For years National Guard troops performed much of the same work as their active-duty brethren, yet most never received the same GI Bill benefits. Doing the same job but getting different and significantly fewer benefits.
Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve
So just how much difference does Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits make? Typically a National Guard member with no qualifying Post 9/11 GI Bill time gets the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)/Chapter 1606. Under this GI Bill, a National Guard member gets up to 36 months of education benefits when enlisting for six years. If the servicemember goes to school, the monthly amount directly paid to a full-time student is $397.00 per month. In turn, the servicemember is responsible for paying his or her own tuition, fees, books and any other education-related expenses. Using a 4-month (16 week) semester as an example, that comes out to $1,588 in MGIB-SR money per semester.
Assuming a full-time resident student is attending school on campus and taking 12 credits at an average of $324.70 per credit at a 4-year public school, a semester of tuition costs $3,896.40 or about twice of what the student receives in MGIB-SR money. And that does not even factor in book and other education-related expenses.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
By comparison, if that same National Guard member had even minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 50% tier, s/he would have half of their tuition paid ($1,948.20) directly to the school, receive a book stipend up to $500 per year and get paid 50% of the monthly housing allowance (MHA), which averages around $700 per month (of the full $1,400 per month average). The actual MHA amount varies because the base amount is determined by the zip code of the school. Also note, online-only students receive half of the MHA amount resident on-campus students receive; in this case half of half or around 25%.
Duration of Benefits Longevity
Another difference between the two GI Bills is that MGIB-SR benefits must be used while serving in the National Guard; there are no MGIB-SR post-service benefits. But with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the 36 months of benefits are valid for life (with a discharge date on or after January 1, 2013) and subsequently can be used anytime while serving or post-service.
Acquiring Post 9/11 GI Bill Eligibility
Minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility at the 50% tier is acquired after 90 cumulative days of qualifying service; 100% eligibility is achieved with 36 months of qualifying service. Typically, a National Guard member with only Title 32 (non-declared federal emergency) service does not acquire Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. But with the National Guard usage at historic proportions during the last year supporting several domestic missions: U.S. – Mexico Border Security, U.S. Capital Security, responding to protests and natural disasters around the country, and operating pandemic testing and vaccination stations, seeing camouflaged-clothed servicemembers serving in the public arena has become an all too familiar sight. Last year alone, 187,000 National Guard members were activated to support domestic missions.
Consequently, some in Congress feel the time is right to change the Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirements for National Guard personnel to something that is closer to what active-duty personnel receive.
To that end, there are a couple of options before Congress right now. Rep Mike Levin (D-CA) reintroduced a bill called Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021 that if passed would “count every day a [Selected Reserve] servicemember is paid and in uniform toward [Post 9/11 GI Bill] benefit eligibility.” This is important because in the past, many National Guard federal missions were stopped at 89 days, meaning that service at that time did not count toward Post 9/11 eligibility because it was one day short of the minimum 90-day requirement.
Another bill introduced by former Alabama National Guardsman Rep Barry Moore (R-AL) would eliminate the need for Title 32 orders requiring emergency federal declaration before it would count toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. Basically if passed, any Title 32 service would count.
With the National Guard moving from a strategic reserve status to doing work closer to that of an operational reserve, the benefits its members receive should equal those already on an operational reserve status – namely the active duty.
NOTE: While this article focuses specifically on the National Guard, changes in Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility would apply to all Selected Reservists, including members of the Reserves.