The GI Bill of Rights History and How It Works Today

Benefits offered while in uniform.
Benefits offered while in uniform. | Source

The GI Bill of Rights is the common name for the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act that was first introduced in 1944. The Act allowed many World War II veterans to buy homes at low interest rates with no money down. They could earn some money while they were looking for work or attend college because of the education benefits. The specifics of the Bills have changed over the years but since 1944, there has always been a GI bill in place.

The first Act was replaced by the Veteran’s Adjustment Act of 1952, which ended in 1965. By that time, an estimated 2.4 million veterans had used their benefits. Almost all of them used their benefits for some educational purpose. About half earned a college degree. An estimated 318.000 used their benefits for occupational training.

The Veteran’s Adjustment Benefits Act of 1966 changed things. In previous years, only veterans returning from a war were eligible. Beginning in 1966, all service men and women during times of war or times of peace were eligible for educational and/or economic benefits, but there were critics of the program because the monthly amount received for education was barely enough to cover tuition and books. There was nothing left over for living expenses. To correct the issue, the monthly stipend was increased 6 times over the course of the following 10 years. 6.8 million Vietnam-era veterans had made use of their benefits to further their education by 1976.

VEAP and Montgomery GI Bill Differences

  • The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) went into effect in December 1976. Unlike previous programs, this one required veterans to contribute to their education and the Veteran’s Administration would make a matching contribution. Benefits could be used for up to 36 months.
  • The Montgomery GI bill replaced VEAP in 1985 and was somewhat similar in that service personnel contributed to their education fund through a monthly deduction from their pay for the first year of service. Those who signed up for the voluntary program received a tuition allowance and a monthly stipend for training and education.

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How Active Duty Personnel Benefit from the GI Bill

Active duty personnel were able to use their benefits for reimbursement of tuition and fees under the Montgomery GI Bill up until 2008. After being discharged or released from active duty, veterans were given up to 10 years to use their benefits. For those who reenter service or return to active duty for 90 days or more, an extension can be granted.

Extensions are also granted for those who choose to serve four years in the Selected Reserve, also known as the “call to service”. Because of these extensions and the way the program works, there are still some active duty personnel who have yet to use the benefits they earned under the Montgomery GI Bill.

You can contact the Veteran’s Administration to learn what benefits you qualify for if you are still on active duty and also about what you will qualify for after you are released from active duty. Most of this information is published online at the VA website. Another expansion of benefits occurred in 2008 that applies to any veteran serving since September 11, 2001. This expansion is commonly referred to as the Post-9/11 G. I. Bill.

Qualifying For the Post 911 GI Bill after Serving in the Armed Forces

The first qualification for the 911 GI Bill is to serve in the armed forces or to have served in the armed forces at some time after 2001. Changes approved in 2010, sometimes called GI bill 2.0, allow members of the National Guard to also qualify for benefits.

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Another qualification is a discharge other than a dishonorable discharge. Anyone receiving a dishonorable discharge does not qualify.

If you have served in the armed forces or the National Guard at any time within the last 13 years, you probably qualify for educational assistance, which may include a housing stipend and can also be used for completing online classes.

The VA is not your only source of information, although the benefits are administered through the VA. Most schools are familiar with the GI benefits, how they work and who qualifies. Financial aid offices are a source of information and, of course, there is lots of information online.

Statistics have shown that a surprising number of veterans fail to use their benefits. If you have any interest in furthering your education, take the time to find out about your GI Bill of Rights. In some cases, full tuition at any public college or university is covered.

Comments 1 comment

VEAP-era vet 16 months ago

Because the military did not automatically enroll all enlistees into VEAP, there are thousands of us who served and were honorably discharged that never received any GI bill or tuition assistance at all. When are veterans' groups finally going to demand that Congress fix this? How many decades do we have to wait for what they gave freely to every other era?

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