The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB-AD)

Montgomery GI BIll

The Montgomery GI Bill is an education benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those who serve a minimum amount of time on Active Duty qualified for this benefit provided they opted in during basic training or in their initial enlistment.

The Montgomery GI Bill program is closed to new recruits (see below); you cannot opt in to this version of the GI Bill any longer. That said, some may still qualify to use the benefits they signed up for when the program was active.

You are required to make a choice between GI Bills if you are eligible for the Montgomery version. You are required to select the Post 9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery version. Once you choose, the selection is irreversible.

Things To Know About Choosing A GI Bill Option

VA regulations say you are permitted to use one VA education benefit for a qualifying period of military service. The VA official site reminds those who choose the Post-9/11 GI Bill that they may be entitled to a refund of any money they paid into the Montgomery GI Bill program (MGIB). This is true if:

  • You entered active duty after June 30, 1985, or;
  • You served a combination of two years of active-duty service and four years of Selected Reserve service after June 30, 1985
  • You chose to pay $1,200 for the Montgomery GI Bill program
  • You chose to use your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits instead of your MGIB benefits and had unused MGIB benefits when you started using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits instead

Other criteria may also apply. You may be eligible for up to 48 months of GI Bill benefit under this program if you meet the criteria. There is no housing stipend for the Montgomery GI Bill, which is an important consideration to make if you need help with your living expenses while attending school.

New Troops Don’t Qualify For The Montgomery GI Bill

New recruits today, as mentioned above, do not have the option of selecting the Montgomery GI Bill. Instead, these recruits enroll in the Post 9/11 GI Bill which features enhancements due to the passage of a law commonly referred to as the Forever GI Bill.

Who Qualified For The Montgomery GI Bill?

There are multiple categories that qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill.

Category I

  • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
  • Entered active duty after June 30, 1985, and
  • The applicant chose to contribute $100 a month for the first 12 months of service toward the Montgomery GI Bill program.
  • Applicant must have served continuously for 24-36 months depending on the agreement or;
  • Served four years if you entered the Selected Reserve within a year of leaving active duty

Category II

  • The applicant has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
  • Started active duty before January 1, 1977 (or before January 2, 1978, under a delayed enlistment program contracted before January 1, 1977), and
  • The applicant served between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty through June 30, 1988 (or through June 30, 1987, if you entered the Selected Reserve within 1 year of leaving active duty and served 4 years), and
  • The applicant had one day or more of GI Bill entitlement left under the Vietnam Era GI Bill (Chapter 34) as of December 31, 1989

Category III

  • High school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
  • The applicant does not qualify for MGIB under categories I or II, and
  • Contributed to the Montgomery GI Bill ($1,200) before retirement or separation
  • The applicant must have served on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated after February 2, 1991, or
  • Involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993, or
  • Voluntarily separated under the Voluntary Separation Incentive program or;
  • Voluntarily separated under the Special Separation Benefit program

Category IV

  • High school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
  • The applicant made a $1,200 contribution toward the GI Bill
  • Applicant served on active duty on October 9, 1996, had money left in a VEAP account on that date and chose MGIB before October 9, 1997, or
  • Started full-time National Guard duty under title 32, USC, between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989, and chose MGIB between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997

How Much Money Is Available Under The Montgomery GI Bill?

The amount of GI Bill benefits you get under this program depends on the duration of your military service, the type of higher learning you want to get, and whether you qualify for other VA benefits such as a college fund kicker. In order to see if you can use the Montgomery GI Bill at a particular school you will need to see if the VA has approved your program.

The Department of Veterans Affairs advises all applicants to use the GI Bill Comparison Tool at the VA official site to see whether your school’s program is approved. Those who want to apply at a school that has not yet been approved are urged to contact the school to ask if they will request VA approval, but the VA cannot act until the school has made the request.

Applying For The GI Bill

You can apply for Montgomery GI Bill benefits by applying online with the Department of Veterans Affairs using VA Form 22-1990. You can also send that completed form to the VA by mail–fill out the form and send it to the nearest VA Regional Office to your school. You can find a list of regional claims processing offices at the VA official site. You can skip mailing the form if you want to deliver it in-person to a VA Regional Office.

