Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits While Using the GI Bill?

Can you attend school on the GI Bill and still receive unemployment benefits? This is a common question many people ask when they are planning on using the GI Bill to pay for their college education. Whether you are still in the planning stages of your retirement or separation from active duty, or you are…
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Can you attend school on the GI Bill and still receive unemployment benefits? This is a common question many people ask when they are planning on using the GI Bill to pay for their college education. Whether you are still in the planning stages of your retirement or separation from active duty, or you are taking the opportunity to go back to school after entering the workforce and subsequent unemployment, using the GI Bill can be a great way to improve your long-term employment prospects and earning potential.

However, being able to collect unemployment benefits while using the GI Bill is not always a straightforward situation.

Each state has its own unemployment benefits policy, which can complicate the situation. So you need to be aware of how unemployment benefits work in your state to ensure you remain eligible to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits While Using the GI Bill?

Let’s take a look at a recent question we received, and how this might apply to this specific situation. Keep in mind that unemployment benefit rules vary by state, so you should contact your state employment bureau for information specific to your situation.

Question: I am a US Marine and have some questions about the unemployment benefits. My EAS date is on December 16th this year. I am planning to go back to school after the military. I will try to pursue my bachelor in 3 years. In this case, I intend not to work so I can just focus on school. Will I be able to receive the unemployment benefit if I do this? I’m talking about 3 years of unemployment benefits, while attending school. Hope you will be able to answer this. thank you.

Answer: Leo, thanks for your service, and best of luck pursuing your education. It is a great benefit to be able to claim unemployment benefits after military separation. I recommend that everyone file for unemployment benefits immediately after they separate from military service.

But there is something that you should know about unemployment benefits – they aren’t a free ride. Unemployment exists to help people bridge the gap between jobs. In most cases, states require people receiving unemployment benefits to be actively seeking employment in order to receive benefits. The other thing to consider is how long you will be receiving unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are designed to help people make it through a short period of unemployment. They aren’t designed to support people for three years.

What does this mean for you? Unemployment benefits are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, but individual states are responsible for setting rules and requirements.

When I claimed unemployment benefits from Texas after I separated from the military I had to keep track of my job search efforts. Each week I had to call the Texas Workforce Commission to receive my unemployment check and I had to verify (via an automated phone system) that I was actively seeking employment. It’s been several years since I did this, but I believe I had to state how many job applications I sent in, how many interviews I had, etc.

Keep in mind that rules and systems change and can vary from state to state.

Unemployment Benefits Are Limited in Duration

In addition, there are time limits for how long one can claim unemployment benefits. Most states offer around 12-26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, there have previously been federal extensions which may allow you to extend the receipt of unemployment benefits.

Some states with exceptionally high unemployment rates may have additional extensions. So you may be eligible to receive close to a year of unemployment benefits, depending on your specific situation. Again, this may vary by state and possibly on other circumstances, so be sure to contact your state employment agency for information specific to your situation.

You May Be Able to Receive Unemployment Benefits and Go to School

That doesn’t mean you can’t go to school – far from it. But you need to be able to prove to your state that you still qualify for the unemployment benefits while you are attending school. For some states that may mean you need to show that you are seeking work. There is one more consideration – some states do not allow students to receive unemployment benefits. If you are in a state which does not allow students to receive unemployment benefits, you may not be able to receive unemployment benefits while receiving GI Bill benefits.

So the best way to answer your question is to say you may be able to receive unemployment benefits while using the GI Bill, but you probably won’t be able to claim 3 years of unemployment benefits while you are going to school.

Finally, you can only receive unemployment benefits while using the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). You cannot use the Post-9/11 GI Bill and receive unemployment benefits (this was changed by law in 2016 to reflect the fact that the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers the full cost of tuition along with providing a housing stipend).

However, the good news is that the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits should pay for the majority of your tuition, and some of your housing costs as well, hopefully making it more affordable to go to school.

New GI Bill Program for Unemployed Veterans

The recently passed VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 created a new program that would provide GI Bill for Unemployed Veterans, even if they had exhausted their GI Bill benefits, or if their GI Bill benefits had already expired.

This program will provide up to 12 months of benefits for eligible veterans at the full-time active duty MGIB rate. This program is only open to unemployed veterans age 35-60. Eligible training includes VA Approved training and courses at a community college or tech school. The courses must lead toward an Associate’s Degree, approved certification, or non-college degree in a high demand occupation. Some examples of approved programs include trucking, information technology, some medical fields, and more.

Best of luck with your degree and thanks for your service!

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Ann Smith says

    VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 created a new program that would provide GI Bill for Unemployed Veterans, even if they had exhausted their GI Bill benefits, or if their GI Bill benefits had already expired.

    This program will provide up to 12 months of benefits for eligible veterans at the full-time active duty MGIB rate.

    • Ann Smith says

      I don’t think this is what the VOW act is. The VOW act is just a pass for those retiring in 120 days to have the DD form 214 waived to get a gov job. Please correct me because I would LOVE for your answer to be true!

    • Elizabeth Messer says

      In Texas you can use your GI Bill as well as receive unemployment. Not all states do this but Texas does for sure. You have to ensure you tell them you are in school and they will even waive the work search requirements.

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