Here are five things you need to know if you plan on using your GI Bill benefits. Understanding these facts can make the entire process a whole lot easier for you.

1) The GI Bill is not considered Federal Financial Aid: Colleges do not consider the GI Bill financial aid because it is not paid directly to the school. All money is sent directly to you and can then be transferred to the academic institution. Because of this process, schools usually require a signed promissory note or have students apply for student loans so they can receive payments upfront. These loans would then be paid by scheduled GI Bill payments sent to you. You will also be eligible for Pell Grants and scholarships with the GI Bill

2) There is a Time Limit to Utilize Your GI Bill Benefits: Depending on when you have left service, you have 10 to 15 years to use your GI Bill benefits. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, you have 10 years to use all of your benefits and 15 years under the Post-911 GI Bill. Your time begins once you have left service. If you return to active-duty for more than 90 days during the 10-year period, your 10 years start anew. So if you decide to return to service your 10-year period automatically resets.

3) The GI Bill Can Be Used as Needed: Contrary to popular belief you do not have remain in school to receive the entire benefit. The GI Bill can be used at any time during the 10-15 year period. If you need to take time off, you are able to reapply and use the benefit again at a later date. There have been many that have utilized the GI Bill to help pay for their associates, bachelor’s and then master’s degree.

4) Everything Depends on Credit Hours: Yes, there are many factors the GI Bill bases its payment rates on but the one that carries the most weight is total credit hours. A full-time student under the Montgomery GI Bill will receive $1,564, while a part-time student will only get half that amount.

5) A Month Isn’t Always a Month: As you may know, the GI Bill allows 36 months of education benefits. This doesn’t mean you have to use the benefits in 36 months or you lose it. There are actually several ways the word month is used for the GI Bill. One term relates to active duty while the other refers to veterans.
Each time a veteran uses the maximum payment rate of benefits, they use a month of their 36 month benefits. In this case, a month doesn’t equal a month. Veterans Affairs makes the example that if you are a veteran and receive $5,284, and your full-time rate is $1,321, divide $5,284 by $1,321. Your charge is four months.

For those on active duty and are able to attend school full-time, let’s say for four months, but your tuition is only $1,000, you will still be charged for four months of your 36 month entitlement. In this example a “month” actually does mean a month.

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