If you have a military background and want to further your education, you may be able to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which offers education assistance to help pay for college. You must have served after Sept. 10, 2001, to receive financial aid through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Types of aid available include flexible payment plans, reduced tuition rates, grants, student loans, and veteran college scholarshipsi.
This version of the GI Bill offers more benefits to service members, including:
- 36 months of full tuition and fees at public universities and colleges;
- Up to $25,162.14 for a private for foreign college or university;
- An allowance for books, supplies, housing and other related expenses.
- Benefits may be used for apprenticeship and non-degree programs (new in 2009);
- No dollar limit on tuition and fees if you choose a public institution;
- You can transfer benefits to your children or spouse if you served at least six years in the military;
- Students can use the benefits at any time.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, as of 2016, 82 percent of the spending under the Post-9/11 GI Bill was for veterans, while about 8 percent was for the spouses and children of veterans. Active-duty service members also used 10 percent of the funds available under the Bill. Also, in 2016, 96 percent of the money spent on college education for service members went to tuition, housing and fees.
If you are thinking of heading off to college and are an active-duty service member or a veteran, review the options you have for financial aid to attend a public or private college or university. You will need to show your discharge status, and, in some cases, the number of years you served. Before applying for any of these programs, be sure to get a copy of your DD-214.
Preparing for Additional Education
Now that you’ve decided to go back to school, before you throw the idea out the window because of the cost, plan through several factors as if you had enough money. You might choose a second career choice if the first one does prove to be too expensive (such as medical school or law school).
Once you choose your career path, look at several schools that offer your chosen degree program. You might choose a school based on reputation, location, or any other reason, as long as the school is accredited or offers a certificate program allowed under the GI Bills and available scholarships. Estimate the cost of both of your chosen programs at the school. Don’t forget to include:
- Room and board;
- Computers or additional equipment you might need for each semester;
- Fees; and
- Other costs for attending your chosen school.
Once you determine the approximate cost for your education, you can start working on putting together a financial aid package. Be sure to take advantage of the various bills, programs and scholarships that are made available to active-duty personnel, reservists and veterans.
Programs in Addition to the Post-9/11 GI Bill
In addition to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, several other bills and programs exist to help service members and veterans get tuition assistance.
The Montgomery GI Bill
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB, or Chapter 30), provides assistance for active service members and veterans. The federal government offers this flexible educational assistance program to help with expenses related to furthering your education. You can use the money for certificate and undergraduate programs, vocational and technical training, certification and licensing, and on-the-job training. The Montgomery Bill covers tuition and costs for up to three years, depending on your choice of school and degree path.
You must have a minimum of two years of active duty service to qualify for the Montgomery Bill. You must also have an honorable discharge, or a high school diploma or GED when you apply for the Montgomery Bill. Apply for the Montgomery by filling out VA Form 22-1990. You can apply at your school, the VA, or online.
The Forever GI Bill
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or the “Forever GI Bill,” makes it easier to receive and/or continue receiving GI Bill benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, among other benefits. It also allows other service members, veterans and/or reservists who otherwise may not have been eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to receive benefits under that bill. Military personnel who once found themselves ineligible for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill should review the updated Forever GI Bill as they may now qualify for benefits.
Reserve Duty to Active Duty for Medical Reasons
If you are ordered to active duty for authorized medical care, to complete a Department of Defense health care study, or so the military can medically evaluate you for disability, and that active-duty time was after Sept. 11, 2001, the time counts toward the eligibility requirements of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Veterans and other service members activated for these reasons could start using the eligibility time for education programs that began after Aug. 1, 2018.
Purple Heart Recipients and Scholarship Changes
If you were honorably discharged and received a Purple Heart on or after Sept. 11, 2001, you are entitled to apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for up to 36 months at the 100 percent level. This change took place as of Aug. 1, 2018.
