Can You Get a Montgomery GI Bill Refund?

I signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) when I enlisted in the military. Like many military members and veterans, I haven’t had the chance to use all of my MGIB benefits yet. Part of the reason is because the military has a generous Tuition Assistance (TA) program. I completed a year of college before I enlisted and I used Tuition Assistance to complete my bachelor’s degree while I was on active duty. The only time I touched my GI Bill was to get a top up when I started a Master’s Program (TA only covers up to a certain dollar limit per semester hour and the Master’s classes exceeded that limit). So it was GI Bill to the rescue!

What happens if you don’t use your GI Bill Benefits?

Unfortunately, the Montgomery GI Bill is pretty much a use it or lose it benefit. In most cases you will lose your Montgomery GI Bill Benefits if you don’t use them within 10 years of separating from the military. The Post-9/11 GI Bill expires 15 years after you separate – just one of many reasons why you should make the switch if you are eligible!

If you aren’t eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and your 10 year time limit has already passed, then you may be out of luck. I’m coming up on 4 years since I separated from the USAF, so I have to start making plans if I want to use my GI Bill benefits.

Can You Get a Refund on Your Montgomery GI Bill?

We receive several common questions about GI Bill benefits – primarily about losing GI Bill benefits, transferring GI Bill benefits, and getting a refund for GI Bill benefits if the benefits are not used. In most cases, the answer is no, you cannot get a refund for your GI Bill.

The Montgomery GI Bill usually works like this: You have one chance to buy in to the MGIB when you join the military service. If you opt in, you pay $1,200. Then you can use your MGIB benefits while on active duty or with 10 years from the time you separate from the military (there are some exceptions to the time limits, particularly if you rejoin the service or are recalled to active duty; this will restart your clock). You typically lose any portion of your MGIB that you do not use within the 10 year time limit, and there are usually no refunds.

MGIB Refunds Available for Post 9/11 GI Bill users

There is an exception to the no refund policy for the Montgomery GI Bill. You can get a refund of your $1,200 buy-in if you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you elect to use those benefits instead of the Montgomery GI Bill you bought into, and you use the entire Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

From the GI Bill FAQ Page:

Q: Do I get a refund of the $1,200.00 buy-in for the Montgomery GI Bill?

A: Any individual who paid the $1,200.00 buy-in for the Montgomery GI Bill and elects to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill may be refunded a proportional amount if, and after all entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is used. Individuals who do not use all their entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill will not receive a refund of contributions paid under the Montgomery GI Bill.

How does the Montgomery GI Bill Refund work?

Based on my understanding, you have to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, elect to give up your MGIB benefits and switch to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, use all your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and request a refund.

Of course, there is some fine print: You will receive the MGIB refund with your final BAH payment, which means you must be attending an in-residence program (veterans attending college via online eduction are not currently eligible to receive BAH benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill program). If you are primarily taking online courses, then I recommend taking at least one class at a local university, even if it doesn’t specifically apply to your program – you can still declare another major. The only purpose of taking that class is to get he $1,200 refund.

The MGIB refund is also prorated based on the amount of Montgomery GI Bill eligibility you have remaining. For example, if you didn’t use any of your Montgomery GI Bill benefits, you should receive the entire $1,200 refund. If you used 1/3 of your MGIB benefits, you may only receive $800 back, etc. However, I am not 100% certain on the formula used, and the VA rep I spoke with on the phone mentioned he would have to run the query on a case by case basis. Please contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for more information specific to your situation.

This is a great benefit for veterans who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Just keep in mind the requirements: you must use 100% of your Post-9/11 GI Bill to be eligible, you must be receiving BAH during your final month of GI Bill eligibility, and you will receive a prorated refund if you used any portion of your MGIB benefits.

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Date published: September 10, 2010.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Jones says

    I’ve been attending online college full-time for about 3 months so will I receive back payment once Oct 1st arrives? I’ve been told no today but yes for the last 3 months by VA. The laws are not clear at all.

