This guide is designed to help you better evaluate your eligibility and determine which financial benefits best meet your educational needs right now. For more information, contact a Veterans Affairs representative directly at (888) 442-4551 or handle it through the VA web site at www.gibill.va.gov.
Step 1: Understand Your Eligibility
Your eligibility for military educational benefits may depend on whether you were active duty or reserve, when you began service, and if you made contributions to an education plan. Commonly used educational benefits include:
- Chapter 30 – Montgomery GI Bill®
According to the VA, this benefit is for members who have at least 2 years of active duty. It provides up to 36 months of educational benefits to eligible veterans. Monthly benefits are paid directly to the veteran. http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_ad.asp
- Chapter 31 -Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation
If you have a service-connected disability, this VA program creates an individualized plan to help you prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. To print a guidebook, visit: http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/docs/vre-011_7steps.pdf. To apply, click on the “How to Apply” tab at: http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/
- Chapter 33 – Post 9/11 GI Bill®
This benefit is for military members who have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after September 10, 2001. For more information see: http://newgibill.org/post_911_gi_bill
- Chapter 1606 – Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve
This is a benefit for those who have served in the selected reserve. For more information see: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_sr.asp
- Chapter 1607 – Reserve Educational Assistance Program REAP
This is a benefit for reservists who have been called to active duty in response to a war or national emergency. For more information see: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/reap.asp
Step 2: Compare Benefits
To help you compare how various benefit programs will cover costs at a specific institution, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Comparison Tool, found at http://department-of-veterans-affairs.github.io/gi-bill-comparison-tool/.
Step 3: Know the Total Cost of Attending School
Visit your school’s net price calculator, typically found on the school’s website, to estimate the total cost of attendance.
Step 4: Know What Benefits Your School Accepts
Contact your school’s designated Veterans and Military Personnel office to learn what types of military educational benefits the school accepts.
Step 5: Apply for Veterans Educational Benefits
You can apply in person, request an application over the phone, or apply online using the Veterans On-line Application (VONAPP) System. To learn more, visit http://www.vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/default.asp.
Step 6: Confirm Approval
Confirm the approval of benefits by taking your certificate of eligibility to your school’s certifying official (the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide you with this certificate). Create and log into your e-benefits account to verify your benefits status at the VA’s eBenefits page https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage.
Step 7: Explore Alternative Benefits and Financial Assistance
There are scores of other educational benefits and types of aid you may be able to use in addition to or instead of your earned military educational benefits. It pays (quite literally!) to do a little investigation.
Additional Federal Veterans’ Education Benefits
- The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 enables recently released veterans to pay in-state tuition at federally-funded schools so they no longer need to establish residency. This in-state status will also be granted to veterans’ spouses and children. See http://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/docs/factsheets/Section_702_Factsheet.pdf
Additional Non-military Federal Student Aid
- There are many types of non-military federal student aid available also (e.g., Pell Grants and federal student loans). To determine eligibility, you must complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/ for more information. You can also use the FAFSA to help determine eligibility for certain state aid programs, so be sure to take the time to complete it.
Additional State of Illinois Student Aid
- Illinois Student Assistance Military Service programs: These programs may cover your tuition costs and can sometimes be used in combination with some federal military educational benefits. If you reside in Illinois, the Illinois Veterans Grant or the Illinois National Guard Grant may be available to you. Find out at: http://www.isac.org/students/during-college/military.html
- Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s Medical Professions programs: These programs help pay for educational costs and include career placement options in certain medical professions. Applying for this benefit may extend the life of your earned military educational benefits. Find out more at: http://www.isac.org/students/during-college/medical.html
- Nursing Education Scholarship Program and the Nurse Education Fellowship Program applications can be found at: http://www.isac.org/students/during-college/medical.html.
- State of Illinois Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants: Private funding, scholarships, grants and other financial aid opportunities are available for students pursuing a healthcare occupational career in Illinois. Explore some of these options at http://nursing.illinois.gov/financial.htm#NURSEEDU.
Other Options to Consider:
Many military organizations, such as the Military Officers Association of America and the Air Force Aid Society offer educational assistance to military personnel, veterans, and their dependents. Also, some employers offer tuition assistance to employees who are seeking to improve their skills in areas related to their jobs. It’s always worth discussing the options with your employer’s Human Resources office.