Each year, hundreds of thousands of service members and veterans take advantage of the GI Bill and pursue a form of higher education. While going to a brick and mortar college is probably one of the most well-known ways to use your GI bill education credits, there are also some unconventional programs that qualify for funding.
These programs allow veterans (active duty service members and spouses using a transferred benefit do not qualify) to learn a trade or skill without formal classroom instruction. The veteran typically enters into a contract with an employer or union for a specified time and at the conclusion of his or her training obtains job certification or journeyman status. It’s common for the employer or union to pay a reduced wage, likely 40 to 50 percent of what a journeyman would earn, during the training period. In addition, veterans in approved programs can use their GI Bill benefits to receive a tax-free stipend. Rates vary based on the type of GI Bill being used and payment rates can be checked through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Service members and veterans interested in starting their own business or improving their current small business may want to take advantage of the entrepreneurship training that’s available through the Small Business Development Centers. Certain entrepreneurship courses are reimbursable if you’re eligible for education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill (active duty or selected reserve), the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program. Dependents’ Educational Assistance, or DEA, participants are not eligible.
Flight training benefits are available for those who want to advance their pilot qualifications. Types of training include programs for rotary wing, B747-400, dual engine and flight engineer. A private pilot’s license and valid medical certification are required prior to the start of training and payments are issued after completion of the program. The payment rate varies based on the type of GI Bill being used and the individual flight school.
Getting a job certification or license can get expensive. However, testing fees may be reimbursed if it’s for a qualifying job such as a mechanic, medical technician, therapist or website developer. You can take the test as many times as needed and get reimbursed up to $2,000 per test even if you fail the exam. It’s important to check the way your GI Bill benefits would be charged because even a low-cost exam could cost you an entire month of education benefits.
This is considered a supplement to the regular education benefit. To qualify, one needs to receive educational assistance at the half-time or greater rate and have a deficiency in a subject. The cost of tutoring can’t exceed the monthly rate of $100, with a cap of $1,200 overall. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, there’s no entitlement charge for the first $600. There’s no entitlement charge under the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the DEA program.
If you’re still not convinced you can use your GI Bill education benefits, check the VA’s website for additional uses. Or, depending on your GI Bill, consider giving the gift of education to your spouse or child. You put in a lot of hours to earn your education credits so don’t let them go to waste. It’s time to find a way to make your GI Bill work for you.