During one of my last classes, I surprised my professor, Dr. Kimberly Scott, and my peers with the fact my GI bill benefits are quite substantial. I don’t recall the exact discussion but I had made some reference to what my GI bill benefits pay for and like always, I tend to forgot that not everyone is aware of what benefits are available as a result of serving this country. As such, I added a widget on the front page of the blog to show the history of my own GI bill benefit payments.
I served from July 2003 to July 2007, which entitled me to 36 months of the Chapter 30 Montgomery GI bill. As a student, I am paid that benefit (based on my enrollment) directly and then paid the institution of higher learning for my semester program expenses. I used this chapter of benefits at Palomar Community College, the University of Wyoming, and for a brief portion of this semester at Arizona State University. It was not until I moved to Wyoming that I found out I could also qualify for Pell Grants to use with my GI bill benefits. Originally, veteran students could not qualify use the Pell Grant in tandem with earned benefits.
Now, it is also important to share that my benefits were further supplemented by two things. In 2003, when I met with the local Marine Corps recruiter, I was also offered the Marine Corps College Fund as an enlistment incentive (and one contract rank to Private First Class). This additional benefit, which added $3,000 to my educational benefits, was a privilege extended to me because I was coming in with college credits. The second benefit bump I received was by paying into the Buy-Up program. Individuals must make that decision while they are still actively serving. A service member can contribute up to $600 for Buy Up and in return receive up to an additional $5,400 tacked on to their Chapter 30 benefits. This additional cost was on top of the $1,200 I paid for the Montgomery GI bill.
I also served during a time period where I was eligible for the Post-9/11 GI bill, which I did not have to pay into to receive. I had the opportunity to switch over to Post-/11 with my remaining months of Chapter 30. So, for example, if I used 3 months of my Chapter 30, I would have 33 months available to use under Post-911. My second option, as I actually did, involved continuing my Chapter 30 entitlement and after exhausting, receiving 12 months of the Post-9/11 GI bill. For me, the latter option made more sense. 48 months of combined benefits is a pretty nice reward for serving my country.
It’s important for everyone to know that there are multiple chapters of GI bill benefits based on one’s time in service:
-Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30-Active Duty)
-Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 1606-Selected Reserves)
-Reserve Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 1606)
-Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33)
-Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance (Chapter 35)
Some of these options also provide educational assistance to dependents of service members. The Post-9/11 GI bill is unique in its transferability to dependents. The 33 Fry Scholarship is available to children (and soon to surviving spouses) of service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. Chapter 35 provides education benefits to dependents of service members who were killed while on active duty, died as a result of a service connected condition, or who are 100% totally and permanently disabled.
My Post-9/11 GI bill is at the 100% level and is graduated for service members in increments of 40% to 100% based off of one’s service time. For me, that means I get tuition and fees covered 100% at the highest in-state rate, I receive a book stipend up to 24 credits an academic year (max amount is $1,000), and my BAH. For ASU, the rate is $1,461 for a full month of attendance when enrolled full time. Fully online students only receive 1/2 the national average, $755 currently. As well, one must have a rate of pursuit in a session of 51% of higher to receive the BAH. Note: active duty students (or spouses of active duty members) do not receive a BAH because they have one already provided by the Department of Defense. This reason is also why some service members will conserve their Post-9/11 GI bill until after they get out and will use federal tuition assistance to off-set the cost of their education while on active duty.
My sacrifices were worth the benefit I received in return. However, I would not advocate that someone join the military solely on the premise of receiving GI bill benefits. We are a voluntary fighting force and there’s always the chance you could die before utilizing your benefits. You must go in with an understanding of this very real risk and think critically about the benefits and consequences associated with military service. When I served outside of Ramadi in late 2004 to early 2005, I was at a base that was frequently hit with mortars. On February 2, 2005, one of my officers was a casualty of one such mortar. He left behind a wife and he never had the chance to bring children, if he desired them, into this world. He also did not fulfill his desire to continue his education.
In other ways, his service protects the freedom of others and leaves behind benefits for his wife.
I try to remember to enjoy my privilege because I fought for our country and I was fortunate to come home. It would be a shame to waste my entitlement and let the 15 year entitlement period exhaust without using a dime of that money. So, am I nervous to share what money I received? Yes. There will probably be some flack from the non-privileged, to include veterans who did not get out honorably so they are not entitled to these benefits. But I am happy to share with the world that I am working to make full use of a benefit I earned.