Educational Benefits for Veterans

The federal government offers veterans education benefits for serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Those who complete a minimum amount of service are eligible for everything from grants to training to fully funded education. In addition, it also offers numerous federal scholarships, grants and other programs designed to help fund higher learning. These benefits can make college and vocational training accessible to individuals who might otherwise not be able to afford it.

Some veterans may qualify for multiple different federal or veterans education benefits at once. Individuals can examine the available benefits to determine which program is best suited to their needs and goals. The following sections describe different vet education programs as well as federal education programs available through the government.

GI Bill

The GI Bill (officially known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) is a federal law that provides veterans education benefits. Veterans can get tuition and living expenses covered for high school, college or vocational school. The bill has been modified and expanded numerous times to cover larger groups of veterans or provide additional benefits. Today, it includes multiple chapters covering veterans who served through different periods. For example, Chapter 32 centers around the Veterans Educational Assistance Program, which is only available for service members who began active duty between January 1977 and June 1985.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, significantly expanded the benefits available as well as who qualifies for them. It funds tuition for a four-year degree from a public college up to 100 percent, depending on how long an individual served. It can also cover up to 100 percent of tuition expenses for some private colleges.

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States can have different time limits for receiving benefits, or limits what a beneficiary can receive in a year. Make sure you know these limits and try to obtain other assistance to help with household expenses.
States can have different time limits for receiving benefits, or limits what a beneficiary can receive in a year. Make sure you know these limits and try to obtain other assistance to help with household expenses.

Veterans education benefits also apply to vocational school or technical school. However, programs must be approved by the VA to qualify for benefits. To qualify, individuals should have at least 90 days of active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001 or have been discharged after 30 days with a service-related disability. Additionally, Purple Heart recipients are automatically qualified. Certain Reserve members who participated in the now-defunct Reserve Educational Assistance Program also qualify for benefits.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill also includes a monthly living stipend which can vary based on location, as well as additional stipends for books and other educational expenses. Veterans also have the option to transfer benefits to their spouses or dependents if they have served at least 10 years.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers veterans education benefits, as well as career training and vocational assistance with the Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment program. From helping veterans to develop employable skills to assisting with resume writing and job searching, the veterans vocational rehabilitation program is designed to encourage re-integration for those who are returning from service. This can include post-secondary education at a university or vocational school, as well as apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Individuals who qualify receive one-on-one assistance and a customized plan to help them develop their career path. However, the veterans vocational rehabilitation program is limited to veterans:

  • With a 10 percent disability rating and a serious employment handicap.
  • With a 20 percent disability rating and an employment handicap.

Veterans interested in seeking education have the option of obtaining federal student loans. The Department of Education offers the following kinds of loans to students:

  • Direct subsidized loans.
  • Direct unsubsidized loans.
  • Direct PLUS loans.
  • Direct consolidation loans.

Federal student loans tend to have a lower interest rate than private loans. Additionally, you do not have to begin paying back the loan until you graduate from college or attend less than half time. Afterward, you have some flexibility in paying back the loan. For instance, you can suspend payments during periods of financial hardship. Additionally, under specific circumstances, you may eventually be eligible for loan forgiveness. However, individuals should carefully review the details of any federal student loan before requesting one.

Some individuals attending college may qualify for the federal Work-Study program. This program offers students enrolled in college a job that they can use to supplement their expenses. These positions can give students an opportunity to gain practical career experience. Positions are typically on campus, but they may also be off campus with a public agency or a non-profit organization. Additionally, Work-Study positions are often related to an individual’s area of study. Students qualify based on financial need and availability. Hours are restricted based on a student’s class schedule.

Scholarships and Grants

Students may qualify for federal government scholarships and grants based on a variety of factors. Some scholarships are aimed at military families or low-income individuals. For example, the College Assistance Migrant Program offers scholarships to students from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds. The Federal Pell Grant program is available to low-income undergraduate students whose families have a total income of up to $50,000. Other scholarships are merit based, aimed at students who show great promise in school. Scholarships may be offered by individual departments, such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Veterans looking for federal government scholarships and grants should look into individual departments and programs to determine what they are eligible for.

Along with the federal government scholarships, individuals can also find private scholarships offered by individual institutions or organizations. Some scholarships may be community based, while others may be directed at students of a particular demographic or those interested in a particular field of study. Veterans who want assistance paying for college should consider all their avenues for scholarships and grant funding.

State Educational Benefits

Along with federal programs and private scholarships, numerous states offer veterans education benefits. For example, Florida waives out-of-state tuition fees for veterans who live in the state and attend a Florida post-secondary tuition. Veterans do not have to establish residency in the state in order to qualify for in-state tuition. They just have to live in Florida. Additionally, Florida will waive all undergraduate tuition costs for veterans who received the Purple Heart. Other states have similar scholarships and grants for veterans in place. These benefits may be used in conjunction with, or in place of, federal scholarships and grants.

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