If you recently served and left the military you are entitled to education benefits under two methods: the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Post-9/11 Bill provides education and housing assistance for specific situations as long as you had 90 days of aggregate service (or 30 days if you were discharged for a service-related disability) and received an honorable discharge. The Montgomery GI Bill has been around longer and offers slightly different benefits.
Hopefully you already knew about the GI Bill and have considered using it to go back to college. The Post-9/11 Bill is quite generous: paying for full tuition and fees for in-state students at public schools. Even students going to private schools may receive higher tuition reimbursement. Plus you get a stipend for books and supplies and a housing allowance.
But what if college isn’t in your plans? What if you would rather build on some of the skills you picked up in the military and take your life down a career trade path?
Thankfully the GI Bill offers you the ability to get licenses and certifications through the program as well. You don’t have to just go to a four-year university now.
How to Use the GI Bill to Get Licenses and Certifications
Take time to research all of your options. Making the wrong choice can cost you a ton of money in benefits lost.
Decide Which GI Bill You Want to Use
First, you must decide which GI Bill you are going to use. This is a critical choice that cannot be changed so spend a lot of time researching your options and which direction you want to go. If you elect for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and change your mind, you won’t be able to switch to the Montgomery GI Bill.
Montgomery GI Bill Licensing and Certification Benefit
For certifications and licensing the Montgomery GI Bill may be a better choice. The bill pays for both accredited training courses and the actual certification test costs. Another perk: you can get reimbursed even if you do not pass the test and need to re-test as long as you have enough benefit remaining. You can be reimbursed up to $2,000 per certification test up to the cost of the test.
Post-9/11 GI Bill Licensing and Certification Benefit
The key difference with the Post-9/11 GI Bill is accredited training costs are no longer covered. Your test is also only covered if you pass the test. Essentially the Montgomery bill will pay for you to go to training classes in preparation for the test and even reimburse the cost of the test if you fail. The Post-9/11 bill requires better performance and for you to take training on yourself. You don’t get reimbursed if you don’t pass the test. Like the Montgomery GI Bill, this bill will reimburse up to $2,000 per certification test up to the cost of the test.
Avoid Scams and Work Only with VA-Approved Companies
A sad fact in our country is that there is a lot of money to be unethically made my ripping off veterans. You might think it would be difficult to put yourself into a financial bind since the government is paying for everything, but you might end up signing papers that say if the government doesn’t pay then you will.
Avoid all that mess by only working with firms and certifications approved by the Veterans Administration. The VA has a search engine to help you find if your target certification is on the list to be reimbursed. You can also use our GI Bill search wizard to help you find a qualified program.
Use Your Benefits Before They Expire
You are allowed to use your benefits for 15 years after your release from active duty. If you don’t need to use them right now, don’t. But it doesn’t hurt to use them at some point in the future to better your career situation and skill set.