Post-9/11 GI Bill vs Montgomery GI Bill

“They told me the Post-9/11 GI Bill was way better, so I gave up my MGIB.”

Having spent most of the last two years as a Veterans Administration (VA) School Certifying Official (SCO), I heard this phrase a lot from newly minted veterans and servicemembers about to make the transition. Generally, “they” were right. While the traditional MGIB only pays a stipend, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays a stipend plus tuition and fees (at the in state rate) and up to $1000 per year for books. However, there are situations when the MGIB is a better deal and making that irreversible decision without having all the facts could potentially cause you to lose out on up to $14,000. (Yes, I said $14,000.)

So, when should you hang on to your MGIB? Before I answer that, let me just say that what I am going to list below are some situations where the traditional MGIB might be better than the Post-9/11 GI Bill. However, each veteran’s service record and individual situation can affect which is the better option and you should fully research the options using the VA’s official education website (www.gibill.va.gov) and call the VA education line at 1-888-442-4551 with any specific questions pertaining to your individual case. Now that I’ve given the required “don’t blame me” qualifier, here are some scenarios:

1)      You plan to join the Guard or Reserves after leaving Active Duty: Federal regulations require than an individual who qualifies for more than one VA education benefit give one up in order to accept the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit. However, contrary to rumor, it does not have to be the MGIB that is given up. Guard and Reserve members can qualify for educational benefits called the Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) and/or Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP). These individuals may opt to give up one of these benefits instead. Electing to give up one of these and keep your MGIB could net you up to an additional $14,000 since MGIB-SR and REAP don’t pay that much. (Full details on MGIB-SR and REAP will be explained in tomorrow’s blog.)

2)      You plan to take all your classes online: Under the Post-9/11 rules, at least one undergraduate class per term must be taken in a “brick-and-mortar” setting (aka fully on campus) in order to receive the full housing allowance. Taking all online or a combination between online and hybrid classes significantly reduces the housing allowance for Post-9/11 students.

For example, let’s say you are living in zip code 93950 (Pacific Grove, CA), are 100% Post-9/11 eligible and are taking a full time load with at least one traditional, residential class. Your housing allowance would be $1920 a month. If, however, you take a full load of online only or online/hybrid classes, your housing would be only $714.50 a month.

If you use the MGIB in this situation, you would receive $1662, regardless of whether you are taking online or residential classes. Of course, if you use the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you also get tuition and fees paid for and a book stipend so you’ll need to do the math to determine which scenario is more beneficial for you personally. Which brings me to my next scenario.

3)      You have another way to pay for your tuition and fees: A lot of students are under the impression that if they get a VA education benefit, they don’t qualify for any other aid. That is incorrect. VA education benefits are special and are excluded from many of the rules that prevent double dipping, to use a term we are all familiar with. If you qualify for a scholarship or other federal aid, you can use those to pay for your tuition and fees, and in some cases books, and still receive your VA benefits. If you have other resources to cover tuition and fees and books, then you should compare the Post-9/11 housing allowance for your area and determine if it is higher than the $1662 MGIB stipend. (Post-9/11 housing rates are based on the active duty, E-5 with dependents rate for the zip code of your school.)

4)      You plan on attending school only part time: In order to receive any housing allowance from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you must be attending at more than 50% “rate of pursuit.” That’s a VA term that basically means you have to go more than half time (for general undergraduate credits on a semester term that works out to 7 credits or more per term). Most undergraduate classes are only 3 credits each. Therefore, you generally have to take 3 classes to get any pay under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under the MGIB, however, you only have to attend half time to get any housing. So, if you plan on only taking two classes at a time, and they are each 3 credits, you would get a prorated stipend under MGIB but no housing at all under Post-9/11.

5)      You didn’t serve long enough on active duty to qualify for Post-9/11 at the 100% rate: To fully qualify for MGIB, you must have served 36 months or more (not counting basic and AIT/tech school, as any time DoD paid for you to train does not count as far as VA is concerned). If you leave before the 36 month mark, you may have the option to pay the rest of the money into the MGIB and come out with, for example, two years of full MGIB benefits.

If, however, you leave active duty before hitting that same 36 month mark for Post-9/11, you will be rated at less than 100%. Let’s say you served 11 months. That puts you at a 50% rating for Post-9/11 (the full percentage scale can be found on the VA’s GI Bill webpage). Using the example of the 93950 housing stipend from earlier, you would get $960 a month if you were going full time on campus, plus $500 a year for books, and half of your tuition and fees paid for. Again, it comes down to doing the numbers and seeing which benefits you more.

