The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a powerful benefit, make the most of it!
There are a lot of ins and outs and rules and nuances that come with the Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill, but it is a tremendous benefit if you take full advantage. We won’t get through every detail here, but these tips can help you be smarter with the benefits you’ve earned!
- Use your “other 12 months” first.
- Pay now, save later.
- Get your Obligation End Date clock started ASAP!
- Give every dependent at least 1 month.
- Keep good files.
Use Your “Other 12 Months” First.
Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill (CH33) is an earned benefit, that you must apply for through the VA (apply here). Your service has likely also entitled you to another GI Bill benefit either at no cost (Chapter 1606 for Guard and Reserve) or for $1,200 (Chapter 30 MGIB for Active Duty and AGRS).
Each Chapter has 36 months of benefits, and you can use a combination of different chapters throughout your career. The caveat is that you can only use a total of 48 months of total benefits. You must make an irrevocable decision to relinquish your current GI Bill when switching to CH33, so you can’t go back. This allows you to use 12 months of your initial GI Bill without reducing your CH33 benefits, and you don’t leave money on the table.
Pay Now, Save Later.
The amount of active-duty service you’ve accrued will determine the % tier of benefits you are eligible for under CH33. It starts with 90 days for the 50% tier all the way to 100% for 3 years of service. This % is applied to the tuition, monthly housing allowance (MHA), book stipend, and rural relocation portion.
The important concept here is it is a percentage, not a fixed dollar amount. This percentage is applied against two costs that are subject to high inflationary pressures. The average cost of college has an annual growth rate of 6.8% according to educationdata.org, and housing prices rose a whopping 18.2 % from January 2021 to January 2022 according to Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index.
Simply put, having the VA pay the bill for 100% of tuition and MHA costs in 2032 or 2042 will be a significantly larger benefit than letting them pay 100% of those costs in 2022. This is an important consideration if you also plan to use some benefits in the future or transfer them to young dependents. It may be worth it to cover the current costs of your tuition and housing needs through scholarships, Federal TA, State benefits, or paying out of pocket.our
Get Your Obligation End Date Clock Started ASAP
One of the greatest features of the CH33 is the ability to transfer your unused benefits to your eligible dependents. You may have never gone to college or used your GI Bill but now you can still take advantage of the benefits you’ve earned. If you are already looking into helping a spouse or child fund their education, you should contact your service (ROM for the Air National Guard) and start the transfer process. You can initiate this after 6 years of service (although minor dependents can’t use the benefit until you hit the 10-year mark). You’ll need to prove eligibility for CH33 and sign a Statement of Understanding.
This Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) is a retention tool and comes with conditions, chiefly agreeing to remain in the service for another 4 years. This 4-year obligation is a one-time requirement, so I recommend you get it out of the way early, perhaps as soon as you hit 6 years and have a qualifying dependent in DEERS. You don’t lose any of your benefits until your dependents use them, so you can always revoke the transfer later if you change your mind. If you later choose to add other dependents it doesn’t reset the clock, you will have already satisfied the requirement.
When I married my wife in 2013, I initiated the transfer of my remaining benefits to her right after she received her spouse ID, even though she and I had no plans to use them ourselves. This started my clock on the 4-year obligation. By the time we had our twins in 2016, I had already satisfied 3 years of that obligation. Once they were enrolled in DEERS, I was able to take back some unused benefits from my wife and give them each a portion and my obligation remained unchanged.
Don’t wait to transfer while you decide! You can always pull back any unused months of benefit if you change your mind later. If dependents use transferred benefits and you do not end up completing the 4-year OED, the VA will recoup the entire amount, but there is no penalty if transferred benefits have not been used.
Give Every Dependent At Least 1 Month.
I had used a total of 35 months of benefits through a combination of Chapter 1606 and 1607, so I only had 11 months of benefits remaining when I converted to CH33 (to hit the 48-month cap). Initially, I transferred those 11 months to my wife to start the obligation clock, but I only took back 10 when my daughters were born, giving them 5 months each. I left 1 month with my wife just so I had the option to give her additional months after I leave the service.
We are 99% sure we plan on our girls using the benefits (around the years 2034–2037), but a lot can change between now and then. One or both may get full scholarships, decide not to go to college, or join the military and earn their benefits. If each dependent has at least 1 month of entitlement transferred to them, you can always reallocate the unused benefit amongst them. Whatever benefits one daughter does not use will be transferred to the other or pulled back so my wife or may use it.
Keep Good Files.
I often ask service members if they’re eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill or have transferred it to their dependents – then I challenge them to prove it! The point is, that many members initiate the transfer in MilConnect but never follow through with the SOU to get the transfer approved. Other times they get the transfer approved by their service but do not officially establish their CH33 election with the VA.
I have my Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA, my transfer approval from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC/MilConnect), and a paper copy VA 22-1990E application all stored alongside my daughters’ 529 account information in our Family Financial Organizer. I could forget a lot between the time I transferred the benefit and they end up using it so I want that information and verification in a place that I won’t misplace.
If you think you may be eligible for the Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill and want to learn more about how to strategize using your benefits, schedule an appointment with me here because We Can Plan For That!