If you received the Fry Scholarship or the Purple Heart, you are covered under the Yellow Ribbon Program. This change was effective on Aug. 1, 2018. Additionally, starting on Aug. 1, 2022, active-duty service members can use the Yellow Ribbon Program.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill uses “benefit levels” to determine how much financial aid you qualify for. The Forever GI Bill consolidates some of the benefit levels to make it easier for service members to get more aid. In short, the Forever GI Bill eliminates the 40-percent level. The 60-percent level covers more people. Additionally, if you have aggregate service of 90 days, but you have less than six months of active-duty service, you now qualify at the 50-percent level. The new levels take effect on Aug. 1, 2020.
Sunset Provision Losses and School Closing Losses
If you were eligible for educational assistance under the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) before Nov. 25, 2015, and you lost it because of the sunset provision, you can have that service credited to the Post 9/11 GI Bill program.
Additionally, if you lost education benefits because your school closed, the payments for educational assistance are not charged against an entitlement of educational assistance. Those payments are also not counted against the time period that you were allotted to receive the assistance. The Forever GI Bill also adjusts other factors regarding the closing of a school or having a required course disapproved.
Additional Features of the Forever GI Bill
The Forever GI Bill also makes changes in several other areas, including:
- The calculation of monthly housing benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill;
- Changes to some licensing and certification charges;
- Designation of a new dependent if the original dependent dies before he or she can use the benefit;
- Adding up to 9 additional months of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for those in science, engineering, technology and math programs;
- Removing the 15-year limitation for the use of benefits for the Post-9/11GI Bill program;
- Prorating the monthly housing stipend for reservists (started Aug. 1, 2018);
- Created the VET TEC program;
- Removing the Jun. 30, 2022 expiration date for certain work-study activities;
- Decreases eligibility for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance from 45 months to 36 months for those who enrolled in the program after Aug. 1, 2018, and increases the amount of educational assistance for certain institutional courses under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program.
- Adding the ability to use the GI Bill at tech schools and other non-institutions of higher learning for some career and technical education programs. This benefit went into effect on Aug. 16, 2017.
The National Call to Service Program
If you were in Americorps, the reserves or other programs approved by the Department of Defense, and you served as active-duty military (15 months at this writing), you could be eligible for the National Call to Service Program, which repayment of up to $18,000 on your student loans, a cash bonus of $5,000, a monthly allowance for a year, or a portion of funds available under the Montgomery Bill.
You must have completed your initial entry training and you must have chosen and served in a military occupational specialty (MOS) that was designated by the Secretary of Defense. You must also serve additional active-duty time in the Selected Reserve or another program authorized by the Department of Defense. Finally, you will have to serve one other period of “obligated service.”
Use VA Form 22-1990N to apply for this program. The Department of Defense administers the program. You can also use benefits from this program in addition to benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Apply at your school or at the VA.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
If you are going to an out-of-state institution or a private institution, you might qualify for The Yellow Ribbon Program. This program covers some expenses once you reach the maximum offered by the GI Bill. If you plan on using this program, be sure the college you choose offers this program, as not all do.
When a school does offer The Yellow Ribbon Program, it determines how much the student will receive. The Department of Veterans Affairs matches the amount and gives the money to the school. You must qualify for the maximum benefit under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to get the benefits from The Yellow Ribbon Program. Additionally, this program is not available to active-duty service members. Apply for this program using VA Form 22-1990.
Programs for Special Groups
Some programs are only available to reservists and survivors and dependents of service members.
The Reserve Educational Assistance Program
The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) provided benefits to those in the Air Force Reserve, Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, the Army National Guard, Air National Guard and the Coast Guard National Reserve until 2019. It was replaced by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarships
Scholarships for all ROTC branches (Army, Air Force, Navy and Navy ROTC Marine Option) are also available. The scholarships are based on merit instead of financial need.
- Army ROTC: 1-888-550-ARMY (1-888-550-2769) or visit the Army ROTC web page here.
- Air Force ROTC: 1-866-4-AFROTC (1-866-423-7682) or visit the Air Force ROTC web page here.
- Navy ROTC: 1-800-NAV-ROTC (1-800-628-7682) or visit the Navy ROTC web page here.
- Navy ROTC Marine Option Scholarship. 1-800-NAV-ROTC (1-800-628-7682) or visit the Navy ROTC web page here.
