With the same name in general, talking about The Montgomery GI Bill can mean one thing to one person and something different to another depending on the military branch each served.  The reason for the confusion is the Montgomery GI Bill is actually two different GI Bills: The Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and The Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). While they share the same name and a few commonalities, they are very different.

Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

When most people refer to the Montgomery GI Bill, the active duty version is the one most people are the familiar with. If they served on active duty after 1984, they might have opted for it when they enlisted and sealed the deal by paying the $1,200 contribution fee. The fee was paid through payroll deductions at the rate of $100 a month for 12 months. This secured 36 months of paid entitlement to go to school in return for at least 36 months of service.

The entitlement could be used while on active duty either alone or with other active duty education programs. However, if using the benefit after getting out, the 36 months must be exhausted before the 10th year discharge date anniversary. Right now, the MGIB-AD pays a full-time student $1,789.00 per month to go to school.

Montgomery GI Bill – Selective Reserve (MGIB-SR)

The other Montgomery GI Bill is meant for service members in one of the reserves of the Armed Forces or the National Guard known collectively as the Selected Reserves. At the time of enlistment, members can choose this education option in exchange for a six-year commitment. The MGIB-SR does not require any monetary payment to secure the benefit – just the six-year enlistment.

While this GI Bill also provides 36 months of entitlement, it must be used while still serving; it does not have any residual value after getting out as does the other GI Bill named the same. Eligibility ends on the day of discharge or at the 10 or 14 years of service mark depending on the enlistment date.  Currently this GI Bill pays a paltry $368 per month to go to school.

Besides the 36 months of entitlement, one more similarity is that the student under either GI Bill must pay their own tuition, fees, book and other education-related expenses, however, under the MGIB-SR, other funding such as the Federal Tuition Assistance or State Benefits may also be available to help offset education costs.

Post 9/11 GI Bill (The New GI Bill)

Since September 10, 2001, Selected Reserve members ordered to deploy more than 90 days are also eligible for the New GI Bill. A typical one-year deployment earns 36 months of eligibility at the 60% tier rate, meaning the VA will pay up to 60% of tuition and fees directly to a school and the serving member or veteran gets 60% of both the book stipend and monthly housing allowance.

The other advantage to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the serving member can also transfer benefits to their spouse or dependent children while still on deployment. Active duty personnel must be at the 100% tier before a transfer of benefits is allowed. The person receiving the transfer inherits the same tier rate as the sponsor making the transfer. Neither of the two MGIBs have a transfer-of-benefits component.

The two Montgomery GI Bills are as different as night and day. And when the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and the different rules that apply to active duty members and the Selected Reservists, is thrown into the mix, it is easy to see why making the right choice becomes more difficult. When in doubt, contact a VA representative. All VA-approved schools have at least one on staff.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.