Individuals who have served in the armed forces, from active duty to retired, are eligible for military education benefits from the US government. Detailed information about these benefits can be found on the GI Bill website for the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you are looking to take the next step on your educational journey, whether in a traditional classroom or even online, your military education benefits can save you a substantial amount of money. Follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to make the most of your benefits.
Step 1: Which Benefit is Right for You?
There are multiple options for soldiers and veterans interested in continuing or furthering their education. Each has something unique to offer, and so it is important to figure out which of the available military education benefits best suit your needs before applying. The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided a side-by-side comparison chart of all of the military education assistance programs, including:
- Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
- Post Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
Overall, the programs differ in how they provide funding, determine the funding amount, and select the criteria for eligibility. Due to these varying factors, it is important to research which military education benefit you qualify for, which one is best suited to the type of education your want to pursue, and which one will ultimately provide the most assistance. In addition to the comparison table above, you can use the VA’s military education online questionnaire to help you figure out which will meet your needs.
Step 2: Prepare to Apply
As with any application, you’ll need to provide some paperwork to get the ball rolling. The GI Bill website details a comprehensive list of what is required for your application. As a general rule, you’ll want to have the following ready:
- DD214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
- All post-high-school education transcripts
- Kicker Contract
- Dates and Service Status for each period of military service
You also might want to consider providing routing and bank account information, which will allow you to have your military education benefits directly deposited into your account.
Step 3: Military Education Online or In-Class?
Not only should you research your military education benefits, but you should also learn about the schools or programs you might want to attend. There are a broad variety of options out there today, ranging from part-time online programs to full-time in-class programs. When comparing online degrees vs. traditional degrees, each has its pros and cons, which when measured against your own needs, will determine where you choose to apply.
You will also have to decide what type of degree you want to earn. From GED to online doctorate programs, there are a multitude of military education possibilities. Your choice of degree level will depend on what you’ve already completed to this point educationally and your plans for the future. In addition, consider where you would like to attend school. Schools in different locations charge different amounts, even for similar programs, which may influence the benefit amount you receive.
Step 4: Submit an Application
You can apply for military education online, as well as submit a paper application (form 22-1990). The online application is located on the VA eBenefits portal and will walk you through the entire process to ensure that you do not miss anything important. If you choose to submit a paper application, make sure you take a close look at the paperwork that is required beforehand. Good luck!