Survivors and Dependents
If you are a survivor or a dependent of a veteran, you might qualify for the Survivor Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program. The veteran must have died in the line of duty, was seriously injured, went missing, or was captured, hospitalized or detained. Some recipients of the educational assistance program might qualify for special restorative training, vocational training or other training.
You can use the money for costs that are related to:
- Vocational and technical programs;
- Certification and licensing fees;
- On-the-job training;
- Apprenticeships; and
- Tutorial assistance.
The Department of Veterans Affairs administers the program and provides funds directly to you for up to 45 months. You must be a spouse, son or daughter of a veteran who is permanently disabled, who died or who went missing on active duty. Spouses can apply for benefits up to 20 years after the incident and children must be between 18 and 26 years of age. To apply for this program, complete VA Form 22-5490.
Financial Aid Programs by Branch of Service
You can also apply for certain scholarships and other financial aid programs by your branch of serviceviii. Locate your branch below to see what is available for you.
Army ROTC Four-Year Scholarship
If you are between the ages of 17 and 26, you have a high school diploma or a GED, a GPA that is 2.5 or higher, and an SAT score of at least 1,000, you might be eligible to receive full tuition plus $5,000 cash per year under this scholarship.
Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship
If you are a female active-duty service member with a 3.0 GPA or higher, you can apply for up to $2,500 for college and universities. Your children may also apply fr this scholarship.
If you are active-duty and enrolled in an eligible program, you can apply for the AMVETS’ Scholarship, which pays $1,000 per year for up to four years of school. You MUST stay current on your student loans to qualify for and receive this scholarship.
The Military Officers Association of America Scholarship
This scholarship is for children of active-duty service members, veterans, reserves and those who were honorably discharged. The amount of the scholarship varies.
Imagine America Military Award Program
You can get up to $1,000 to attend a technical school or a vocational college if you are an active-duty service member transitioning to civilian life.
Army Loan Repayment Program
If you are an Army occupational specialist, you can apply to the Army Loan Repayment Program to help repay your loan. You must have a high school degree, serve at least three years, and decline the Montgomery GI Bill. The repayment program covers up to 33.3 percent of any of your outstanding principal loan balances. The benefit is available for three years.
College of the American Soldier
The American Council on Education supports the College of the American Soldier Programx. You can apply for the non-commissioned officer program or the enlisted education program. While the program is open to all MOSs, the programs prefer that you are a combat arms NCO.
Concurrent Admissions Program (ConAP)
If you are in the Army, Future Soldier Program, or the Army Reserve, you can apply for the Concurrent Admissions Programxi. You earn college credit for any courses you take while you are on active duty. You can transfer your credits after you finish your service. Over 1,900 schools participate in this program, so if you plan on using this program as part of your education, research schools before you apply to the program.
Air Force ROTC Scholarships
Students who are members of the Air Force ROTC program can apply for full or partial scholarships. However, applicants must complete a 24-day field training course, complete general military and professional officer courses, accept a commission as an Air Force officer, and serve for at least four years of active-duty time. The amount of the scholarship varies.
The George and Vicki Muellner Foundation Scholarship
Qualified candidates can receive up to $5,000 through the George and Vicki Muellner Foundation scholarship. The Air Force Association, Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings work in conjunction to award the scholarship.
If you are a top-performing USAF student planning on going for a baccalaureate degree after graduating from the Community College of the Air force, you can apply for up to $400 in aid with the Pitsenbarger Award.
You can attend Air University, which is headquartered at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Officers and enlisted members of the Air Force, and civilians, can attend degree programs and pre-commissioning services. The Community College of the Air Force is also housed at the Air University.
The Community College of the Air Force
Housed with the Air University, the Community College of the Air Force is partnered with over 108 Air Force schools and 1,500 civilian institutions. The Community College of the Air Force awards the Associate in Applied Science degree.
Scholarships for Outstanding Airman to ROTC
The Scholarships for Outstanding Airman to ROTC (SOAR) Program covers tuition of up to $15,000 per year, plus a monthly stipend of up to $400 and $510 per year for textbooks. The program is designed to help those with less than six years of service in the Air Force. A Wing Commander or equivalent must nominate you, plus you have to agree to go to school for at least two years (higher education).
