GI Bill part 2: Transferring benefits from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill

I wrote in my last post about the GI Bill.  It is a great benefit that really helps veterans like myself obtain an education or get vocational training that will provide the tools we all need to enter the civilian workforce. I am using the Post 9/11 GI Bill to help defray the costs as I pursue my MBA.  Having served before the attacks on the twin towers, however, made me eligible for two GI Bill programs: the  Montgomery GI Bill  (MGIB) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both bills, and it is important to do your homework and fully understand the nuances of each.   GI Bill comparison  is a great side by side comparison of the two bills, so click on over and take a look.

In my case, I transitioned from the MGIB to the new bill because it resulted in me being entitled to an additional 12 months of benefits that I otherwise would not have been able to utilize.  While it was a good idea for me, it may not be good idea for everyone.  Here is why:

The MGIB has many provisions, but for the sake of this post I will talk about the two major parts of the bill: the Active Duty benefit (aka MGIB-AD or “Chapter 30”) and the Selected Reserve benefit (aka MGIB-SR or “Chapter 1606”).  As the titles indicate, there were different programs for active duty personnel and those in the reserves.

In my case I was in the Organized Marine Corps Reserve when I was working on my undergraduate studies.  During that time I used all but about two months of benefits from the MGIB-SR, meaning that I received about 34 months of benefits and had about two months worth left over.  Since a vet can only use 36 months of benefits under that program I initially thought I was out of luck.  Fortunately, there is a provision that allows for vets like me to transfer between programs and take advantage of an additional 12 months of benefits.

A veteran is eligible for a total of 48 months of benefits.  That said, the individual programs may offer shorter benefit periods, and in the case of the MGIB and the Post 9/11 bill this is the case because they are both 36 month programs.  A vet can get the additional 12 months only if he or she is eligible for the both the MGIB and the Post 9/11 bills because the only way to get the extra time is to convert from the MGIB to the Post 9/11.  There is no bill for the Post 9/11 to convert to, so there are only 36 months of benefits available.

There are two scenarios for transferring from the MGIB to the Post 9/11, and they have enormously different ramifications, so PAY ATTENTION TO THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS IF YOU WANT TO TRANSFER OVER!!!

First, the MGIB-SR (Chapter 1606).  This was my situation.  I used up about 34 months of benefits as a reserve Marine and had about two months left.  The VA simply added my remaining balance of about two months to the 12 additional months of Post 9/11 eligibility and presto!  I had 14ish months of eligibility under the new bill to use towards my education.  All I had to do was complete the Veterans On Line Application (click here: VONAPP) and indicate that I wanted to apply for the new GI Bill.  Once my application was approved I received my updated entitlement.

For the MGIB-AD eligible veterans the situation is VERY DIFFERENT!  In their case, their 36 months of benefits is really 36 months of benefits.  If they have never used their MGIB-AD and they switch over, they will receive 36 months under the new bill.  If they use 35 months under the MGIB-AD and apply for the new GI Bill they will receive only one month under the new GI bill.  Here is the key: in order to get the additional 12 months you must completely exhaust your MGIB-AD benefits, and I mean completely- use up every day because if you have only one day of eligibility left and you apply for a transfer you will get one day of benefits under the new bill, and the decision is irrevocable!  Once you have used up the MGIB-AD you can then re-apply for benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill using  VONAPP and receive 12 months under the new bill.  Make sure that you do it right because as I said, once you apply and are accepted for a transfer there is no going back.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

It is easy to see how much of your MGIB you have used.  All you need to do is call the VA at 1-888-442-4551 and ask the counselor which program you currently fall under and how much eligibility you have left.  Once you have that information, you can decide if you want to transfer over or not.

Good luck!


Lessons Learned:

1.  The old and new GI Bills are different, and there are a lot of ins and outs that you need to consider before you pull the trigger on a conversion.  Make sure to do some research and find out what works best for your situation.

2.  Once you do pull the trigger on a conversion from the MGIB to the Post 9/22 GI Bill it is irrevocable and final.  There are no “do-overs”.  Make sure you are committed to the decision you make!

3.  If you are uncomfortable with completing an online application, you can download the fillable .pdf document here – All you need to do is complete it and mail it in to the address listed on the form.

4.  If you have any questions, call the VA.  You will be on hold for a while, but they have a nice callback service which you can use; the counselor will call you back so you don’t have to listen to cheesy ’70s disco cover tunes while on hold.  I recommend calling early in the morning as my wait times went from an hour to a few minutes when I called as soon as they opened the lines.  Here is their contact information:

Telephone number:  1-888-GIBILL-1 (1-888-442-4551).

Be advised this line only accepts calls from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM central time Monday – Friday and you may experience long hold times.