You can also ask for help from your school’s VA certifying official who may work in the financial aid or admissions office. You can also get assistance claiming VA education benefits by getting the help of a trained Veteran Service Officer.

What To Know About The Montgomery GI Bill

Some who selected the Montgomery GI Bill also chose to participate in a buy-up program where the service member contributed an additional $600 toward the program to qualify for more GI Bill money when the time comes. That $600 earned those who opted in an additional $5600 in additional GI Bill benefits. The $600 buy-up option is not offered with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The Montgomery GI Bill does not feature an option to transfer the benefit to a dependent spouse or school-age child. The Post 9/11 GI Bill features many more options than the Montgomery version including a monthly housing stipend and the ability to transfer the benefit in exchange for a longer military service commitment.

There is also a Montgomery GI Bill for members of the Guard and Reserve, the rules and requirements for this program are different in crucial ways; if you had served on active duty but switched to the Guard or Reserve, it’s not safe to assume your benefits are the same under the Montgomery Bill-Selected Reserve version.

And finally, the Montgomery GI Bill offers financial assistance for a variety of different class types, and some overlook those listed below assuming they would not qualify. But you are permitted to use your GI Bill options to consider:

  • Remedial courses
  • Deficiency courses
  • Refresher courses

As long as you are degree-seeking, such courses could be approved for GI Bill payments.

The 78th Anniversary of the GI Bill

Wednesday, June 22, 2022, marked the 78th anniversary of the GI Bill, which was enacted in 1944 to support those returning home from World War Two. The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a press release in honor of the anniversary, noting its impact over the years. “The G.I. Bill has come a long way” since its debut, the press release states, adding, “VA continues to seek ways to meet the needs of Veterans and improve their G.I. Bill experience.”

The GI Bill has had a long and at times complicated history, and is still one of the most popular and important VA benefits offered today. Some 25 million veterans and their families have taken advantage of this VA education benefit.

The GI Bill got its start as a veteran-only option for those returning home from one war. Today it has been expanded to include active duty, Guard/Reserve, and even options for dependents and spouses to consider.

A Brief History of the GI Bill

The 1944 GI Bill, then known as the GI Bill of Rights, included things not found in today’s version. Those old options included loans for veteran-owned businesses, loans for farms, and the option to draw unemployment compensation.

The GI Bill of Rights was created for veterans only. No GI Bill benefits at that time were offered to those still on active duty or to dependents. The program was incredibly popular with some sources estimating about $4 billion in total GI Bill benefits offered to approximately nine million veterans in a five-year period starting in 1944.

The original GI Bill of Rights was not offered to all who served; just those who served during World War Two. When the Korean War had more service members returning home from yet another conflict, legislation called the Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 extended the GI Bill to Korean War veterans.

Enter the 1980s

Big changes came in the 1980s thanks to the efforts of former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie Montgomery, who revamped the GI Bill of Rights to include a variety of features such as making the GI Bill an opt-in during Basic Training,

Trainees paid $100 a month for a year, after which they could qualify for a much larger matching contribution from the DoD. There was a time limit for the benefits after retirement or separation from military service, and there was no housing stipend offered.

This overhaul of the GI Bill of Rights became known as the Montgomery GI Bill after its creator and required both an honorable discharge and a high school diploma/GED. An important development of the GI Bill during this time was the creation of a Guard/Reserve version of the Montgomery GI Bill.

The VA official site says those eligible for this version had to meet certain criteria including a six-year commitment in the Selected Reserve, “signed after June 30, 1985” with additional requirements for officers.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill

When the VA official site announced the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which took effect in August of 2009, it did so knowing there was much anticipation about key features of the new VA education benefit. One of the most important of those was the ability to draw a housing stipend while attending classes, and another critical update involved the ability to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or college-age dependent child.

Important features include but are not limited to:

  • Up to 36 months of education entitlement;
  • Eligible for use at colleges, universities, trade schools, on-the-job training
  • Payment of tuition;
  • Payment of certain fees;
  • A monthly housing stipend equivalent to an E-5 basic allowance for housing (BAH) payable for the zip code of the eligible school;
  • Books / Supplies Stipend ($1000 per year maximum).

