The Montgomery GI Bill and Educational Benefits for Veterans
Chapter 30 of the Montgomery GI Bill offers benefits for college, vocational training, and other educational programs to veterans who have served on active duty. These may include programs in technical schools, correspondence courses, apprenticeships, training in specialized occupations like tech or aviation, certain types of entrance exams, and licensing exams. You can use these benefits for 10 years after the date of your discharge. If you completed your full period of enlistment, you will receive 36 months of benefits. Otherwise, you will receive one month of benefits for each month that you served on active duty. You must apply for benefits within a year after beginning the educational program by submitting VA Form 22-1990 to the VA regional office in the region where the educational institution is located.
Chapter 1616 of the same law extends certain educational benefits to reservists, which are described on the VA website. This discussion focuses on Chapter 30.
Amount of Payments
This is complex and depends on several factors, such as how long you served, which category of eligibility you meet (see below), the education that you are seeking, and any extra money that the Department of Defense has put into your fund. You can receive extra benefits if you participated in the $600 buy up program when you were on active duty.
You should be aware that you cannot receive payments under this bill as well as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Thus, you should decide which bill will give you greater benefits under your circumstances. Also, choosing to get benefits under the post-9/11 bill is irrevocable, so you cannot change to the Montgomery GI Bill later. You should decide which educational program you will pursue before choosing between these sets of benefits.
Categories of Eligibility
As a threshold requirement, you can receive these benefits if you received an honorable discharge after serving on active duty, and you have a high school diploma or GED, or you received 12 credits from a college program. Beyond this threshold, the Montgomery GI Bill provides four categories of eligibility. You need to fit into one of these categories.
The first category applies to servicemembers who first served on active duty after June 30, 1985 and contributed $100 each month to the Montgomery GI program for one year. They also must have served for at least three consecutive years, except in circumstances involving a two-year enlistment period or service in the Selected Reserve.
The second category applies to servicemembers who first enlisted for active duty before January 1, 1977. They must have been eligible for benefits under the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Educational Assistance Program as of December 31, 1989. Also, they must have served on active duty for at least one day at some time between October 19, 1984 and June 30, 1985. They generally must have stayed on active duty until June 30, 1988, except in some situations involving service in the Selected Reserve.
The third category may apply to servicemembers who do not fit within either of the previous two categories but contributed $1,200 to the Montgomery GI program. They are eligible if they were serving on active duty as of September 30, 1990 and left the service involuntarily after February 2, 1991, or if they left the service involuntarily on or after November 30, 1993. Also, they are eligible if they left voluntarily under the Special Separation Benefit program or the Voluntary Separation Incentive program.
Finally, the fourth category applies to two different groups of servicemembers. The first group must have contributed $1,200 to the Montgomery GI program, either as a one-time payment or in monthly installments of $100 per month for a year. They must have been on active duty on October 9, 1996, and they must have applied for benefits within one year afterward and have had funds remaining in a Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program account. (This allows servicemembers on active duty to make contributions toward their educational benefits during their service, and the government will double the amount of their contributions.) The second group in this category must have entered the National Guard between July 1, 1985 and November 28, 1989, and they must have applied for benefits between October 9, 1996 and July 9, 1997.