6)      You served long enough to qualify for both MGIB and Post-9/11: If you served more than 36 months (not counting basic and AIT/tech school, as listed above) and you paid into the MGIB, you may qualify for both benefits. Under federal regulation, you can use a combination of VA education benefits, up to 48 months total (with one exception, which pertains to dependents and will be discussed later this week). If you qualify for and use all 36 months of your MGIB, you can get an additional year of Post-9/11 at whatever percentage you qualify. So, for example, if you served 48 months, you could get full MGIB for 36 months, and then 12 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill at approximately the 60% rate.

One thing to be careful of if you choose this route - you need to be sure that you use every last day of your MGIB before switching over to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you switch over before you have exhausted your MGIB benefit, you only get as many days of Post-9/11 benefit as you had left of MGIB. Even if you have one day of MGIB left, you would only get one day of Post-9/11, instead of 12 months.

Have I confused you yet? As with everything else government related, there are tiny print rules and weird loopholes that can greatly impact your benefits so doing your homework to make sure you are maximizing the benefits you earned is important. If you need more guidance than I provided here, feel free to write a comment or drop me an e-mail and I will try to answer. Also, I recommend exploring the VA website and/or contacting the call center. You can also try calling the college/university you are thinking of attending directly and ask to speak to the School Certifying Official.

© 2013 - 2014, After the DD-214. All rights reserved.

23 thoughts on “Post-9/11 GI Bill vs Montgomery GI Bill

  1. melissa

    Hi I hope you can answer my question. I was just in basic training and had to make the decision, I wasn’t really informed about all the choices and it seemed as though the MTI was pushing us to not opt out of the MGIB, like I was going to do. I wanted to use the post 911 because my husband did and it makes the most sense to me. Anyway I just went along with it and ended up buying into the MGIB. Since I’m out of basic training and I can actually do some research I am beginning to wonder why anyone would use the MGIB. Does this mean that I can’t use the post 911 like I wanted to? I know it says that I have to use the MGIB completely first before switching to the post 911. I signed for 4 years and plan on getting out afterward. Will I be eligible to use the full 48 months, with only 4 years in, or would I only be able to use the MGIB? This is pretty confusing to me.

    Thanks in Advance!

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Melissa,

      Hooray for your MTI! By encouraging you to pay into MGIB, he gave you something important: options.

      1) If you elect MGIB, you can always change your mind. You do not HAVE to use MGIB before you use Post-9/11. If you prefer to use Post-9/11, you can give up MGIB in favor of Post-9/11. If you do this, you get only 36 months of the Post-9/11. (However, if you use every single day of your Post-9/11, Uncle Sam will then refund the $1200 you paid into MGIB.) If you choose, however, to use MGIB and you also have enough qualifying service for Post-9/11, you can get 36 months of MGIB and then an additional 12 months of Post-9/11.

      2) You can make the decision to give up MGIB at any point, including after you leave the service. I recommend you wait until after you do leave active duty to make this decision, because there are some instances – such as if you join the Guard or Reserves – when you may earn eligibility for a third VA education benefit, and you want to know that before you start giving things up, as it changes your options. One thing to know about giving up MGIB that I mention in my post but always like to reiterate: if you are going to give up MGIB for Post-9/11, you should do so before you use ANY of your MGIB. Otherwise, if you switch after you have started using MGIB, you will only receive as many days of Post-9/11 as you had remaining on your MGIB, rather than the full 36 months.

      3) Basic eligibility for MGIB and Post-9/11 is 3 years of active duty time, generally not counting training time (such as basic), though there’s more fine print about this. For MGIB, you also have to pay in that full $1200. Though there are a lot of caveats, in general, if you serve your four and pay that money, you should be qualified for both and then you just have to decide which to use.

      I know this can be confusing, so please feel free to e-mail me with additional questions, or we can even set up a time to talk, if that’s easier.

      Best of luck in your post-basic life. :)

      Sarah

      Reply
  2. Cheleh Wleh

    I’ve served for 41 months, and getting out. Can I use the my MGIB and also get the 60%?

    2. When can I switch from from MGIB to Post 9/11?

    3. Let’s say my home of record is Massachusetts, but I want to attend the University of Kentucky, what BAH am I getting, MA or KY?

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Cheleh Wleh,

      If you qualify for both MGIB and Post-9/11 GI Bill, you can EITHER:

      1) Give up MGIB in order to get 36 months of Post-9/11 at the 60% rate OR

      2) Use ALL 36 months of your MGIB (every last day) and then elect an additional year of Post-9/11 at the prorated rate.

