Continuing Education: Choosing Between the Post 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bills

When it comes to education, you have a choice between the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. At first glance, the 9/11 GI Bill seems an easy decision, but there are some circumstances in which picking the MGIB might actually be the wiser selection.

Both the 9/11 GI Bill and the MGIB have a maximum time of 36 months service time to receive benefits. The MGIB requires at least two years, while the 9/11 GI Bill only requires 90 days (30 days if you are disabled) to receive minimum benefits. The MGIB can be used for 10 years after you separate or retire, while the 9/11 GI Bill is eligible for 15 years.

Money is where the difference between the two really stands out. The MGIB requires a $100 a month contribution for a year, and if you decline this, your choice is irrevocable. The 9/11 GI Bill requires no contribution from you.

The 9/11 GI Bill pays tuition directly to the school, up to the cost of the most expensive public university in the state, as well as the cost of books for up to $1,000 a year, and a monthly housing stipend. The 9/11 GI Bill also has the Yellow Ribbon program, which covers the difference to attend some private universities and graduate programs costing more than the state tuition cap. The MGIB doesn’t pay a housing stipend or the cost of books, and it doesn't have the Yellow Ribbon program.

What the MGIB does is pay the money directly to you, as opposed to the university. That might seem a small matter at first, but if you attend a college that has free tuition for veterans, then with the 9/11 GI Bill, you would only receive the housing stipend and cost of books. Under the MGIB you would receive a set rate, regardless of tuition cost. Depending on what your housing allowance rate is, you might receive more money with the MGIB.

Another possible benefit of the MGIB is that if all 36 months are applied, and you served at least one day between August 1, 2009, and July 31, 2011, or if you have two different terms of service, then you can switch over to the 9/11 GI Bill for an additional 12 months. This can be beneficial if you want to pursue a graduate degree. Again, this only works if all 36 months are used; otherwise, all you’ll receive on the 9/11 GI Bill is whatever times was left from the 36 months.

With the 9/11 GI Bill you can also transfer benefits to a spouse or children, as long as you’ve fulfilled time in service requirements. It also pays a one-time payment if you live in counties with six person or less per square mile and relocate at least 500 miles or travel by air to attend an institution.

While most people choose the 9/11 GI Bill, you need to give your own individual needs a review to pick the right path. Sometimes the less-chosen path pays off.