  2. Craig Colvin says

    I had to switch to from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GIB before I could transfer it to my son. I put $1200 into the MGIB initially, then another $600 for more coverage almost 20 years later. Will I get a refund of the $1800 I put into the MGIB if my son uses all of the Post 9/11 GIB ? He is attending an in-residence program.

    • says

      Craig, The GI Bill refunds are limited to the unused portion of the $1,200 contribution. The VA has stated they do not offer refunds on the $600 kicker when the MGIB is transferred to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

      I have not been able to find any information on receiving GI Bill refunds when transferring benefits to family members, so the best I can do is refer you to the VA for that specific question.

  3. Daniel Molina says

    Hello! I have almost completed my 4 year enlistment in the army. I payed the 1200 dollars into the Montgomery gi bill. However, I had already planned to opt for the post 911 gi bill. Since I am already paid into the former, am I entitled to dual coverage or at least partial mgib along with my full post 911?

    Thank you very much in advanced

    • says

      Daniel, You can’t use both benefits in conjunction. You can only use one of the other. However, there are ways you can maximize your benefits. If you exhaust all of your Montgomery GI Bill, then you can go back and apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional year of benefits. If you want to start with the Post 9-11 GI Bil, then you can get a refund for hte unused portion of your MGIB once you use all your Post 9-11 benefits.

  4. Trevor says

    I’ve been told since bootcamp that after we pay the $1200.00, we can somehow collect that money back and still keep our MGIB. Now is this true? Im in the USN and been in for a year.

    • says

      From my understanding, the only way to get a refund on the MGIB is to use your entire Post-9/11 GI Bill, and you will receive a refund for the MGIB. If you have used a portion of your MGIB, you can receive a pro-rated refund if you use your entire Post-9/11 GI Bill. I don’t know of any way to keep the MGIB benefits and receive the refund.

      It is possible that someone had a misunderstanding of the benefits, and they may have meant that you can still maintain GI Bill benefits and receive a refund of the $1,200, which is true, provided you use the entire Post-9/11 benefit. Hope this helps.

  5. James Gilligan says

    I have PTSD so bad I don’t think I can ever complete school. Having said can I get a refund for my unused portion aprox 34 mo of post 9/11 please feel free to contact my cell 660-353-9635

    • says

      James, I am sorry to hear about your struggles with PTSD. The only way I am aware of to get a refund for your MGIB is to use all of your Post-9/11 GI Bill. Then the unused portion of your MGIB will be refunded to you. I am unaware of any refunds for to being unable to attend school. You may wish to contact the VA for more information on your options. Best of luck, and thanks for your service.

  6. Santiago Gonzalez says

    My G.I. Bill is about to expire but Im still in school. Will I still recieve the monthly payment or will it stop. I’ve been told it continues as long as you are in school.

  7. Darrell says

    If i have pell grant for school which pays for the majority of my classes. Will i still get my money from my Montgomery G.I bill

    • says

      From my understanding, the GI Bill does not affect Pell Grant eligibility. Federal financial aid eligibility is determined by the FAFSA, which doesn’t not count the GI Bill and other VA education benefits. Some states or schools may have different policies, so I encourage you to contact your financial aid department for specific information.

  8. Nicole says

    I was using the Post 9/11 Gi bill to attend online school but switched 29 Septmeber to an Oncampus school to get full BAH. For some reason, the VA paid me directly for my tuition instead of my school like they are suppose to in the 9/11 information. Additionally, on my paper they say I qualify for the mgib/mgib-sr kicker which I know I do not because I already been using the Gibill for 8 month. I do not understand and the Va has not been answering the phone for the past 2 days.