      If you start using MGIB and then choose to switch to Post-9/11, you will only receive as many days of Post-9/11 as you have remaining of your MGIB.

      You may switch from MGIB to Post-9/11 at any time. However, based on the above, I recommend you either do it AFTER exhausting your MGIB or before you use ANY MGIB.

      Home of record will no longer apply once you are off active duty (I recommend you read my post on Home of Record vs Residency regarding this). Instead, states will have to comply with the Choice Act regarding in-state tuition rates for veterans. You can find which states are in compliance here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/702.asp

      In regards to BAH, that is always based on the zip code of the school you are attending.

      I hope this has answered your questions. Please let me know if I can answer anything else for you.

      Sarah

      Reply
      1. Cheleh Wleh

        Sarah, I appreciate your reply. It explains nearly everything I wanted to know.

        One thing I’m still stock at is SWITCHING between the post 9/11 and the MGIB.
        If I understood you well, If one wants to use both benefits, MGIB/Post 9/11, the MGIB should be the first to use right?

        Reason why I want to use the post 9/11 first is that, I’m not sure if I will get a job immediately after I get out, so the E-5 BAH will be a good starting point for 36 months, and, it also covers all educational needs, like books, pays all tuition and the BAH..
        But MGIB gives you certain amount per year, and that’s it.
        So, after the 36 months of post 9/11, what other choice(s) I have to complete my B.S?

        Reply
        1. Captain

          Post author

          Cheleh Wleh,

          If you only qualify for MGIB and Post-9/11, you have no option but to use the MGIB first. If you elect to use Post-9/11 first, you lose MGIB.

          The only way you may be able to use Post-9/11 first is if you also qualify for another VA education benefit. For example, if you switch from active duty to reserves and become eligible for Ch 1606. You can then give up 1606 in order to elect Post-9/11 and then you can use Post-9/11 or MGIB.

          A couple of things I want to clarify about Post-9/11: It pays all of the in-state tuition rate for required classes for your chosen degree up to an annual cap. If you are charged out-of-state fees or take a non-required class or exceed your cap, then you are responsible for covering the rest of the charges. Also, the book stipend is capped at $1000 per academic year (Aug-Jul).

          Most importantly, if you only qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the 60% rate, then all of the benefits related to Post-9/11 – tuition, books, housing – are pro-rated to 60%. For example, instead of the $1000 book stipend, which veterans who qualify at the 100% rate would get, you would only get up to $600 an academic year. You would have to do the math to determine whether the Post-9/11 is still the better deal over the MGIB.

          Also, the 36 months is actually measured in days and you are only charged for the days you are actually enrolled in class. So, if you only attend school 265 days in a year, for example, then the extra 100 days will count towards your next school year. Which means it may be possible to finish a four year degree within those 36 months of entitlement, if you are careful with your benefits. Regardless of which benefit you choose – MGIB, Post-9/11, or MGIB and then Post-9/11, I recommend all undergraduate students complete their FAFSA and see if they qualify for the PELL grant. This is money that does not need to be paid back and can be used in conjunction with your VA education benefits. (You can find out more about FAFSA, PELL grant, and other possible income streams during college by reading my posts Beyond VA Education Benefits http://www.afterthedd214.com/beyond-va-education-benefits/ and the Pathways Programs http://www.afterthedd214.com/pathways-programs/)

          Let me know if you have more questions,

          Sarah

          Reply
  3. Kat Barajas

    Good afternoon. I just wanted to say thank you so much for this detailed comparison between the two. I am a spouse, and my husband I are currently taking the TGPS course. We are unsure of when we will be separating from the military, so we are trying to obtain as much information as we can. Your website has definitely been the most helpful. I’ll make sure to reference this page to other servicemembers.

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Kat,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave such positive feedback. And I am glad I could help make the transition to civilian life easier for you and your husband.

      Sarah

      Reply
  4. Myranda Basso

    My husband is currently serving in the Navy and qualifies for both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. We were wondering if there would be a way we could utilize both bills in order to put both of us through college?

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Myranda,

      If you are talking a full, four-year undergraduate program for each of you, then no, unfortunately. If, for example, you already have an AA degree or he can earn his AA using tuition assistance and won’t need all his Post-9/11, then he could transfer some of that to you in order for you both to be complete your degrees. However, if he decides to do that, then he has to give up him Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) in order to elect Post-9/11 and he will lose the MGIB benefit and he will also incur an additional service commitment.

