Veterans and spouses/dependents: Have you thought about taking advantage of your GI Benefits to pay for your education at an institute of higher learning? If so, get acquainted and familiarize yourself with this important web site:
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the entity that determines for what benefits you are eligible.
On the left hand side of the GI Bill Home Page is a link for “Education Benefits”. There is an application online, VONAPP (Veterans Online APPlication) that you must fill out in order to have your eligibility confirmed. Once you have applied, you will receive written notice from the VA of your benefits entitlement.
You may qualify for more than one benefit, but you may only use one benefit at a time.
The amount of time that is covered by your education benefits refers to actual school time, not calendar time. (For example, if you are notified that you have you can receive 36 months of education benefits, that does NOT mean 3 calendar years — it means 36 school months. If you go to school for a semester – approximately 4 months – in one year, you will have used up 4 months of your education benefits, not 1 year.)
You may begin your enrollment process at the school of your choice at the same time you are applying for GI education benefits. Be sure, however, that your school is listed as one accepted by the VA. You can find that listing also on the web site above.
Once you receive your entitlement letter from the VA, contact the VA certifying official at the school to which you are applying. The VA certifying official needs to know your class schedule, the length of weeks, dates, and the credit hours. This information is submitted directly to the VA by the certifying official. This process is what prompts your education benefit payments, so be certain you do not omit this step (or you may be wondering why you aren’t receiving payments.) The VA will pay only for those classes that are directly related to your course of study. (Most schools allow you a certain time to attend classes as “undecided.”) Consequently, once you begin your classes, you must keep the VA certifying official informed as to whether you drop, fail, withdraw, or change classes, so (s)he can keep your information with the VA current and accurate. This keeps your benefit payments accurate and current as well.
The “new” GI Bill (Chapter 33), effective August 2009, may provide you with more coverage than is currently offered through the existing GI Bill benefits, but not always. Be sure to check out the GI Bill web site (www.gibill.va.gov) for updates on this important benefit. Remember: if you opt for Chapter 33, you cannot change your mind and go back to coverage under any other GI Bill.
Lastly, there is a Question and Answer link on the GI Bill web site that is extremely helpful. Be sure to familiarize yourself with this service, as many of your questions and concerns can be put to rest through this Q & A link.
Good luck, and thank you for your service!