It’s that time of year again—a new semester, new registration for classes, and a new eligibility form for GI Bill payments from the VA. College is a time for new beginnings for many returning veterans. Although it’s also a time for uncertainties and change, there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about—your hard-earned education benefits. As IAVA’s resident guru on the subject, my job is to make sure you have all the support you need to execute on the mission ahead. That means making sense of your benefits, helping you understand the options, and providing you the tools necessary to succeed.
With a new semester, there is a lot of confusion and many questions about GI Bill payments. Regardless of whether you are a new or returning student, it is important to note that there are several reasons for smaller-than-expected payments, especially at the beginning of a term.
First, all benefits are prorated for a student’s rate of pursuit or number of classes relative to what is considered full-time for that institution. So part-time students will have their living allowance prorated based on how many classes they are taking. For example, for a student who is taking 7 credits at a school that considers 12 credits full time, that student will receive 60% of the normal living allowance rate. In order to receive any percentage of the allowance, students must be enrolled at least 1 credit hour above half time, and must not currently be on active duty orders. See what percentage of benefits you should receive by visiting our FAQs.
Exclusively online students (or distance learners) also qualify for a lower living allowance (approximately $714/month). However, a student only needs to take one class in residence (in an actual classroom) to qualify for the benefit. Furthermore, if you have served less than three years on active duty since September 10, 2001, you will only qualify for a percentage of the living allowance benefits under thePost-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). Each of these factors come into play for each veteran and can change semester to semester. Check out our eligibility requirements for more information.
Lastly, the most common reason a check may be less than what you expect, is that payments are prorated based on the number of days in the month for which you are enrolled.
So, for example, let’s say your full time rate is $800.00, but your term starts on January 19th and continues through May 14th. Payment for the month of January would include the 19th to the end of the month. (All months are based on 30 days, so months with more or less than 30 days would not affect the rate). Thus your payment for the month of January would be approximately $320.00. Payments for February, March, and April would be $800.00 each month and payment for May would be approximately $373.36 (prorated from the 1st to the 14th).
Once your school receives the Certificate of Eligibility (COE)—verifying your eligibility for the benefits, they must enter your information for class enrollment and submit it to the VA for processing. Generally, because the VA is overwhelmed during these times, it could take up to 6-weeks to process a new enrollment, which is why it is important to submit your applications as soon as you know you will be going back to school (paperwork is processed in order by the date received). Once that Certificate is in your school’s hands, and they have your enrollment information, you will generally receive payment from the VA within two weeks. Most importantly, for the beneficiary’s sake, payments are made for the prior month’s training and are paid at the end of each month.
*A few great resources to consider:
- SVA’s map to keep up with the fight for in-state residency in your area
- US News’ Top 25 Universities for Service Members
- Scholarship America’s Scholarship Coach
- New Student Veterans of America Scholarships:
- TheSVA-NBC Universal Scholarship will award two (2) $12,000 scholarships to veterans pursuing degrees in film, television, media, or communications.Deadline isMarch 14, 2014.
- TheDisney-SVA Scholarship will award three (3) scholarships at $10,000 each to student veterans pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Deadline isApril 01, 2014.
Ryan Weemer is a USMC Iraq war veteran and the Education Program Associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).