      Since he is still on active duty, I would recommend he look into tuition assistance and for you to look into MyCAA and see if those programs can provide you with education benefits. If you have some time before he leaves active duty, I would also look into scholarships for veterans and military spouses, including those at whatever accredited college is closest to you at the moment, and CLEP testing – which would allow you or your husband to test out of certain classes. If you know which college you both want to attend, I would also have your husband apply for admission and ask them to evaluate his Joint Services Transcript, to see which of his military credits might transfer, which should also help you determine exactly how many credits he would need to complete his degree.

      I hope this helps give you some options. If you have more questions, or want to talk about the specific programs or schools you are considering, please send me a note from the contact page and we can always e-mail or talk and see if we can come up with some more ideas.

      Sarah

      Reply
  5. Steve Duffy

    Everyone retiring should be aware that they must designated Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to go to dependents no later than 4 years prior to your anticipated retirement date. Also, simply filling out the transfer online may not be sufficient – each service may require documentation (I am Navy, so it was a Page 13 entry) prior to the transfer or it will be rejected. In my case, I did not go back and check until two years prior to retirement, when I discovered that the Navy form had not been completed and my transfer had not occurred. I will still have the Montgomery GI bill benefit, but my kids could use the money more than me, so I am regretting this mistake as I will now have to get creative as to how I utilize and get what I can out of this benefit. Bottom line: read and heed all directives, follow up to ensure everything has been properly submitted and make paper and/or electronic (.pdf) copies of all documents. Thousands of dollars of your benefits are at stake!

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Steve,

      Thank you for your comment. You are correct for the most part – the 4 year rule does not apply to those who are not, by regulation, able to extend that long (for example, those have been passed over for promotion and cannot extend beyond their approved retirement date). For the most part, though, it is important for servicemembers to understand that the transfer of eligibility part of Post-9/11 is, generally speaking, a recruiting and retention tool. As with most education benefits connected to your military service, there is usually a carrot and a stick, and that stick is usually an additional service commitment.

      Additionally, as you mentioned, it is not enough to simply put in the application. This applies to all military and VA education benefits (or any other benefits, for that matter). Trust but verify and do the homework. There are individuals out there to help veterans but, ultimately, it is up to the veteran to take the initiative to learn what they qualify for and then make sure that they get that.

      I am interested that you say you still have the Montgomery GI Bill, and not the Post-9/11 – if the transfer didn’t go through, you should still have Post-9/11 for yourself. If that isn’t what you’ve been told, please let me know and I’d be happy to discuss that with you offline.

      Sarah

      Reply
  6. Letty Garcia

    Captain,

    Great job on the article, it is very helpful. I am a reservist but I was active for a two and a half. I am planning on going to school full time, I am debating weather I should use Chapter 1607 (I was deployed) or the Post 911. I live in Dallas, TX my ZIP code is 75211. Thank you in advance.

    Letty Garcia

    Reply
  7. damon

    Sara help! (side note- this is prob one of the best posts i have seen on the differences in benefits available to service members) better than the VA site, thats for sure….

    hopefully i don’t lose you-

    i qualify as you stated under #6 i served AD from 95-08 got out for 30 days came back in to the reserves on a 1 year contract and accepted an AGR position in 08 since 08 i have been on AD. Still am.

    Im trying to make the decision to apply for MGIB over the Post 9/11. mainly because I’m still AD and will be taking fully online classes. a few questions no one can seem to answer for me or get me to the right spot are as follows:
    1. as an AGR i am eligible for Reserve TA, i am assuming i can apply for TA and the MGIB together. is this correct?

    2. just to clarify- if i can’t use the Reserve TA and do not qualify for financial aid, taking the MGIB would ONLY give me the monthly payment correct? and then if i needed to i could apply for “top-up” to pay for tuition? in this specific case, it would give me less money monthly in my pocket as opposed to taking the election and going post 9-11?

    3. referes to your first point. No one seems to be able to tell me if i am eligible for the reserve Gibill since i haven’t fully executed a 6 year reserve contract. although i am on an “indef” now and AGR. The only reason i care is this is the benefit i would give up. How can i figure this out?

    hopefully this all makes sense. Thank you in advanced for any light you can shed on this situation.

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Damon,

      Well, that is some question! I will attempt to answer it all here. If I can’t, I will also e-mail you and we can continue the discussion offline.

