On April 16, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of James Rudisill in the Rudisill vs McDonough case. If you have not been following this case that has been in the courts for 10 years, James Rudisill is an eight-year veteran with three tours of combat service, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because he had three separate periods of eligibility as far as GI Bills go, and he paid into the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD), Rudisill has both the MGIB-AD and Post 9/11 GI Bills. At the heart of his lawsuit is the VA’s interpretation of the federal law regarding GI Bills and how they use that interpretation in dictating how veterans use their earned GI Bills.

GI Bill Ruling Impact for Veterans

Not only did this decision by the SCOTUS overturn a lower court ruling, but it set the scene for as many as 1.7 million veterans having both the Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill that could end up with an additional year of education benefits to use. For veterans who switched to the more lucrative Post 9/11 GI Bill right away, they could get an additional year of benefits under their MGIB.

When a veteran has one or the other of these two GI Bills, they can use up to 36 months of educational benefits. But when they have both GI Bills, the maximum number of months of benefits they can use is capped at 48; that is set in law.

The Issue with the VA

Rudisill was not contesting the cap of 48 months. He was contesting the way the VA forces veterans to use their GI Bills. Currently, veterans having both GI Bills, must exhaust their MGIB first and switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get their additional 12 months of benefits.

If they switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB months left to use, then all they get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that same number of months they had left under the MGIB … and not the additional 12 months. When switching, veterans must surrender their eligibility to the MGIB at the time of the switch. And if they switch right away to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, all they get is the 36 months under that bill and nothing left under the MGIB (because they surrendered their rights to that GI Bill).

Rudisill’s position in the lawsuit was that veterans should be able to switch back and forth between the two GI Bills without losing months of education benefits… and the high court agreed. Federal law prohibits using both GI Bills at the same time (concurrently) but does not limit using them one after the other (consecutively).

So What’s Next?

It depends on what the VA will do. Right now, in a statement, they said they are still reviewing the ruling. If they agree with it, eligible veterans with at least two qualifying periods of service and both GI Bills could eventually see an additional year of education benefits. If they don’t agree with the ruling, then it could set up the next legal fight.

One potential issue not discussed in the ruling is that the MGIB has an expiration date of 10 years from the date of discharge. Will veterans having expired MGIB benefits be grandfathered back into their MGIB for that extra year of benefits? Oh… by the way, that additional year of MGIB benefits could be worth as much as $28,296 at the 2023/2024 rate.

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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.