As a veteran, taking advantage of educational benefits available to you is a great way to successfully transition back to civilian life and work toward your long-term goals. From college classes to on-the-job training, many educational opportunities await you and your family—as do a wide range of benefits to help fund those opportunities.
Here’s how to make the most of your benefits:
Do your homework. Learn all you can about the key Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs available under the GI Bill. Some of them include:
Forever GI Bill. Also called the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, the Forever GI Bill was passed in August 2017. It removes the 15-year time limit for veterans who were discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013 to use their educational benefits.
Veterans who attended schools that have been closed—or have received certain disapprovals—between Jan. 1, 2015 and August 2017 are eligible to have their benefits restored.
Qualifying veterans participating in STEM (science, technology, education and math) programs will receive up to nine additional months to finish school. They’re also eligible to apply for up to $30,000 in scholarships.
Veterans have more choices in where they learn, including education programs at accredited independent study programs, career and technical education schools and postsecondary vocational institutions.
Servicemembers who received the Purple Heart on or after Sept. 11, 2001 are entitled to full benefits, regardless of how long they have served.
Post-9/11 GI Bill. This program offers financial support for education and housing to those who served after Sept. 10, 2001. Unused benefits can be transferred to your spouse or children.
Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty. Veterans who contributed $1,200 to the program while on Active Duty can get funding for higher education and training. You may qualify for one of the four categories of eligibility, depending on when you enlisted and how long you served.
Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). If you enrolled and made VEAP contributions from your military pay before April 1, 1987, the government will match those amounts two-for-one. Benefits may be used for a college degree program, technical or vocational courses, apprenticeships and more.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E). This program helps veterans with a service-connected disability prepare for and find work. Va.gov has an online tool to help you research and compare approved education programs and estimate your benefit amounts.
Weigh options carefully. Selecting a benefit could make you ineligible for other benefits, so choose carefully. Learn more about how to explore and apply for benefits.
Check your eligibility. The type of education benefits you’re eligible for depend on various factors and criteria. Spouses and family members may also be eligible. Learn more about education programs available to you.
Follow the money. You can find a wealth of education funding beyond your GI Bill benefits.
You may qualify for other state, federal and private education scholarships. For example:
Starbucks® offers free college tuition to veteran employees, spouses and children at the online campus of Arizona State University®.
Troops to Teachers is a U.S. Department of Defense program that helps eligible veterans begin new careers as public school teachers.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) offers veteran scholarships of up to $5,000 per semester, along with guidance on receiving VA benefits. To help you find the funding you need, try military.com's Scholarship Finder.
Take time to plan. Your education benefits can be used for a range of options, from a full college degree to technical training, on-the-job apprenticeships and work-study programs, and even flight training.
Having so many possibilities can seem overwhelming, so think about your personal career goals and the types of learning environments you enjoy. Use these tools from the VA to choose a school and career that will help you accomplish your goals. If you need additional funds to cover college expenses, consider whether a student loan from Navy Federal is right for you.
An At-a-Glance Look at Key Veterans’ Education Benefits
|Forever GI Bill||Provides up to 36 months of education benefits||Veterans who have served at least 90 days of Active Duty since Jan. 1, 2013||Paid tuition, fees, books and housing. Tiered benefits based on length of Active Duty; transferrable to spouse or child.|
|Post-9/11 Bill||Provides up to 36 months of education benefits||Veterans who have served at least 90 days of Active Duty since Sept. 10, 2001. Paid tuition, fees, books and housing.||Benefits tiered based on length of Active Duty; also transferrable to spouse or child|
|Montgomery GI Bill||Provides up to 36 months of education benefits||There are four categories of veteran eligibility, depending on when enlisted and length of Active Duty||Up to $1,928 per month for full-time studies|
|Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)||Provides matching funds for contributions made through military pay during Active Duty||Veterans who became Active Duty between Jan. 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985 and started contributing before April 1, 1987||Contributions are matched at rate of $2 for every $1 paid to the fund (maximum contribution $2,700)|
|Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E)||Helps veterans with a service-connected disability prepare for and find work||Veterans with a service-connected disability||Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation; employment services; assistance finding and keeping a job; on-the-job training|
|Military.com Scholarships||Direct cash, tuition payments, vouchers or waivers||Each scholarship has its own set of eligibility criteria||Benefits range from $50 textbook vouchers to full tuition, room and board|
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