GI Bill Explained

The new GI bill went into effect on August 1, 2009, and is the most comprehensive education benefits package since the original bill was enacted in 1944. Former President Bush signed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, commonly called the new GI Bill or Chapter 33, into law on June 30, 2008, following a year-and-a-half of advocacy, endorsement, and support by US Senators, dozens of US governors, and organizations from the VFW to the American Council on Education.

This new bill extends way beyond tuition assistance - eligible veterans will receive full tuition and fees, a new monthly housing stipend, and a $1,000/year stipend for books and supplies. Adjustments were made to Post-9/11 GI Bill on January 4, 2011, when President Obama signed a package of changes into law. Most of the changes take effect August 1, 2011.

All veterans who have served at least 90 consecutive days following September 10, 2001 with an honorable discharge, qualify for the minimum benefit: 40% of tuition, books, and living expenses. The benefits increase proportionately based on time in service, up to 100% of tuition, books, and living expenses for those who have served 36 total months following September 10, 2001.

Under the newest version of the Bill, National Guardsmen and Reservists on full-time active duty will have their time count towards their benefits.100% benefits are available to those with 36 total months of post-9/11 service, as well as veterans with 30 days' post-9/11 active duty service discharged due to service-connected disability.

If you graduated from a Service Academy or received an ROTC scholarship, you also qualify for the new GI Bill benefits to attend graduate school. However, your ROTC/Service Academy obligated active-duty service time does not count toward the three years necessary to qualify for the full benefits. If you served even an additional 90 days after your active duty commitment you are eligible for the 40% benefit threshold, with 100% benefits awarded to those with an additional 3 years active duty service.

One of the changes that President Obama signed into law has to do with tuition cap payments. Before, tuition payments were capped at the undergraduate-level tuition cost of the most expensive public school in the state you would be attending school. Under the new law, there is now a single, nationwide cap of $17,500 a year for tuition and fee reimbursement. These benefits also apply to graduate school, out-of-state students, and those attending private institutions.

Another change involves the living eligibility stipend. Beginning Fall 2011, only full-time students will receive a full living stipend. Also, effective August 1, 2011, living eligibility stipends will be pro-rated based on the number of credits being taken, although anyone with less than a 50% course load will not receive this stipend. An additional large change with living stipends is that benefits will be cut off between school terms.

There are other changes to the Bill, as well. The $1,000-per-year book allowance is being made available to active-duty service members' souses using transferred benefits. Also, distance learning students are now eligible for the living stipend at a reduced rate, which is one-half the national average living stipend. Previously, they had to attend one on-campus class. Finally, vocational training will be covered programs.

If you choose to attend a college or graduate school with tuition greater than the tuition cap, check out the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is being set up by the VA. A school must enter into an agreement with the VA, set up a veterans' scholarship, and then the federal government will match whatever funds the school provides to the scholarship.

Service members currently on active duty can use the benefits for tuition only and might want to consider using the old Chapter 30 benefits instead. This applies to veterans taking long-distance or part-time class schedules, as well. See the table for more information, and to learn more please visit

(Chapter 33)
(Chapter 30)
There is a single, nationwide cap of $17,500 a year for tuition and fee reimbursement. Payment is made to the school for the entire quarter, semester or term. More expensive schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program and offering veterans scholarships will be matched dollar for dollar up to the cost of tuition.
Increased monthly benefit from $1,101/month to $1,321/month. Yearly increases are now indexed to education costs - as these increase, so will the total yearly benefit.
Up to $1,000/year and divided by academic term. Also available to spouses using transferred benefits.
Applied through monthly benefit
Monthly Living
Based on Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate for E-5 w/dependent, using zip code of the school. Only full-time students will receive a full living stipend. Stipends will only be available during school terms.
Applied through monthly benefit
Time to Use Benefit
Up to 15 years
Up to 10 years
Minimum 90 consecutive days of service post-Sept. 10, 2001, honorable discharge
4 eligibility categories here
Best suited for
Veterans who have completed active duty service with 90 consecutive days of service post-Sept. 10, 2001
- Service members on active duty
- Veterans without 90 consecutive days of service post-Sept. 10, 2001
- Veterans in long distance , apprenticeship, on-the-job training, or flight training educational programs