Using your GI Bill benefits involves starting a process that begins with your school choices first. Not all colleges, Universities, training schools, or other institutions accept the GI Bill®, though a great many do.
The first step toward using your GI Bill benefits is to apply for them through the VA online (https://www.vets.gov/education/apply/), in person at a regional VA office (find yours at https://www.vets.gov/facilities), or with a VA certifying official at the school of your choice.
But does your chosen school accept the GI Bill? Is it allowed to accept GI Bill funds based on accreditation or other requirements?
Contact the school’s admissions department and ask if the school accepts the GI Bill, and how to get in touch with the person who handles VA issues on the school’s behalf. For smaller colleges, this may be one person’s part-time responsibility, but larger campuses may have several staff members dedicated to helping veterans and currently serving military members.
It’s best to assume you’re dealing with a busy, one-person office that handles your paperwork. This means being well-prepared for your dealings with your campus VA certifying official. This person does not work for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but will interact with the VA on your behalf.
Required Documentation For Your GI Bill Benefits Application
When you start working with your VA certifying official, you will need some documentation that includes your Social Security number, the bank account and routing numbers where you wish your GI Bill housing allowance and other payments sent, have any relevant transcripts send to the school, plus any paperwork that shows your current status as a veteran, retiree, etc.
Veterans will be required to provide a copy of DD Form 214 discharge paperwork. Those still in uniform will likely need to provide a copy of current orders, a letter from their orderly room, First Sergeant, or supervisor indicating that the member is in good standing and still serving.
It’s best to have as much of the required documentation as possible for your first meeting with the certifying official. You may be able to submit scans or electronic versions of your required paperwork, depending on school standards, state law, current VA requirements, etc.
It can take a month or longer for the Department of Veterans Affairs to process GI Bill benefit applications, which is why it’s best to begin the process as soon as possible. GI Bill housing stipends and other payments are often received approximately 30 days after the first month the student’s GI Bill benefits begin.
Your school may receive tuition and fee payments sooner (or later) than this. It’s very important to check school policy on late payments and whether the student is required to take action to remove admin holds or account suspensions because of delayed GI Bill benefit payments. In general, the school will have experience with these issues, but you should never assume that corrections to your student account happen automatically.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News