BAMBERG, Germany - The Post-9/11 GI Bill program began funding veterans' aspirations for higher education this semester.
Funds for this program took effect Aug. 1, but some veterans, servicemembers and soon-to-be veterans may not know the eligibility requirements, their entitlement rights or the application process.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is implemented through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department's Web site for the GI Bill, www.gibill.va.gov, has a step-by-step program to assist visitors with understanding their GI Bill benefits and the terms for its use.
Additionally, the Web site provides insight to the application process and a systematic approach a veteran should take to start using educational benefits.
The first thing a potential beneficiary should do is determine eligibility.
Beneficiaries who want to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill to further their education must meet certain criteria to take full advantage of the 100-percent entitlement.
Once eligibility and entitlement percentage has been determined, beneficiaries should consolidate important documents regarding their military service.
The Web site states the following documents are necessary:
- DD 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty for most recent period of active duty.
- Transcripts for all periods of education after high school.
- Kicker Contract (the Department of Defense may be able to provide this information if you cannot locate a copy of the contract.)
The next step is to select a school.
Schools need to have approved educational programs with the VA.
Beneficiaries should check this on the GI Bill Web site since some organizations are misleading.
A recent article by Jacqueline M. Hames titled "Army warns against education counseling scams" explained how some civilian organizations are taking advantage of uninformed veterans. These organizations use the Veterans Affairs logo and military images on their Web sites to induce veterans to pay for an expense that should be free.
Some of the approved educational programs have additional benefits. Choosing a school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program can provide added value to veterans if their tuition exceeds their entitlements. Veterans attending schools entered into this program my receive additional entitlements when tuition expenses exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate.
The maximum in-state tuition for a public school in the state where a veteran will attend college, along with the percentage entitlements level, sets the maximum payment that the VA can give a veteran through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The Web site provides a list for maximum tuition and fee entitlements for all 50 states, along with an overseas category for veterans who want to study abroad or attend a school in a U.S. territory.
Once beneficiaries have evaluated their choices and made a decision, the process of applying for benefits should begin.
Beneficiaries need to fill out a VA Form 22-1990 titled Application for VA Education Benefits.
According to the Web site, beneficiaries may also receive an application form at the school or training establishment they wish to attend. The VA certifying official at the school (usually located in the Registrar's or Financial Aid office) should have the forms available, can assist beneficiaries in filling them out, and will submit them to VA.
Applicants can send the VA Form 22-1990, along with required supporting documents, to be processed by doing one of the following:
School Selected - Mail the completed application to the VA Regional Processing Office for the region of that school's physical address. Tell the veterans' certifying official at the school or training establishment that you have applied for VA education benefits. Ask the official to send the enrollment information using VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, or its electronic version. Wait for the VA to process the application and notify of its decision concerning eligibility for education benefits.
School Not Selected - Mail the completed application to the VA Regional Processing Office for the region of your home address. Wait for VA to process the application and notify of its decision concerning eligibility for education benefits.
Contact a garrsion education office for more information.