The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act was first introduced following World War II, and later became known informally as the GI Bill. This is the main vehicle for veterans to access funding for education. The legislation was designed to offer assistance to veterans in all aspects of civilian life, promoting education and job training as a key component of this transition. While each iteration of the GI Bill is been unique in the specific eligibility criteria and benefits, the program has always functioned as an entitlement, offering full benefits to all qualified veterans who opt to utilize the program.
Lawmakers enacted the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008 to establish education benefits for veterans who served at least 90 days after September 10, 2001. Veterans with remaining education benefits under other veterans bills may opt instead to receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the remainder of their entitlement. Recipients receive a percentage of the maximum benefits based on the amount of time served on active duty, with those who served at least 36 months (or 30 days with a discharge for service-related disability) receiving 100 percent of the benefits. Other veterans may receive 40, 80, or 90 percent, depending on the length of time served.The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship) provides 36 months of benefits at the 100% rate for children and surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in the line of duty.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill covers the full cost of tuition at public schools, or up to $21,084 per year at private institutions. In addition, stipends that cover the costs of books and a cost of living allowance are provided. Recent legislation has amended the bill in order to prevent states from charging veterans out-of-state tuition rates, a beneficial move for a population that typically is highly mobile, and may not have established residency at the time they enroll in school.
Older veterans who served on active duty after June 1985 or met other criteria, but who did not serve after September 11, 2001 or did not elect the Post 9/11 GI Bill, are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty. Unlike the Post 9/11 GI Bill, MGIB-AD required service members to pay into the program in order to later receive benefits. A monthly payment of $100 would be automatically deducted from servicemembers pay for their first 12 months of service unless they elected to opt out of participating in the program. This was thought to encourage buy-in among participants while still offering a useful tool for retention and recruitment.
Montgomery GI Bill education benefits are intended to cover tuition, fees, and other costs. As of October 2014, the maximum benefit is $1,717 per month for full-time students. Individuals who are enrolled less than full-time or who are ineligible for the maximum receive a reduced percentage of the full benefits. MGIB-AD benefits must be paid out within ten years of release from active duty. For full-time students at the full rate, 36 months worth of benefits is available while part-time students receive a lower benefit rate for a longer period of time. Some recipients are also eligible to receive death benefits if the servicemember dies on or within one year of active duty. Similarly, supplemental assistance is available to service members who agree to extend their length of service or those with critical skills who agree to remain in select reserves at the time of leaving active duty.
The authorizing legislation for this program also included provisions to enable each branch of the armed forces to provide educational assistance to members of its Select Reserves, known as the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). Individuals who agree to a six-year service term are entitled to up to 36 months of up to $367 in tuition assistance.
The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) was passed in 2005 in response to the increased numbers of reservists serving active duty as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The program seeks to provide these reservists with benefits proportional to their time in active duty, even if they are not eligible for full benefits under MGIB-AD.
The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA) provides up to $1,080 per month in education benefits to the spouse or children of a servicemember who died or was disabled in a service-related incident or is listed as missing in action, captured, or forcibly detained. Recipients are eligible to receive benefits for up to 10 years from the date of death or notification of eligibility, and children must be ages 18-26 to receive the benefits.
Under the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), those who entered active duty between December 1976 and July 1985 and served two years or who meet other criteria are eligible to receive education benefits. Under VEAP, service members contribute to a fund and receive three times their original contribution.