If you face separation from the military in your immediate future, as you prepare to leave your military career for a life in the civilian world it is a good idea to be familiar with different aspects of the Montgomery GI bill, its benefits and how it affects you. Many people are a little overwhelmed and confused by the whole process, and to the first time user of GI benefits it can be a little confusing at first. However, for people who have taken the time to investigate some of the basics it is not as confusing as it seems at first, and there are some simple things to remember that will help you in your understanding and utilization of benefits under the MGIB plan. It can take in excess of 8 weeks for your GI benefits to be processed and put into first time usage, so it is a good idea to turn in your application well in advance of your separation.
A good rule of thumb is to turn in your application about 90 days before you are due to be separated, you can even submit an application post dated slightly to insure that your application is acted upon in a timely and swift fashion. There are a number of issues that it is important to be aware of when using the Montgomery GI Bill and its benefits. If you keep these in mind your whole process will be less frustrating and more successful overall:
Starting and Stopping- Many people think that if you don’t use your benefits by a certain date, or if you use some of them and then stop, or withdraw from school that you no longer have any MGIB benefits. This is just simply untrue. You can begin, and stop, using your benefits several times during your eligibility period without any penalty. If you stop using your benefits, any unused benefits are still there for your use, when you decide to start using them again.
Ten Year Clock- You have a ten year time period to use your benefits. This starts when you are last on active duty; your date of separation begins your clock. Further, if you are activated for more than 90 days of active duty service, such a mobilization “restarts” your ten-year period of eligibility. This means if you have used a couple of years of your ten year eligibility and are called up to active duty for 90 days or more, then your ten year period is reset, and you get a brand new 10 year period of benefits.
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Financial Aid- The Montgomery GI bill is not financial aid in the traditional sense, and they are not considered by your college or university in awarding your financial aid package. MGIB benefits are paid to you directly by the government.