  9. Jonathan says

    I just contacted my representative with the following:

    “I am an honorably discharged veteran with nine years of service in the United States Navy. When I first enlisted, I signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill. I faithfully paid my $1,200 into the program. I got out of the service in April of 2000, so I am past the ten year date when my benefits expired, and due to circumstances, I was only able to use a little of the benefit. I have some questions: why is there a benefit expiration date? If the money is there for ten years (fifteen if it was a post 9/11 GI Bill), why does the money magically disappear after that date? I know that MGIB payments can be refunded on a pro-rated basis, but this refund apparently isn’t available after the expiration of benefits. This means that the vast majority of my $1200 is forever lost to me with no explanation as to where my money has gone. This is the same for many veterans who paid in but didn’t use the benefit, either in full or in part, for whatever reason (including those in the military who signed up for the GI Bill program and died in the service of our country). If we veterans can’t use the benefits after the ten year mark, why can’t we get a pro-rated refund for the money we paid in to the program?”

    Just curious as to what he will say (or do about it).

  10. Andrew Rollins says

    I have used a small portion of my GI Bill and its been 12 years since my honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. 12 years means my the GI Bill has expired. I am eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Can I use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to utilize the unused portion of my Initial GI Bill balance?

    • says

      Andrew, Yes, you should be able to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you are eligible. Have you already transferred your benefits over to the Post-9/11 GI Bill? I believe this had to be done before the MGIB expired. If you have not done so already, contact the VA immediately to find out if you are still eligible to transfer your benefits and get this process started. You don’t want to miss out!

  11. Ernest Marshall says

    I’ve been out of the Army since 1991 and have the GB Bill. I have not used it and forgot about it. Can I get all or some of it back?

  12. Greg says

    I recently exhauseted my post 9/11 gi bill benefits and came across this article. I am still in school so any extra money helps. I payed the 1200 into mgib, am I eligible to receive it back now that I used up the 36 months of post 9/11.

    • says

      Greg, You should be eligible to receive a refund proportional to the amount of the MGIB you didn’t use. You should receive the MGIB refund with your final BAH payment. If you didn’t receive it, you will need to contact the VA to find out if there were any issues.

  13. says

    Question for you Ryan. I am 2 semesters away from completing my bachelors. I only have 5 months left on my Post 9/11 GI Bill. So I will exhaust it about 1 month into my last semester. At that point, I understand that I will need to contact my Regional VA office to get the paperwork for the refund of the $1200 that I paid into the MGIB. I have not used any of the MGIB and only used the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Is there a way to somehow apply for the kicker or gain more benefits through another GI Bill? I’d like to start my Masters as soon as possible, but not sure if I can get any benefits for it. Does completing a FAFSA and gaining a Pell Grant help with a graduate degree or only a bachelors? I plan on working for a VA hospital when done with my bachelors. Do you know if they offer any sort of tuition assistance for a masters degree? Lots of questions..sorry.

    • says

      Great questions, David. I believe the GI Bill refund will be automatically included with your last BAH payment. If that doesn’t happen, then you should contact the VA about the refund. It’s too late to add a GI Bill kicker or otherwise use the Montgomery GI Bill. Once you transfer your benefits to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you have given up the ability to use the MGIB (this was the right move to make, as the Post-9/11 GI Bill is much more valuable).

      As far as paying for a Master’s Degree, I suggest visiting your tuition assistance office on campus. They should be able to help you better understand your options for paying for your Master’s Degree. Pell Grants are usually only for undergraduate degrees, but you can and should fill out the FAFSA, as many organizations use the information on the FAFSA for determining financial awards, student loans, and other financial aid. You should also look into scholarships and veterans education benefits through your state – some states offer additional education benefits to veterans once their GI Bill benefits have run out.

      Finally, look into student loan repayment programs through the federal government. Some federal jobs will allow you to defer student loan repayments or will even cancel out some loans. You will need to research this fully before taking on any debt, while keeping in mind that programs can change. (in other words, don’t take on debt thinking you have an easy way out; only take out the debt if you can otherwise repay it in the long run, and even then, only take out the minimum you need).

