The GI Bill has been through many iterations. It was originally active from 1944 to 1956. Then, in 1986, the Montgomery GI Bill was signed with the same intentions as the original bill: to provide educational and financial aid to service members. In 2008, the GI Bill was updated to reflect changes that came about due to the events of September 11, 2001. Both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill are still used today.


A note on GI Bill programs: Service members and veterans can receive up to 48 months of benefits by combining the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty and the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves (provided they qualify for both). If a service member elects to use benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they must revoke the right to use benefits from the Montgomery GI Bill. Service members with months of benefits remaining after using the Montgomery GI Bill can switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, once this switch occurs, service members cannot switch back to the Montgomery GI Bill.

Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty

This branch of the GI Bill provides educational benefits to service members who served at least two years on active duty. While on duty, service members wanting to eventually use Montgomery GI Bill funds for education must elect to have their military pay reduced by $100 monthly for 12 months to qualify for these educational benefits at a later date. For an additional $600 contribution while on active duty, service members can receive up to $5,400 in additional educational funds.

  • Award amount: The Montgomery GI Bill provides up to 36 months of benefits, which are available for 10 years following a veteran’s final release from a period of active duty. Service members can receive up to $1,857 monthly for full-time enrollment at postsecondary schools (as of October 1, 2016). Awards differ depending on the type of education the service member has elected to pursue and his or her enrollment level. Additionally, benefit amounts will change depending on the time spent in service; those with an enlistment of more than three years are eligible for more money than those with an enlistment period shorter than three years.
  • Eligibility: Veterans wanting to receive Montgomery GI Bill financial aid must have separated from the military under honorable circumstances. Both veterans and active duty service members must have a high school diploma or the equivalent or 12 hours of college credits. Veterans must also have enrolled and paid into the Montgomery GI Bill when they began serving on active duty.
  • Application process: Eligible applicants may apply for educational benefits online or by mail.
  • Applicability: These benefits can apply toward degree and certificate programs, correspondence courses, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, preparatory classes needed for admission to college programs, private tutoring, flight training, and overseas study abroad programs.

Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves

This branch of the GI Bill offers educational benefits to members of Reserve and National Guard units who are not serving in active duty positions. Each Reserve unit makes decisions about an applicant’s eligibility, but the financial award comes from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Like the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, service members must pay $100 monthly for 12 months to be able to use these benefits later on.

  • Award amount: The Montgomery GI Bill provides up to 36 months of benefits. Service members can receive up to $369 monthly for full-time enrollment at a postsecondary school. These benefits last for up to 14 years while you are in the Selected Reserves and end when you leave the Reserve. However, if you become disabled, your unit becomes inactive, or you separate involuntarily, you can still be eligible for benefits for 14 years following the separation.
  • Eligibility: Applicants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additionally, applicants must agree to serve six years with their Selected Reserve units (officers must agree to add six years to the time that they’ve already incurred), maintain in good standing in their units, and complete all required training.
  • Application process: Eligible applicants will need to fill out the Notice of Basic Eligibility with their units and then apply for educational benefits with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. This can be done online or by mail.
  • Applicability: These benefits can apply toward degree and certificate programs, correspondence courses, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, preparatory classes needed for admission to college programs, private tutoring, flight training, and overseas study abroad programs.

Post 9/11 GI Bill

This branch of the GI Bill provides benefits to active duty and reserve service members and veterans, and also allows them to transfer benefits to spouses and children. It is a recent update to the older Montgomery GI Bill, and thus the two cannot be used simultaneously.

  • Award amount: The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides up to 36 months of benefits available for 15 years following a veteran’s final release from a period of active duty (the final period of active duty must have lasted at least three consecutive months). The granted award amount will be a percentage of the maximum award based on the service member’s time serving on active duty in the military.
    • Maximum benefits cover all tuition and fees for an in-state public school student or up to $22,805.34 each year for a private school student, as well as a monthly housing allowance, a textbook and supplies stipend, and a one-time payment of $500 if an individual is relocating from a highly rural area to receive education.
    • The bill will reimburse up to $13,031.61 each year for vocational flight schools, up to $11,076.86 annually for correspondence schools, and up to $2,000 for each licensing and certification test taken.
    • The award amounts listed above are effective August 1, 2017 through July 31, 2018. Awards granted through July 31, 2016 are slightly less ($21,970.46 each year for private school students, $12,554.54 for vocational flight schools, $10,671.35 for correspondence schools, and up to $2,000 for licensing and certification tests).
  • Eligibility: Service members must have served at least 90 days on active duty following September 10, 2001 or have served at least 30 consecutive days after September 10, 2001 and been honorably discharged from active duty for a service-related disability.
  • Application process: Veterans, active duty service members, members of the Reserve, dependents of veterans disabled or killed in service-related scenarios, and approved transferees may apply for educational benefits online, in person at the local VA, or by mail.
  • Applicability: These benefits can apply toward degree and certificate programs, correspondence courses, online courses, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, preparatory classes needed for admission to college programs, licensing and certification courses and tests, private tutoring, flight training, and vocational or technical training.
  • Transfer of benefits: The Department of Defense may allow qualified service members (enlisted and officers on active duty and in the Selected Reserves) to transfer unused benefits to spouses and dependent children, but this must be done while they are still in the military and may involve promising to serve for four more years. Learn more about eligibility here.
    • Spouses may begin to use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits immediately and can continue to use them for up to 15 years after the service member separates from active duty.
    • Children must wait to use the benefits until the service member has completed 10 years of service and until after they have turned 18. Benefits can only be used for postsecondary education and expire when the child reaches his or her 26th birthday.

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a subset of the Post 9/11 GI Bill that provides extra money for education without further decreasing the amount a soldier has available as a GI Bill entitlement. The catch is that educational institutions must elect to take part in the program and they can determine how many students can participate and how much money can be received each year. The Post 9/11 GI Bill will cover all tuition and fees for an in-state public school student or the national maximum allowed for attending a private school, but your education may cost more than what the Post 9/11 GI Bill will cover. Money from the Yellow Ribbon Program may cover these costs.

  • Award amount: The award amount depends on the school and the maximum amount of money that it will contribute to tuition and fees. The difference between what is covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the actual cost of attendance is also taken into account. The VA will match the amount provided by the school.
    • Room and board is not covered under either the Post 9/11 GI Bill or the Yellow Ribbon Program.
  • Eligibility: Only veterans who are fully qualified for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and dependents who have been authorized to use military educational benefits (through a transfer of benefits) can participate. This option is not available to active duty service members or their spouses. If an active duty service member is fully qualified for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, his or her children may be eligible to participate.
  • Application process: You must apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program at a participating school. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Applicability: The Yellow Ribbon Program is available only at select degree-granting institutions.

You can learn more about both the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills and the Yellow Ribbon Program here.

Page last updated: 04/2017