This new GI Bill was intended for veterans with active duty service who served on or after September 11, 2001. The Post 9/11 GI Bill increased educational benefits above and beyond tuition alone.

The new GI Bill also included an option to switch from the old Montgomery GI Bill to the new Post 9/11 version. A choice was required, once the choice was made it was irreversible.

The Forever GI Bill

Some of the most important changes to the GI Bill program came in 2017 thanks to the passage of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act. It was promoted as the largest expansion of veteran benefits in roughly a decade, and the GI Bill benefitted from the Act in a number of ways:

  • The Forever GI Bill offers the benefit to all Purple Heart recipients regardless of time served;
  • No more time limit for using GI Bill benefits for qualifying service members discharged on or after January 1, 2013;
  • New protections for GI Bill recipients attending a school that closes before a degree program is completed;
  • New GI Bill options for Reservists such as more lenient time-in-service requirements.

Recent developments have further enhanced GI Bill benefits. Servicemembers now have the option to transfer VA education benefits to a qualifying foster child or ward thanks to the VA Transfer Of Entitlement program. In order to qualify, you must apply using  Application for Family Member to Use Transferred Benefits (VA Form 22-1990E).

You can submit this to any VA Regional Office. This is a process for those still serving on active duty. Once you leave active duty you can still submit a written request to modify a transfer via milConnect.

It should be noted that the Forever GI Bill is NOT a separate program from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Instead, it enhances the Post 9/11 program and adds to it. You won’t apply for a Forever GI Bill option, you’ll use Post 9/11 GI Bill options that have been improved by the updated legislation.

Transferring Your GI Bill Benefits

The Post 9/11 GI Bill allows those who are still on active duty to transfer their education benefits to spouses or college-age children who are enrolled in DEERS. To qualify for the benefits transfer, the active duty member must have a minimum of six years time-in-service and must agree to a four-year military commitment. VA rules for this transfer have included the following:

  • When you meet the six-year time-in-service requirement, you are permitted to transfer some or all of your unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.
  • The Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security reserves the right to limit how many months you may transferable.
  • Transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are available for spouses, one or more dependent children, or any combination of spouse and child.

A Word About The Digital GI Bill

In March 2022, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced something called the Digital GI Bill. This is the VA effort to modernize the GI Bill program including switching to a digital platform and improving benefits.

The VA official site says of this modernization effort, “…this platform will enable VA to call, email, text and chat with GI Bill beneficiaries, grant the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) immediate access to beneficiary records and respond to questions from colleges and universities instantaneously”.

It’s described as a “multi-year effort” and won’t happen overnight. That said, a VA contract for this project was awarded in March 2022 and the plan is currently underway. This effort is funded in part by some $243 million the VA received under the CARES Act during the global pandemic. Full details about the upgrades are not available at press time, but the VA says it desires feedback from students, administrators, and others who may be affected by the changes.

 

 

VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers education benefits for qualifying dependents and surviving spouses of military members who have died, are missing, or are prisoners of war. Known as the VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program, it is also referred to as Chapter 35 benefits and is offered to those who meet VA criteria, which we’ll explore below.

What Benefits Come with VA DEA?

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers qualifying applicants a monthly payment that can help offset the cost of:

  • Undergraduate college degree programs
  • Graduate-level degree programs
  • Career-training certificates
  • Educational and career counseling
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training

These benefits are available to most who start using them today for up to 36 months. Those who started using VA DEA before August 1, 2018, had 45 months of benefits.

Benefits are paid according to the nature of your attendance; full-time, half-time, etc. The nature of your training or coursework may also determine your pay rates. For example, the full-time monthly rate in October 2021 for “institutional training” was listed at $1,298.00. Three-quarter -time attendance was paid at $1,026.00 in 2021, and half-time attendance was paid at $753.00.

For “Correspondence” training, there is a payment that is calculated at “55 percent of the established charge for the number of lessons completed” paid every quarter.

For apprenticeships and on-the-job training, VA DEA benefits in 2021 were paid out at $825.00 per month for the first six months of training. The second six months were paid monthly at a rate of $620.00, with lower rates paid for the remainder of the training period.

There are certain benefits paid for cooperative training that are not considered “farm cooperative” training. Those rates in 2021 were paid only for full-time training at just under $1300 a month. Farm Coop training was paid at a full-time rate of $908.00 a month.