      This article may also be helpful for you: How to Pay for School When You Run out of GI Bill Benefits.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  14. Eliora says

    I wanted to know if I use only a portion of my GI Bill for school would I still have the ability to switch over the Bill to my child or because I used that portion the rest of the Bill will be null in void (not open to be used again from the remainder that I haven’t used)?

    • says

      Eliora, The only way to get a refund on your Montgomery GI Bill is if you are eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill and use all of those benefits. You would then receive a refund for the portion of the MGIB that you didn’t use. Here is more information on GI Bill refunds.

      The only GI Bill benefits that can be transferred are the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and those can only be transferred to immediate dependents if you are still in the military and agree to extend your current commitment (it is used as a retention tool). Here is more information on transferring GI Bill benefits.

      Other than these circumstances, you cannot receive a refund for your MGIB or transfer your benefits to family members. I hope this answers your question.

  15. Ashlie says

    I started my montgomery g.i. bill toward the end of my 10 year mark, and they cut off my payments at exactly 10 years. Is there any way to get the rest of my school paid for? Only 5k was used out of the GI Bill and now I have had to take out 15k in loans to pay for the rest. I was in a continuous HVAC program and completed it start to finish.

    • says

      Ashlie, Thanks for contacting me. I wrote an article about how to pay for school after you run out of GI Bill benefits. If you have already taken out loans and finished school, then you would need to look into loan repayment programs. There are some through the Federal Government if you agree to work for them for a certain amount of time, and there may be other programs out there. But it’s much easier to get scholarships and grants and other programs while you are still taking classes. I hope this helps. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  16. Denise Conrad says

    I am a spouse and my husband transferred his Post 9-11 GI BIll to myself and my daughter. He gave me 24 months so I can get an Associate degree. I’ve been reading that there are only 36 months left of benefits. Does this mean that my daughter will only get 12 month or is it per person? Also my associates will only cost around 10k and I know his GI Bill is around 50K. Will we just lose that if it’s not used?

    • says

      Denise, Thank you for contacting me. It’s awesome that your husband was able to transfer his GI Bill to you. This is something that can’t be one with the Montgomery GI Bill, which is the previous version of the GI Bill.

      The Post-9/11 GI Bill is good for a total of 36 months. You can split that among you and your daughter as you see fit. So if you use 24 months, there would be 12 months left.

      The value of the GI Bill is based on how much the school you attend costs, and for how long you attend, up to 36 months. So it can be worth around $50,000 if you attend an expensive school. Or it could be worth around $10,000 if you attend a less expensive school. There is no flat dollar amount, and no way to pull any income out of the GI Bill if you don’t use the benefit. It would also be incorrect to say you “lose” any of the benefit. You just wouldn’t be using it to its maximum potential.

      I hope this answers your questions, and I wish you the best of luck in your studies!

  17. Doug Spurgin says

    My son was “sold” on the idea during boot camp that he should sign up for the $100 per month withholding so he would be eligible for the Montgomery GI bill. It seemed like a no-brainer due to the representation that the $1,200 was refundable. Since he already has completed two years of college it looks doubtful if he will exhaust the post 9/11 GI bill benefits should he choose to finish his degree. Since he is only a few months in do you know if he can stop the MGIB withholding? He knows he will not be refunded the prior months but at least it would limit the damage.

  18. Derrick says

    I went into the Army in 1988 we were basically forced to get the GI Bill back then I don’t think it should be a time limit on using it. We were not told of the 10 year use it or loose it ,it would have been nice to know that. I got out in 1991 on a medical of 30% ,I would love to get my money back as well as others .

  19. Harold says

    I am a U/I designated disabled veteran. What do I do with my Montgomery GI Bill since I can not use it and my children are too young to use it before my 10 year window closes

    • says

      Harold, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t know if there is anything you can do with it. One cannot transfer the MGIB, regardless of your children’s age. Only the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be transferred, and only then if you reenlist or otherwise sign up for a longer term. I am not aware of any programs that would allow you to use this or otherwise receive a refund. You can contact the VA to verify.

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