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How to use your G.I. Bill - From a person who used their G.I. Bill

Posted by Caleb A. Miller | May 18, 2022 | 0 Comments

The Post 9/11 G.I Bill (Chapter 33) is a benefit given to veterans who have completed typically 36 months of military service and helps you pay for school or job training. Although you are accumulating this benefit after only 90 days of active service. If you served after September 10, 2001 (which most of you who would ever read this post have), then you likely qualify for this benefit. 


You're eligible for 100% of the full benefit if you meet at least one of these requirements:

  • You served on active duty and were awarded a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, or
  • You served on active duty for at least 30 continuous days and were discharged because of a service-connected disability, or
  • You served on active duty for at least 36 months

If you served on active duty for less than 36 months, you're not eligible for the full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit.  You're eligible for based on the amount of time you served on active duty:

  • Between 30 months and 36 months: 90% of the full benefit
  • Between 24 months and 30 months: 80% of the full benefit
  • Between 18 months and 24 months: 70% of the full benefit
  • Between 6 months and 18 months: 60% of the full benefit
  • Between 90 days and 6 months: 50% of the full benefit

Going to a University in Los Angeles California prior to Law School, I had my entire tuition and costs paid, first pick of classes (will get to that), and a BAH of about $2200 for every month that I used the benefit (pro-rated to the day for how many days in the month I used the benefit. 

The Benefits

You can only use a single education benefit for a period of service, although there are multiple educational benefits that you may qualify for. Most veterans will have 36 months of educational benefits, although you had an option as early as your first meeting with the recruiter to receive 48 months of VA education benefits. The G.I. Bill is a powerful educational tool that covers 100% of your tuition costs for all State Universities, and most Private Universities will accept it to cover 100% of their costs (as a way of continuing to receive federal funding) despite the highest available tuition in that state for the G.I. Bill being less than what a private university's tuition may be. 

On top of covering your tuition and fees, the G.I. Bill gives you money each month for housing, at the same Basic Allowance for Housing (B.A.H. - its why you got married at 18) for the area, determined by the zip code of your university. The rates you will receive when using the G.I. Bill can be found here

You may receive up to $1,000 per school year to cover the costs of books and supplies and additional payments for moving expenses under specific circumstances that are very rare. 

How much Benefits do I have?

You already have access to a "Statement of Benefits" through or your account. Most veteran's will start with 36 months of benefits. 

Now this is where it gets interesting. This amount is calculated to the day, and if timed correctly, you could pull an entire semester of education with only a single day (or two weeks in my case) of benefits. So if a semester is 3 months and 2 days at your university, that is the exact amount that will be subtracted. I had the 36 month G.I. Bill benefit, but it covered all three years of undergrad, and three semesters of law school. That is because summer and winter breaks do not count (unless you take classes during that time), and because it is calculated to the day. You will find that 2-4 months out of the year you are not using your benefit. There is no reason you cannot get a four-year degree with a 36-month benefit. I had exactly two weeks left on my G.I.Bill thinking I would only be paid a housing allowance for two weeks during one semester at Pepperdine University, but because it encroached on that semester at all, the benefit covered the entire semester and yes, I was paid a basic allowance for housing until the semester ended. 

The interesting thing about this payment method is it motivated me to take a full winter and summer load, and to maximize the number of units I was takin. No matter how many units I was taking I was exhausting the same amount of G.I. Bill. 12 units or 18 units, same amount. You could shed an entire year of your education off by stacking classes, assuming you have the time of course. 

What if I can't get my classes in that time?

Most schools will allow you to get the same selection schedule as their priority students (full scholarships, student athletes, etc.) in order to allow you to use your G.I. Bill benefit. This means you will likely be able to enjoy the full use of your G.I. Bill and receive the degree you are searching for during this time frame without worrying about being unable to select the classes you need at a highly impacted school or field of study. 

How can I use this benefit for Job Training?

Most of your technical schools, skills trades, police and fire academy, licensing courses, hotel management and many other careers, even those that pay you to be trained, may allow you to collect G.I. Bill benefits at the same time. Yes, you can go to the police academy, hit that salary, and stack the G.I. Bill on top of that. This even applies to some Union jobs, although there is a process to qualify. It will be approved when done correctly and there is no reason you shouldn't attempt to get this benefit. Best of all, it costs nothing. Once you have served and been honorably discharged, this money is yours whether you use it or not, might as well use it. 

First make sure the program is approved for VA education benefits.
Use the GI Bill Comparison Tool to find out if the program is approved

You'll most likely need to enter into a training contract for a set amount of time with an employer or union. During training, you'll probably get a salary from the employer or union, which can go up as you gain more skills. When you finish your training, you'll get a job certification or journeyman status. If you're a Veteran in an approved program, you can use your GI Bill benefit and get tax-free money for books and supplies. The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers you a monthly housing allowance (MHA) in addition to your entry-level wage.

You'll get 100% of your applicable BAH during the first 6 months of training. Then you'll get this percentage of your BAH until your benefits run out:

  • 80% of your applicable BAH during the second 6 months of training
  • 60% of your applicable BAH during the third 6 months of training
  • 40% of your applicable BAH during the fourth 6 months of training
  • 20% of your applicable BAH during the rest of the training period

To use your benefits, you can use your myhealthvet account and apply. You sign-in, plug into the school that you are attending or have been accepted to, and that its. Most universities have a veterans coordinator or an admissions department that can take it from there. At both Cal State University Northridge and Pepperdine University, a public and private school respectively, the administration had all of the answers and this entire process was handled with a phone call, my driver's license and my student ID. Simple. Do not let the idea that this is complicated stop you from using the benefit which I have learned, does in fact stop some veterans from either using it, or going to school at all. 

Why am I Learning this from a Law Firm?

Because Miller Wilmers APC was founded by a veteran who never thought college was the right path. I spent my entire childhood KNOWING I was going to be a marine one day, living out that dream, getting my tour to Afghanistan, and coming home wanting more. The G.I. Bill directly led to the development of this firm and allowed me to access a college education of my choice, with absolutely no risk whatsoever. I only want to pass this information along as some veterans believe this process is more difficult than it really is. The benefits are there and you already earned them, so use it. Whether to receive further training in your career or to pursue an education. Hell, maybe start your own law firm. 

About the Author

Caleb A. Miller

Caleb A. Miller is a Marine Corps Veteran and founder of Miller Wilmers, APC.


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