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Education benefits at a glance

Airman's Roll Call highlights Airmen's education benefits
This week's Airman's Roll Call highlights the importance of education for the professional and personal development of all Airmen serving on active duty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Reed).

The 162nd Fighter Wing retention office highlights the importance of education for the professional and personal development of all Airmen serving in the wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Reed).

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There has been a lot of talk recently regarding education benefits, more specifically, the education benefit known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"A lot of people think they qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, when they don't," said Master Sgt. Patricia Switzer-Monks, 162nd Fighter Wing retention office manager.

However, it is important to know the majority of unit members qualify for at least one or more educational benefit programs.

"Recently I have found people have been qualifying for up to four education programs," Sergeant Switzer-Monks said.

Selected Reserve GI Bill

Most unit members qualify for the Selected Reserve GI Bill, Chapter 1606. Members are eligible if they have enlisted in the Guard or Reserve for at least six years. Members do not have to pay anything for this benefit.

They qualify because of their service commitment. It is good for 36 months and it pays $333 per month for full-time students. The benefit expires when the member leaves the Selected Reserve.

Active Duty GI Bill

The Active Duty GI Bill, Chapter 30, is for military members that at one time were active duty.

"Being active duty made you eligible, whether the person enrolled in the program was their choice," said Sergeant Switzer-Monks.

The member has to accept or decline coverage at their time of entrance into active duty status. This is the program in which the military person pays $100 a month for 12 months, and then receives benefits of $1,368 per month for up to 36 months for full-time students. This benefit expires 10 years after separation from the military.

Reserve Education Assistance Program

The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP), Chapter 1607, is another education program available to members that have 90 consecutive days in support of a contingency.

"A lot of people have been confusing this program with the Post-9/11 GI Bill," said Switzer-Monks.

This is a program that members must apply for through the Veterans Administration (VA). The REAP pays a Guard or Reserve member a percentage of the Chapter 30 GI bill based on timed served in a contingency operation. The percentage could range any where from 40 percent to 100 percent of $1,368.

It is important to stress the eligibility is 90 continuous days of Title 10 service, in support of a contingency.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is for military members that have performed active duty service (Title 10) for at least 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001. Unlike the REAP, the days do not have to be continuous, just aggregate. Certain stipulations do apply such as military technical schools.

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a great program because it pays for your tuition and gives you a basic allowance for housing equivalent to an E-5 (currently $1,333), plus a $1,000 stipend for books and fees," she said.

There are reductions in percentages based on active duty time completed. It's a tier-based system. For example, if a military member has completed 90 days of Title 10 active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, he or she is eligible for 40 percent of benefits.

"What's great is they actually work right with the school to pay the tuition. The military member does not have to get reimbursed or wait for their money," said Sergeant Switzer-Monks.

Once the military member reaches 36 months of active duty (Title 10) service, they qualify for the maximum amount of benefits. If the tuition is $3,000 per year, the VA pays the school $3,000 per year and the military member receives a housing allowance during the period.

Let's do the math:
$1,333 (BAH) X 36 (MONTHS) = $47,988,
$3,000 (TUITION) X 3 (YEARS) = $9,000.
$47,988 + $9,000 = Up to $56,988

This example does not include if multiple family members are receiving BAH allowances, which is allowed in some circumstances.

This bill is good for 15 years after the military person retires. The great thing about this bill is military members are able to transfer these benefits on to their spouse and children. However, they have to do this prior to retiring.

After the member applies on-line they will receive a letter stating what percentage they qualify for.

"I have noticed some of these percentages have been wrong, so it is up to the military members to provide the source documents to correct it," said Switzer-Monks.

Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program works in conjunction with the Post-9/11 GI Bill to subsidize the difference in tuition a military member would have to pay out of pocket - up to 50 percent. For example, if a military member qualifies for 50 percent of tuition payments, this program pays the complete difference.

The University of Arizona has 25 yellow ribbon slots available. Currently only four of these slots are being utilized. Any military member attending college should ask their school's VA representative if they participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program and if they qualify.

Summary

There are many more education benefit programs than covered here. These are just a few common programs.

Every military member should visit with their Unit Career Advisor to examine what benefits they are entitled to. It is important to note that each person's situation is unique.

The wing retention office is an excellent resource to find answers to questions. Office staff can be reached at (520) 295-6191.

Every military person is entitled to sit down with a VA representative to discuss their unique situation. This is encouraged. The closest VA representatives are based in Phoenix. With the dollars available, it is worth the drive.

Another resource is the VA Web site www.gibill.gov. The site has many examples to guide its customers. It also has a benefit comparison chart that describes what each program entails.

Everyone is encouraged to utilize all the resources and benefits they worked so hard to acquire.