By Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado — One of the many great benefits of being an Armed Forces member is all the education opportunities, for example the GI Bills.
The difference between the bills is sometimes confusing. Which bill is better for “Top Up?” What about the housing allowance or transferring the benefits to family members? The monthly Post-9/11 GI Bill briefing at the Education Center explains in depth the benefits and differences between the two bills.
One of the main differences between the bills is the Post-9/11 is earned through time on active duty and the Montgomery is gained through paying $100 a month for a year. Both will give a member 36 months of benefits and requires the member to have an honorable discharge (general under honorable does not meet this requirement).
A member has 10 years after separation to use the Montgomery GI Bill and 15 years for the Post-9/11. A member has the choice of either choosing to activate one of them or combining them. Additionally, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the only one a member can transfer to their family members. To do so, they must have six years in the military and agree to an additional four years of service.
The Montgomery GI Bill gives you a monthly payment to cover tuition, parking, books, supplies and everything else needed for class. However, at the end of the month there normally isn’t anything left to save, said Melvin Castile, Education Center counselor.
“You’re never going to see a GI Bill like the Post-9/11 again,” said Castile. “With the Post-9/11 GI Bill you get a separate housing stipend at the E-5 with dependents (basic housing allowance) rate, if eligible, $1,000 for books and supplies, as well as the tuition.”
Both bills can be used for “Top Up” while the member is in the military, but it will eat into the 36 months of benefits. Top Up is when a member taps into one of the bills to pay for the difference in tuition if the member’s institution charges more than tuition assistance allows ($250 per semester hour).
However, there are other implications for using Top Up that can impact the member’s ability to use a GI Bill later on — especially for officers. GI Bills always provide better benefits when the member is off active duty, so members should always consider using tuition assistance while serving, said Castile.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill briefing explains the basics of both bills, but the Education Center also holds a course called the Transition GPS Accessing Higher Education track. This course goes further in depth on selecting an appropriate institute, grants, scholarships, navigating admissions and more. The course dates for the rest of the year are: June 17-18, July 22-23, Aug. 19-20, Sept. 23-24, Oct. 21-22, Nov. 18-19, and Dec. 9-10. The class runs from 8 a.m.-4p.m each day.
For more information or to sign up for the course, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 556-7392 or 556-6437.