved by the VA.