These are two common questions servicemembers face when they have more than one GI Bill – a common dilemma many have. And the second part is largely asked because in the case of the two most common GI Bills – the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and Post 9/11 GI Bill, the order in which the GI Bills are used can have a great effect on the number of benefits received.

Veterans that have gotten out of the military after September 10, 2009, have the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefit to those having served on active duty (including Reservists and National Guardsman mobilized for federal service). One of the advantages of this GI Bill is its pay structure.

Post 9/11 GI Bill

Tuition and fees for this GI Bill are paid directly to the school at the in-state rate – the rate student residents of the state where the school is located pay. The book stipend is paid to the student once per semester at the rate of $41.67 per credit up to a yearly max of $1,000. The Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) is paid to the student and is based on:

  • the number of credits taken
  • tier level percentage – determined by the number of months served on active duty; 100% is earned at 36 months of service.
  • zip code of the school

Veterans with this GI Bill have up to 15 years to use their benefits (if discharged on or before 1 January 2013). If discharged after that date, there is no expiration date. That change was made as part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or Forever GI Bill, enacted in 2017.


If you did not opt out of it when you were in Basic Training, you most likely have the MGIB-AD. It is an educational benefit you paid for as $100 per month for 12 months was deducted from your pay. In return, you received up to 36 months of education benefit that could be used for degree, non-degree, or apprenticeship education opportunities.

It is currently paid at the rate of $2,358 per month for full-time enrollment. The amount is paid each month enrolled in school to the student and they are in turn responsible for paying all their own education expenses. It may be used for up to 10 years after getting out of the military.

How to Use Your GI Bills

If you are not sure which GI Bills(s) you have, apply for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). It will list the GI Bills you are entitled to using and the number of months of benefits.

If you have multiple GI Bills, determining which GI Bill to use first should be determined by your end goal. If your goal is to get up to a four-year degree, then switch to and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away, as it pays the most. However, if you have a goal of proceeding past a four-year degree, then it is more advantageous to use 36 months of your MGIB-AD first and then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get an extra year of education benefits.

Doing it the other way around does not result in an additional year of benefits. And switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB benefits left doesn’t either as you only get the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that you had left on your MGIB at the time of switching.

Another strategy some use with the goal of getting a graduate degree is to pay to attend a community college out of pocket the first two years and save the 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill for the last two years of the four-year degree and two years of the more expensive advanced degree.

The GI Bill(s) is a limited educational benefit earned from your service, so use it wisely. Make sure your end goal is what you really want to do for a career. Otherwise, some of the benefits will be wasted on education you can’t use and you may end up paying out of pocket to get the education you need.


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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.