The American Legion Auxiliary Non-Traditional Student Scholarship
If you are an American Legion member and you are returning to school, and you paid your dues for the past two years, you can apply for this scholarship, which gives you $2,000 toward furthering your education.
The Minority Serving Institution Scholarship Program
If you are a Navy option applicant who is attending a historically black university or college, a high Hispanic enrollment school or another institution that has high minority enrollment, you might qualify for the Minority Serving Institution Scholarship program. The MSI committee must nominate you for the scholarship, and your ACT or SAT scores must qualify. The amount available varies.
Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Scholarship
If you are pursuing an undergraduate degree, have at least a good-low score on your physical assessment, and a 2.0 GPA, you might qualify for the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship. The scholarship pays your full tuition plus a monthly stipend.
Health Professions Scholarship Program
If you are an active-duty member of the Navy and you are working on a degree in medicine, you can apply for the Health Professions Scholarship Program. Benefits include payment of your full tuition and a $2,200 per month stipend. Some may receive an additional $20,000 sign-on bonus.
United States Naval Academy
You can apply to the United States Naval Academy if you are a single United States citizen with no children and are between 17 and 23 years of age. You must agree to five years of active-duty service in the Navy once you graduate. Your tuition, room and board, and medical and dental care costs are all paid for when you attend the Naval Academy.
Navy College Fund
Students must be a high school graduate and must be between the ages of 17 and 35 to qualify for the Navy College Fundxv. Candidates for the Navy College Fund must also serve at least three years on active duty. The amount you get for school depends on when you entered active duty.
Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
You can qualify for up to $65,000 to repay student loans during your first three years of active duty under the Navy Student Loan Repayment Program.
Frederick C. Branch Scholarship
If you are an NROTC member going to a historically black college or university, a high school graduate, and at least 17 years old and plan on becoming a Marine officer, you can apply for the Frederick C. Branch scholarship. It pays your full tuition plus a stipend.
Pedro Del Valle Leadership Scholarship
If you are currently attending or plan on attending the California State University at San Marcos, the University of New Mexico or the San Diego State University (all Hispanic-serving institutions), you can apply for the Pedro Del Valle Leadership Scholarship. It pays full tuition and a monthly stipend.
NROTC Marine Option Scholarship
If you are an NROTC member and plan on attending Officer Candidates School, you can apply for the NROTC Marine Option Scholarship, which pays your full tuition.
Special Education Program
Select Marine Corps attending the Naval Postgraduate School in California, the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio, or a civilian school (must be accredited) may be eligible for the Special Education Program. You must be able to complete your degree in one calendar year. Benefits include full tuition and fees and travel, plus $100 every quarter for textbooks.
The Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship
If your parent is an active-duty Coast Guard member, or retired from the Coast Guard, or is a Coast Guard veteran (alive or deceased), you can apply for the Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship. It pays up to $5,000 toward your education.
The Captain Ernest W. Fox Perpetual Scholarship
If you are an active-duty Coast Guard member or a civil service employee at the CG Aviation Logistic Center, you can apply for the Captain Ernest W. Fox Perpetual Scholarship. Your dependents might also qualify. You can use the funds to attend a prep school, college, a postgraduate school or for professional and vocational education. Some formal or informal training programs are also allowed. The amount you get under this scholarship varies.
Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship
When you have expenses that are not covered by the GI Bill, and you are active-duty Coast Guard or you are a reserve member, you could qualify for the Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship. You can use the money for fees, books, child care and transportation.
Dedicated Army National Guard Scholarship
If you are in the Simultaneous Membership Program with the National Guard while you are in school, you can apply for the Dedicated Army National Guard scholarship. You must have a minimum 2.5 GPA, plus your ACT or SAT scores must qualify. You must also start a new military service obligation and agree to serve for eight years in the National Guard. The scholarship pays for full tuition, plus gives you a monthly allowance.
Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty Scholarship
If you are involved in the SMP with a National Guard unit, and you are in school, you can apply for the Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty Scholarship. You must be a United States citizen, have at least a 2.5 GPA, and your ACT and/or SAT scores must qualify. Furthermore, you must join the SMP of an ROTC unit on the campus of the school you choose. Once you graduate, you must start a new military service obligation and agree to serve eight years in the National Guard. The scholarship pays full tuition plus a monthly stipend.
NGAUS AFBA Active Life Member Scholarship
If you are an Active Life member of the National Guard, you or your dependents can apply for the NGAUS AFBA Active Life Member scholarship. You must submit your high school transcripts, your ACT/SAT scores, and an essay. The scholarship pays $5,000 toward your education.
Montgomery GI Bill for Special Reserves
If you are in the Army Reserve or the National Guard, you might qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill for Special Reserves. You have to agree to serve in the reserves for six years. The benefit is a monthly payment based on your credentials. The benefit is available to students for up to three years.
National Guard GI Bill Kicker
If you are an Army National Guard member who enlisted in a critical unit or specialty, you may qualify for the National Guard GI Bill Kicker program. The benefits of this program are paid in conjunction with the Montgomery GI Bill. You could receive payments of up to $350, depending on your enrollment status and how long you served. Benefits are available for up to three years.
National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
If you have at least one Title IV federal student loan and you agree to serve for at least six years in the National Guard, you could receive funds from the National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program to pay off your Title IV federal student loan. The most you can get under this program is $50,000.
Military Families Scholarships
Colonel Aaron Burstein Memorial Scholarship
If you are a service member, a member of the reserves, or a member of the National Guard, your dependents can apply for the Colonel Aaron Burstein Memorial scholarship. The amount varies and your dependent can use it toward a two- or four-year degree. The university must be accredited. Your dependent will have to provide a letter of recommendation and an essay.
The Mike and Gail Donley Spouse Scholarship
If your spouse is active-duty Air Force or reserves and you are enrolled in a degree program, you may qualify for the Mike and Gail Donley Spouse scholarship. You must have a GPA of at least 3.5. The scholarship pays $2,500 toward your education.
Leonardo DRS Guardian Scholarship Fund
If your parent died in an operation or training mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn while in the National Guard, you may be eligible for the Leonardo DRS Guardian Scholarship Fund. The fund pays up to $25,000 for tuition, fees, books and room and board.
Other Financial Aid Programs
VFW’s Unmet Needs Program
The Unmet Needs Program is to help military families with basic life needs that were caused by deployment or a military-related injury or activity. While this grant is not specifically for school, it can help keep a dependent in school while providing for the financial needs of the family. The Unmet Needs Program gives $1,500 in the form of a grant, so the family does not have to pay it back. The program pays the creditor directly.
Department of Veterans Affairs Education Benefits
VET TEC Program
If you are no on active duty and you qualify for the GI Bill, you might be eligible for the VET TEC program. You must have at least one day of unexpired GI Bill entitlement and you must have been accepted into a program approved by the VA. The VET TEC training does not count against your GI Bill entitlement.
The program covers:
- Training in computer software and computer programming;
- Data processing training;
- Media applications; and
- Information science.
The program pays for a full-time high-tech training program in any of the above-listed fields and gives you money for housing while you are in training. Your housing allowance is equal to that of an E-5 with dependents and is based on the zip code for the location of your school. If you participate in an online course instead of attending in person, the BAH is half of the amount an E-5 with dependents gets.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is not a loan, grant, scholarship or other programs that provide you money for your education, but it does protect you from high interest rates, accruing interest and other issues if you took out student loans prior to going in the military.
If you have any questions about any of the benefits, you should contact your loan service provider. Every person in the military should be familiar with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Benefits include:
- Capping interest rates on student loans that you took prior to entering the military at 6 percent as long as you are an active-duty service member. The cap applies to federal student loans, private student loans and other student loans.
- If you have a Direct Loan that was disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2008, your service provider will not charge you interest for up to 60 months as long as you are active duty or serve with the National Guard during a military operation, war or national emergency. You must be serving in a hostile area and qualify for special pay. If you have Direct Consolidation Loans, the benefit applies to the part of the loan that repaid the loan disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2008.
