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The post 9/11 GI Bill benefits can be challenging to understand, but that's one reason it's important to visit the Army Continuing Education System's education center for guidance.
The post 9/11 GI Bill are educational benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which are available to use once a service member meets the eligibility requirements.
Shannon Gardner, supervisory education services specialist, said once someone is eligible, a total of 36 months of benefits will be awarded to help cover educational costs.
Benefits include paid tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance that is equal to an E-5 with dependents rate and up to a yearly $1,000 stipend for books and supplies, education services specialist Hillary Bailey, said.
"Full tuition and fees are paid directly to the school for all public school in-state students," she said. "For those attending private or foreign schools, tuition and fees are capped at the national maximum rate."
For service members using the post 9/11 GI Bill while serving on active duty, the extra housing allowance benefit isn't paid, Bailey said. That benefit kicks in once they exit the military.
Though the post 9/11 GI Bill can be used during an individual's military career, Gardner said, it isn't recommended.
"We advise Soldiers to (use) their tuition assistance while on active duty (because it) is a renewable financial resource," she said. "The post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are limited to how many months a Soldier has available."
Gardner said once a service member gets out of the service, the clock starts.
"Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits expire for Soldiers 15 years from the day they get out of the service," she said.
Bailey said there is an option for these benefits to be transferred to dependents if eligibility requirements are met.
"The key to that transferability is ensuring the (spouse and children) are listed in the DEERS system," she said. "In order for benefits to be transferred, a (service member) must have six years in the (military) when applying to make the transfer," she said. "At the point of transfer, they then (would) have to have at least four years left in the service (for a total of 10 years on active duty)."
Gardner said when it comes to the spouse and children, use of the transferred benefits can differ.
For example, she said, the spouse can start using the post 9/11 GI Bill before the last four years of their service member's time is up, whereas the child would have to wait until the full 10 years is complete and meet the age requirements.
Bailey said the issuance of the housing allowance is the same for spouses as service members who use the post 9/11 GI Bill while on active duty. However, for the child, a housing allowance is issued regardless of the service member's active duty status. When transferring the benefits, she said, the total of 36 months can be split up and dispersed however is deemed fit.
Service members can apply for the post 9/11 GI Bill online by filling out VA Form 22-1990, Bailey said. If deemed eligible, a certificate of eligibility is issued and presented to the school they want to attend.
For more information on the post 9/11 GI Bill, call 706-545-7397 or visit the education center located in Soldiers Plaza or visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp.