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How to use your GI Bill benefits after leaving the military

United Association Veterans In Piping VIP Program - How to use your GI Bill benefits after leaving the military

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a generous education benefit provided to any veteran who has served on active duty for at least 90 days since Sept. 10, 2001. It’s a way of thanking veterans for their service by providing them the opportunity to go to college, a trade school or help cover costs in a registered apprenticeship program.

Want to use your GI Bill benefits right away as soon as you get out of the military? Here’s how.


The GI Bill pays based on how long you’ve served

The amount of time you have served on active duty determines the amount of benefits you can receive. You must be honorably discharged to qualify.

If you have served long enough, the G.I. Bill will cover your full tuition at a public university at the in-state rate. It provides payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for textbooks and supplies.

If you are in a UA registered apprenticeship program, the GI Bill can be used to cover application fees, books, tools and housing.


How to apply for your GI Bill

You can apply for GI Bill benefits online or in person at a VA regional office. You can also call 1-888-GI BILL-1 to ask the VA to mail an application directly to you.

The application process is simple and easy to follow, especially if you do it online. When you fill out the form, you’ll include your military background, education history and the school or UA apprenticeship program you plan to attend. You’ll need your Social Security and bank account numbers, so have those handy. (Tuition and fee payments are paid directly to the institution, but you will be paid directly for housing, textbook and tool allowances.)

If you’re feeling confused about the process, you can always call or email the school’s registrar’s office or financial aid department, which can walk you through the application process. You can also contact the respective Union of the registered apprenticeship program you will be attending.


Should you apply for the GI Bill on active duty?

You can apply for GI Bill benefits while you are still on active duty, and it will speed up the process. It takes about four to six weeks to process benefits, so start the application process two to three months before you plan on going to school or beginning your apprenticeship program.

However, it is not recommended to use GI Bill benefits while on active duty because there are limitations. You cannot use a GI Bill housing allowance or one-time rural benefit while on active duty.


How to keep track of your GI Bill benefits

After you apply for your GI Bill benefits, the VA will mail you a certificate of eligibility, listing the exact benefits you can receive. You’ll present this document to the school when you enroll.

This certificate of eligibility will act as proof of payment, which can be handy in the case that tuition payments are delayed. This way, you can avoid any late fees.

It may take some time to receive your certificate of eligibility – generally about four to six weeks. You can keep track of your benefits online by creating an eBenefits account.


You can use your benefits toward an apprenticeship program.

In addition to the GI Bill being used for school, you can also use it to cover costs related to your registered apprenticeship program through the UA.

Veterans eligible for GI Bill benefits who attend a UA apprenticeship program can receive a monthly housing allowance in addition to their apprenticeship wages. They are also eligible to receive up to $1,000 each year to cover application fees, books, supplies and tools.


You can use the GI Bill anytime

If you left the military after Jan. 1, 2013, your GI Bill benefits have no expiration date. You can use them anytime.

You can also use the GI Bill for any period of time. The benefits do not need to be used continuously. You can take a break from school and reapply later. The benefits will still be there.