- If you are active duty or in the National Guard during a war, national emergency or military operation, your federal student loans could be deferred or repaid. If your active duty status started on or after Oct. 1, 2007, you have an extra “180 days after the demobilization date for each period of qualifying service.”
- If you are a member of the reserves or National Guard and you are called to duty and you are enrolled in an eligible school at least half-time, your federal student loan payments could be deferred or repaid during 13 months after the end of your active duty service or when you return to school.
Other Organizations that Offer Financial Aid
When other scholarships and programs are not enough to cover all of the costs of your schooling, you can apply for other organizations for financial aid. Some are non-profit and offer small scholarships and other aid, but it might be enough to cover textbooks and other costs each semester. You can find out more information about these smaller programs here and here.
The Armed Forces Foundation, a non-profit group, was started in 2010 to help the military community with financial support, housing assistance, career counseling and recreational therapy programs. They have several programs for active-duty personnel, reservists, retired personnel, members of the National Guard, and their families. Their applications are short – only four pages long – and they offer several programs to help support the armed forces and retirees.
The North American Van Lines Military Scholarship Competition provides $1,000 to five active-duty military students who are going for undergraduate degrees in logistics, business or management. You must submit your transcripts, an essay, and verification of military enrollment. If you are an honorably discharged veteran, a spouse or a child, and you are under 23 years of age, you are also eligible.
The eLearners Scholarship for Military Personnel, Veterans and Spouses offers $1,000 to those who need extra funds for school. You must submit a 250-word essay about how your military service enhances your education.
Folds of Honor offers scholarships that you can use for schooling now or you can apply now and ask the foundation to hold the scholarship for your young children. The scholarships are to subsidize the costs of books, fees, special tools, room and board, and tuition.
Sigma Chi Foundation Military Service offers $1,000 scholarships based on merit to students. You must be a member of or pledge in the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Military personnel and veterans are eligible to apply. You must have strong leadership skills and academic standing.
Hope for Warriors helps those who lost a loved one during active-duty service or has a loved one who suffered severe injuries during the service member’s service. Service members and their families may use the money for family assistance, immediate needs and more.
The Scholarships for Military Children Program (MilitaryScholarship.org) offers scholarships for students in the military. Those who sell their products at military commissaries fund the scholarships.
The Robert W. Brunsman Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 MBA scholarship – only two are offered each year – for a military member and a family member. The International Military Community Executives’ Association offers the scholarships. You must mail in your application to the IMCEA Headquarters.
The Legacy Scholarship Program, run by The Staunton Military Academy Alumni Foundation, provides a minimum of $1,500 in each of four scholarships to military students who are going to four- and two-year colleges or universities. You must submit two letters of recommendation, two essays and a cover letter.
Operation First Response is not an educational scholarship, but does provide funds for veterans and their families who are in financial hardship. Instead of leaving school because of a financial hardship, you might be able to continue with help from this organization. The organization helps with extra costs and lost wages. You can find the application online at OperationFirstResponse.org.
The TonaLaw Veterans Scholarship provides $1,000 for veterans attending an accredited school. The organization offers only two scholarships every year and applications are open to any branch.
The Imagine America Military Award Program provides awards of $1,000 on a need basis to active-duty service members, reservists and veteran and retirees who have been honorably discharged. You must watch a video and submit your application to apply.
Helpful Links and General Financial Aid
Sometimes military members need financial aid even if the service member, a veteran, reservist or family member is not in school. These programs provide financial aid for any reason, but if you are in school and may have to withdraw because of finances, the aid you receive for living expenses might help you stay in school to finish your degree or certificate program.
You can make the best out of your financial situation by creating a budget and reviewing a financial planning guide such as the one published by Total Mortgage. This financial planning guide has a lot of useful tips, including:
- Planning for retirement with a Thrift Savings Plan. Service members were allowed to contribute up to $18,000 as of 2017. Those who are receiving tax-exempt combat pay could contribute up to $53,000 as of 2017. Contributions from your regular pay are tax-free and are tax-deferred until you withdraw the money when you retire. You also have several other options to save for retirement.
