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Continuing Education: Post-9/11 GI Bill provides invaluable opportunity for all Airmen

EDWARDS AIR FOCE BASE, Calif. -- For an Airman, serving in the world's greatest Air Force can be a rich and rewarding experience. There are a number of real-world benefits Airmen receive during and after their service, one of the most important benefits being the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Eligibility
To qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, servicemembers must have at least 90 days of active duty service after September 11, 2001. To qualify for the full benefit of the GI Bill, the servicemember must have served at least three years after September 11, 2001. If the servicemember has been discharged from the service due to a service-connected disability, and has served at least 30 continuous days on active duty, he or she will still receive 100 percent of the GI Bill's benefits. Unlike the Montgomery GI Bill, there is no $1,200 requirement; simply satisfying the service requirement ensures eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Servicemembers are still eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill even if they declined the Montgomery GI Bill.

Benefits
A servicemember is allowed 15 years to use the 36 months of education funds. The Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover educational expenses up to $17,500 a year at a private university. For public universities, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover the cost of tuition at the state cost; this means that all tuition is paid to the school including cost for fees. For most private universities, servicemembers must pay any tuition exceeding the $17,500 cap. In addition to tuition, servicemembers also receive book and supply stipends at $1,000 per year and a housing allowance at the E-5 with dependent rate, not while on active duty. Another benefit of the program is that the monetary benefits received from the Post-9/11 Bill are not reportable as income, and therefore are not taxable.

Transferring Benefits
There are a number of factors considered in determining whether servicemembers can transfer the Post-9/11 GI Bill to their dependents. For example, a servicemember must have at least six years of service in the Armed Forces and agree to incur an additional four-year service commitment in order to transfer. Dependents eligible for a transfer include spouses, children, and any combination of a spouse and child. Servicemembers may transfer any unused portion of their GI Bill or the entire 36 months available if they have not used them. To apply for transfer of benefits, servicemembers may apply online at their vMPF site under self serves actions link, under transfer education benefits. Once approved, family members may apply to use transferred benefits by enrolling in e-benefits at the VA's web site and then completing their enrollment through Chapter 33 request for education benefits online.

Recent Changes
There have been a number of recent major changes to the Post-911 GI Bill that took place with the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010. The Post-9/11 GI Bill now:
· Includes active service performed by National Guard Members;
· Caps the rate for tuition of private schools at $17,500;
· Allows reimbursement for more than one license or certification test (previously, only one was allowed);
· Allows reimbursement of fees paid to take national exams used for entrance into an institution of higher learning (SAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE, etc.);
· Covers flight programs at the rate of tuition or $10,000, whichever is less not to include private pilot license.

For a full list of the changes under this act, please visit the VA's website online at http://gibill.va.gov/.    

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers invaluable benefits to servicemembers and there is no reason that every servicemember should not take advantage of this extraordinary program. With the current state of the economy, competition for jobs has never been higher. Individuals need to take advantage of every opportunity available to them, not only for their military career, but with an eye to the future. Higher education is a surefire way to gain an advantage over your peers and with the access to free tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides, the military has provided its members with the opportunity. It is the member's job to seize it.

For more information please visit the VA's website: http://gibill.va.gov/ or the Air Force Legal Assistance website: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil/lass/lass.html or call the Edwards AFB Education Office at 661-277-2713.