One benefit many veterans have, but forget to collect on, is the GI Bill kicker or the College Fund as it is called by the Army, Navy and Marines. The Air Force calls it by a different name, but more on that in a minute. The GI Bill kicker is an incentive service members can get for enlisting or reenlisting into special positions or units deemed critical by the Department of Defense.
Why the Oversight
The reason people who have a kicker don’t collect from it automatically as part of their monthly GI Bill payment is because the VA doesn’t know they have one authorized. GI Bill kicker authorizations reside in the Department of Defense computer system, but since it does not interface with the VA, the VA can’t “see” who is authorized and how much they should get; hence the need to inform them.
To start a kicker payment, send in a copy of your College Fund Contract – DD Form 3286-66 showing the College Fund incentive is authorized in Section 1A – at the same time you apply for GI Bill benefits on VA Form 22-1990. If you can’t find a copy of your kicker authorization, you may be able to get one as part of your military service record from the National Archives.
The Kicker Advantage
The GI Bill kicker is not a standalone program, so it must be used with either the Montgomery GI Bill – AD (MGIB-AD) or the new Post 9/11 GI Bill. The extra amount received on the GI Bill can vary depending on the amount of the kicker you signed up for; it can increase full-time student monthly benefits by as much as $950. For students having a rate of pursuit less than full-time, the amount received each month is pro-rated to a lesser amount just like the GI Bill.
Paying the Kicker
If using the MGIB-AD, the amount from the kicker comes as part of the normal monthly payment, however Post 9/11 GI Bill users receive their payment as part of their Monthly Housing Allowance. The duration of payment from the kicker is the same as it is for the GI Bill – divided into 36 equal monthly payments for full-time students.
For students going to school less than full-time, the number of months will increase, but the amount paid is prorated down; in the end, the total amount paid is the same. The kicker does expire same as the GI Bill – 10 years from date of discharge for the MGIB-AD; 15 years for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Buy-Up Program – Same Program, Different Name
As said earlier, the Air Force calls their GI Bill kicker by another and often confusing name – the Buy-Up Program. Why it can cause confusion is the other services also have a paid-into financial aid program of the same name. The two biggest points of confusion between the branches with the Buy-Up program are:
- Except for the Air Force, it is contributory and must be paid into by the service member; in the Air Force, it is an incentive not requiring anything to be paid in.
- It can’t be used with the Post 9/11 GI Bill for the other branches, but can be with the Air Force.
While the Buy-Up program in the other branches can be used only with the MGIB-AD, but not the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the Air Force Buy-Up program, which is actually a GI Bill kicker, and can be used with either GI Bill. Confused yet? If unsure if you have a kicker or not, see a Base or Post Education Counselor.