All of the numbers you see here are listed as examples of past compensation only. Your experience may vary and VA compensation rates are subject to change at any time due to legislation, changes in the program, and other variables.

School Participation

Not all schools participate in VA DEA, and you will need to determine whether it makes sense to enter a program using your DEA benefits or if you should save them and use a state or local program instead. Some states may offer military spouses and dependents a similar set of benefits to DEA–compare them side-by-side to see which may be the best option for that school.

Changes in the law may also work in your favor; if it has been a year or two since you last explored your VA education benefit options, check again. Legislation in the past five to seven years has changed these benefits, significantly in some cases, and the answers you got about your options a few years ago may no longer apply.

Remember, recent legislation has paid more attention to dependents and spouses of military members and it may only be a matter of time before some features (such as who may use a VA education benefit and whether it may be transferred to a spouse or child) are reviewed periodically to see how they may be improved or streamlined.

You can always contact the Department of Veterans Affairs directly at 1-800-827-1000 to learn what your most current education benefits are and how they may have changed since the last time you explored your education options. Checking again could reveal a whole new set of options for you to consider.

Qualifying for the VA DEA Program

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance benefits are offered to those with a military parent or spouse who meet the any one of the following conditions:

  • The parent or spouse (a veteran or service member) is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability, or
  • They died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability, or
  • They are missing in action or captured/forcibly detained in the line of duty, or
  • They are in the hospital or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and are likely to be discharged for that disability.

The children of these servicemembers and veterans must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be between the ages of 18 and 26, (except in certain VA-defined circumstances) cases.
  • If the dependent joins the military they may not use this benefit while on active duty.
  • If an eligible dependent leaves the military and wants to use the VA DEA program they cannot have a Dishonorable discharge.
  • Dependents may have their eligibility extended due to military service, but that extension typically won’t last beyond the 31st birthday.

Spouses should know the following VA requirements when applying for VA DEA benefits:

  • DEA benefits start on the date the VA decides you qualify or on the date of the Veteran’s death. They will last for 10 years.
  • If the Veteran is VA-rated as permanently and totally disabled, “with an effective date that’s 3 years after discharge from active duty” a spouse may qualify for benefits for 20 years.
  • If the service member died on active duty, your benefits end “20 years from the date of death” according to the VA.

How to Apply for VA DEA Benefits

There are two basic scenarios you might need to know about when applying for DEA benefits. The first is when you’re looking for a school to attend and you want to apply for those benefits in conjunction with your commitment to a specific school you have not started attending yet.

In such cases, you’ll first need to verify that the school you have selected is approved for VA benefits and actively participates. Not all schools are approved, and not all choose to participate. Once you have determined you can use DEA benefits at your school, apply for VA education benefits for dependents using VA Form 22-5490. You can submit electronically or by regular mail.

The other scenario is that you are already attending classes at a school you want to use DEA benefits. In these cases, you’ll want to get a DEA application to your school or your employer if you are using VA benefits for on-the-job training or similar programs.

You’ll need the school or employer to fill out VA Form 22-1999, VA Enrollment Certification and you will need to have that submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For Those Eligible for DEA Benefits and the Fry Scholarship

The Fry Scholarship is a VA education benefit offered to qualifying applicants. If you had a military spouse or parent who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001, or a spouse/parent who was a member of the Selected Reserve who died from a service-connected disability, you may qualify.

In some cases, those who are eligible for DEA benefits may also qualify for the Fry Scholarship. If you are the dependent child of a service member who died in the line of duty before August 1, 2011, you can qualify for both DEA and Fry for a total of 81 months of education benefits. But you cannot use both programs at once. Using the Fry Scholarship you typically get up to 36 months of benefits including:

  • Full in-state tuition costs at public schools or;
  • Up to $22,805 per year for training at private or out-of-state schools
  • Funds for housing
  • Funds for books
  • Funds for supplies

Most are required to choose between Fry and DEA unless you meet the criteria mentioned above. Typically you can use one or the other, but not both. You will be asked to make your choice at application time and it pays to compare both benefits side-by-side to see which may be the better choice for you.

 

 

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