      1) Actually, DoD policy prohibits servicemembers from receiving MGIB for the same classes for which they are receiving federal TA. You can apply one or the other to a specific class UNLESS you use top-up, in which case the VA would pay the difference above what TA covers. HOWEVER, AGR personnel are not authorized to use top-up. DoD’s rules, however, apply to FEDERAL TA – Guard members may be eligible for state TA – here in Florida it is called EDD (Education Dollars for Duty), which does not fall under the same rules. Contact your unit education officer to determine if state TA is available and, if so, if you are eligible for it.

      2) MGIB does pay the monthly stipend directly to you and you would have to pay your tuition and fees out of that money. Most likely, Post-9/11 would be a better financial choice, since it would cover the tuition and fees, up to the limit, as well as housing and a book stipend. However, if you were taking classes online, for example, MGIB might be the better choice – hard to say for sure without looking at how you plan to take your classes, how many of them you plan to take in a semester, the housing allowance for your area, etc.

      Also, I suggest filling out the FAFSA, even if you think you won’t qualify for financial aid, since it is often required in order to qualify for school-based aid, need grants, or scholarships.

      3) To qualify for MGIB-SR, also called Chapter 1606, generally requires “a 6-year obligation” and to be in good standing with your unit. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about how AGR works to know if you’ve met that requirement. My recommendation would be to either contact your unit education officer, since they are usually responsible for providing this type of information to VA for verification of eligibility, (I would also ask them about your eligibility for REAP/Ch 1607) or simply go onto ebenefits and apply for it and see what VA says.

      While you are in there, I would also apply for MGIB (but NOT Post-9/11). It won’t hurt anything to apply for both and VA will then evaluate your records and tell you if you qualify for one or both benefits, at which point you can then decide which, if any, benefit you would like to give up in order to receive Post-9/11. One thing you can do on your own is to talk to finance to determine if you paid the $1200 required to qualify for MGIB. (Unlike the other benefits, which are based largely on service and character of discharge, MGIB requires that servicemembers pay this amount, generally taken out in $100 increments over your first 12 months of service, in order to earn MGIB benefits.)

      I hope this has clarified some of your questions, or at least given you a place to start to find answers. If there is anything else I can answer for you, please let me know.

      Sarah

      Reply
  8. Jason Parks

    Hello,

    I had a question regarding #6 in your list. I was just recently medically retired and have been using my MGIB for the past several months. I made the decision not to switch to the post 9/11 until I had a firm grasp on both the benefits.

    I’m just trying to understand #6 a little more clearly. I served for 10 years, so if I am understanding you correctly, I can keep my MGIB, exhaust every day of it, and still obtain 12 months of the post 9/11 at the 60% rate? I just wanted to ask that question directly.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Jason,

      The short answer is: yes. You can use all 36 months of your MGIB and then switch to Post-9/11 for another 12 months, as long as you have enough service for both (I’d have to look at your DD-214 to be able to tell you for sure, but it sounds like you do have enough service). However, it wouldn’t necessarily be 60% of Post-9/11 that you qualify for. That would depend on how many months of service you have. If you were in for 10 years and if all of it was post-9/11 time, you may even qualify for 12 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill at 100%.

      If you were medically retired, I also suggest you look into voc rehab. If you get approved for voc rehab, you could get up to 48 months of that (minus however many months you have used of MGIB) and, if you qualify for Post-9/11, you could get the Post-9/11 housing allowance rate during that time. If you are interested in pursuing that route, check out my post on Vocational Rehabilitation and be sure to talk to your voc rehab specialist about how the MGIB impacts your housing and don’t apply for (VA calls it “electing”) Post-9/11 until after you get approved for voc rehab.

      I know that’s a lot so, if you’re still confused, pop me an e-mail and we can always talk it over further.

      Sarah

      Reply
  9. Chris Reicherts

    Good information on your article with Post 9/11 GI Bill vs Montgomery GI Bill. Heres my question, can i use my Montgomery GI bill, then shortly after use my full 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Chris,

      Unfortunately, no. You can use a max of 48 months total of veterans education benefits. If you want to use Montgomery GI Bill and Post-9/11, and those are the only two options you have (meaning, you aren’t in the Guard or Reserves or you don’t qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation), then you either have to use ALL, every last day, of your Montgomery GI Bill and then you can receive another 12 months of Post-9/11. Or, you give up Montgomery GI Bill and elect 36 months of Post-9/11 and then you are out of benefits. If you choose to use both and you switch over to Post-9/11 before you have used every last day of Montgomery, you will ONLY received as many days of Post-9/11 as you had left of Montgomery – so this part is very important. If this is confusing or if you aren’t sure if you are eligible for other benefits, please e-mail me and I’ll be happy to explain more.

      Sarah

      Reply
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