- Protecting your finances by knowing what to look for in money lenders, finding reputable loans and building an emergency fund.
- Knowing how to watch your credit report and bills when you are deployed, researching investments before you make them, knowing what benefits are available to you through the military, especially the different bills and scholarships available and reducing interest rates.
- Knowing how to prepare for deployment, especially a long-term deployment, including making sure your affairs are in order, how to save money when you are deployed by not paying for things you are not using, and how to make sure everything is paid on time while you are away.
- Keeping an emergency fund for your family while you are deployed.
- Knowing what tax benefits you have as a servicemember.
- Tips on buying and selling your home.
- Tips on transferring to civilian life, including using education and transition resources that are available.
Many families run into financial trouble at least once in their lives, but being in the military might put you in that situation more often because of deployments and injuries. And, if you decide to transition back to civilian life before it’s time to retire, you may need additional education to find a career that pays enough to support your family, especially if you chose an MOS that has low job availability outside of the military.
Some people may be hesitant to ask for help, especially if that help allows you to further your education or stay in school to finish your degree. Instead of looking at it as a hand out, look at the additional help that is available as a hand up.
General Financial Aid and other Help Available to Service Members, Reservists and Veterans
Modest Needs Organization
Some military members may need short-term financial assistance, but because of their income, they are not eligible for conventional social assistance. You might be a paycheck or two away from financial disaster if an emergency pops up that could lead to your family becoming homeless. The Modest Needs Organization provides short-term assistance to keep you on your feet. You will have to create an application online and provide documentation. The grant is the Homecoming Heroes Grant and the application takes 30 to 45 minutes to complete.
Operation Home Front
When your service member spouse or parent is deployed, ill or wounded, finances can get pretty tight. Operation Home Front provides financial assistance. The organization has several types of assistance and lists the criteria under each type of assistance. Enter your zip code after you click the “Get Assistance” button to download an application and locate your local chapter.
Office of Service Members Affairs – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers consumer services and financial products for anyone, but also provides services through the Office of Service Members Affairs to protect military families, veterans and service members from financial harm. The Office of Service Members Affairs also works to make sure the military community is better educated in financial matters.
Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans often need help continuing on in the military or transitioning to civilian life because of personal sacrifices made during the time spent in those operations. Rebuild Hope is an organization that provides a national network of connections donors and complimentary services to help OEF/OIF veterans succeed.
The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes has been providing emergency financial aid and support services to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans since 2004. Over the years, the organization provided millions of dollars in aid to these veterans. Check the eligibility requirements and complete an application online.
Service members and veterans, and their families, can get financial, emotional and physical help when they need it. As of June 2020, Salute Inc. provided over $4.8 million to over 14,417 service members and their families, including keeping families in their homes, helping with travel expenses, keeping the utilities paid, and affording the essentials of everyday living.
Semper Fi Fund
Families may need help if a service member was injured and hospitalized, including the recovery process, or if a service member suffered injuries that caused long-term or permanent disabilities. The Semper Fi Fund provides financial help for affected families for Post 9/11 Marine Corps service members and those in any branch of the service that served in support of the Marine forces after 9/11 who are hospitalized or injured. Support includes:
- Specialized and adaptive equipment;
- Service member and family support;
- Adaptive housing;
- Therapeutic arts;
- Education and career transition assistance; and
- Team Semper Fi.
Post 9/11 active-duty, veterans and families often need financial support regardless of branch of service or rank. USA Cares helps anyone in the military with donations they accept from private citizens, foundations and businesses. The organization has several programs, including paying basic expenses for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and military sexual trauma (MST); housing assistance, emergency assistance and career transition financial aid.
Throughout the years you spend on furthering your education, check for additional bills, programs and scholarships. Also, check for updates to any of the GI Bills available to help you with the high costs of furthering your education.
If you stay on top of what is available for your benefits, you could get a very expensive degree for nothing or next to nothing, especially if you served for several years.