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The Active Duty GI Bill User’s Guide


GI Bill benefits are available for servicemembers to help with education and training costs. Not what your looking for? Return to Military Education Guide.

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This guide includes the following topics:

  • A GI Bill Benefit Overview
  • Step-by-Step Application Instructions
  • Related GI Bill Programs

Your GI Bill can be used to pay for many different programs including the following:

  • College, Business Technical or Vocational Courses
  • Distance Learning including Correspondence Courses
  • Certification Tests
  • Apprenticeship/Job Training (Veterans and Reserve Only)
  • Flight Training

The GI Bill is an education benefit worth over $47,556. This amount is based on the 2008-2009 monthly full-time student payment rate of $1321 multiplied by the 36-month limit. This “payment rate” automatically increases on the first of October each year. You get the annual increase no matter when you became eligible or begin using it.

The term "36 months of benefits" refers to academic months. This means you will have up to 8 semesters (four years) of traditional academic education.

Note: Your actual benefits may be higher if you signed up for the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps College Funds.


You qualify for the GI Bill if:

  • You contribute $100 a month for the first 12 months you are in active duty, or qualify under VEAP conversion.
  • You have completed High School or have an equivalency certificate before you apply for benefits.
  • You have served at least 2 years on active duty.

Your GI Bill Payment Rate – How much you get.
Your GI Bill monthly payment rate is determined by two factors: your student status (full time, half time, or part time) and your duty status. In most cases you would be considered a full time student if you are taking 12 or more credits per semester.

If you are on active duty the GI Bill will only reimburse you for the actual tuition and expenses. But once you leave active duty service the GI Bill will pay the full payment rate ($1321) no matter how much the tuition costs.

Note: Two-Year enlistees can qualify for a reduced GI Bill of $1073 a month for full-time students.

When To Use The GI Bill
You can begin using your benefit after 2 years of service, however before you choose to use the GI Bill you should know that it is usually not a good idea to use it while on active duty, because VA administers the GI Bill differently for active duty and veterans. For instance a veteran is charged one month of benefits for each $1321 - the current GI Bill "payment rate" - in education benefits used.

Example - If a veteran receives $5285, and the current full-time payment rate is $1321, divide $5285 by $1321. The veteran will be charged 4 months of the 36 months of benefits.

However if you are on active duty and go to school full-time for 4 months, you will still be charged 4 months of benefits even if your tuition is only $1,000.

The GI Bill has a time limit - expiration date. Once you have left the service you have ten years to use it. Any benefit remaining after the tenth anniversary is lost, and you will lose your $1,200 initial contribution.

Note: You should ALWAYS consult your Education Service Officer or Navy College representative before using your GI Bill or taking any college classes. They are trained to give you the counseling that will help you avoid wasting your time and benefits.

How to Apply - Step-by-Step Application Instructions
Although the GI Bill application process can be time consuming it is relatively easy. In most cases the process will take you 4 steps, or less!

Step One
Find a school that has VA approved training or education programs. Be sure to ask the admissions counselor if the school meets the requirements to use the GI Bill. You can use the Directory of Schools online school search to locate a school or institution that fits the bill.

Note: Most regionally and nationally accredited colleges and universities have VA approved programs.

Step Two
Complete the Application for Education Benefits, VA Form 22-1990. Your school's registrar's office usually has copies of the form on hand. If you are active duty you will need to have your Education Service Officer or Command representative complete and sign Section II of the VA Form 22-1990.

Tip: You should speak to a counselor in your Voluntary Education Services Office to determine if you are eligible to participate in the GI-Bill Buy-up program before you start using your GI Bill. It could be worth up to an extra $5,400 in benefits.

Step Three
Send in your application. In most cases, the school will take care of this step for you, by sending your application along with their paperwork to the nearest VA regional office. This will expedite the process. However if you have not found a school yet, you can still apply for your VA Eligibility Determination by mailing your completed VA Form 22-1990 to your VA Regional Processing Office.

Within 4-8 weeks you should receive a declaration of eligibility and a letter explaining your GI Bill benefits. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon to get a letter from the VA requesting more information. You will have to answer the Department of Veterans Affairs requests to be determined eligible and complete the process.

Step Four
Once you begin receiving your benefit checks (Direct Deposit) you will have to complete the VA’s Web Automated Verification of Eligibility (WAVE) process each month to continue to receive your monthly benefits payments.

The WAVE is a simple process that requires you to either log-on to the VA WAVE website or call their toll-free number at 1-877-823-2378. It only takes a couple of minutes, but you will not get your monthly payment until you do.

Click for information about Reserve Education Assistance Program.

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