It’s here! Orders to Nowhere is now a book!

It’s finally here!  The first edition of Orders to Nowhere is available in print.  It will be six to eight weeks before it shows up in bookstores, and a week or so before it hits Amazon.com.  If you want to avoid the wait, you can order it straight from the printer by clicking the cover:

Orders to Nowhere

Since you are a loyal reader and follower of the blog that got it all started, you can use the discount code ZVGYFQ28 and save 10% off the cover price.

Thank each and every one of you for reading and following my journey through transition!

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Figuring out what to do next

After you leave the service you need to find something to do with the rest of your life.  Unless, of course, you are independently wealthy or have figured out how to live the life of Reilly on your pension.

Since most of us are in neither of those predicaments we have to decide what should come next in our lives.  There are many opportunities that veterans can pursue, such as an education, finding a trade, getting a job, or even moving back home with the parents.  Each opportunity has its allure, but other than moving back into your old room at your folk’s house they all involve a commitment to change your direction in life.

For some, going to college makes sense.  For others, pursuing a trade is a better idea.  For those with the pressing need for employment skipping an education and getting into the labor market is the right answer.

This post is for those veterans — the ones who need to get into the workforce as quickly as possible.

One of the most difficult parts of transition is finding a way to successfully bring your military skills into a civilian work environment.  One way that you can leverage your experience as a leader, manager, and technical expert is to determine what careers are best suited for your talents.  Another way to leverage them is to pursue practical training that will result in a certificate (as opposed to a college degree) that will prove your ability to perform in a business environment.

There are a lot of certificates out there, and a lot of agencies that offer them.  Some are tremendous opportunities and some are complete garbage, so you need to be very careful when you follow the certification path.  A friend of mine who is familiar with the certification process introduced me to UCLA’s Extension Certificate Program.

The program is an adult professional education opportunity for those people who are looking for specific training and education in a defined sector such as human resources, project management, global sustainability, nonprofit management, or one of the many others that they offer.

While this is not particularly groundbreaking (because lots of universities have adult professional education programs) I found one aspect of their model to be tremendously useful.  They offer an analysis tool on their website which can help you determine if a certificate program is for you, and in addition to help p0int you in the direction of the certificate best suited to your experience, learning style, and goals.

I surfed to their website (www.empowered.com) and took the assessment.  It took a few minutes, but once I was finished I learned that I was suited for project management.  It described what a project manager does and it all sounded interesting and right up my alley.  Although I am not personally looking for a PM certificate, the assessment was thorough and identified my strengths and talents.  Pretty neat, really.

So I recommend that you go to http://www.empowered.com and check it out.  There is no obligation, and you just may find something that interests you.  I learned a little about myself, and you will too — especially if you are looking to make yourself marketable in the corporate sector, where certificates are recognized and serve as a differentiator between job candidates.

Check it out- I did!

Innovation in education for veterans: USC’s MBV program

As the war in Afghanistan comes to a close it signals the end to one of the longest periods of protracted warfare in American history.  For well over a decade our nation’s young men and women volunteered to serve in time of war, and over two million of them have seen firsthand the face of conflict.

They have learned things that are not taught in any school and gained experiences that could not be garnered in a lifetime spent following a different path.  These veterans, some still in uniform and many more who have already left the service, have tremendous yet unrealized value for the corporate sector.  They are leaders who have matured in austere and often dangerous circumstances as well as being highly trained in their martial specialties.

Despite their experience, veterans have difficulty transitioning from the military to the corporate sector.  Many are daunted because they feel that they must start all over again.  There are many opportunities for them to go back to school, but it can be frustrating for vets because they feel that their experiences are not valued and the time that they spent serving our country was wasted.

But things are changing.

Leading the charge is the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.  The school recognizes that military professionals have learned so much in their service that it makes sense to not just value such lessons but to also leverage them in an educational context.  In concert with the California Department of Veterans Affairs, alumni, and veterans, USC has developed the Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) degree program.

The MBV is specifically designed to build upon the experience that veterans have gained in their military careers by adding coursework in areas such as finance, accounting, statistics, strategy, marketing, entrepreneurship, business leadership and communication and others that are consistent with traditional MBA programs.    Class sessions meet Fridays and Saturdays over two semesters with minimal interruption to the careers of working professionals. The MBV degree program is constructed of lectures, projects and course work that are delivered via distant learning, with significant projects and course work being primarily completed during the 16 residential sessions.

It is a graduate level program, and as with all programs at that level there are prerequisites for enrollment.  In a nutshell, they are a minimum 3 – 5 years of active and honorable service in the military, a bachelor’s or equivalent degree, two letters of recommendation, and they must complete and submit two essays for the review of the matriculation panel.  Standardized test scores such as the GMAT or GRE are not required, but a good set of scores would certainly help.

The program is an innovative response to the growth in active duty military and veteran communities.  Not simply a mashup of the traditional MBA curriculum, the program is an integrated educational experience that focuses tightly in leveraging the skills of military people to ensure its success.  Class cohorts are small, in the 20 – 40 student range, and the entire class will consist of those who meet the military service requirements.  Like the military, it is both demanding and fast paced.  The course is completed in half the time of a normal resident MBA program, with classes starting in the fall of the academic year and graduation coming the following summer.

Active duty and veterans can take advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to help defray the cost.  Students will learn from world class professors in a world class educational environment, and in the end both the veterans and the corporate sector will benefit from USC’s leadership in educational innovation.

James Ellis, the dean of the USC Marshall School of Business, says it best,   “This is an important program for Marshall, serving a population that has provided outstanding service to our country while creating valuable leaders and managers for the corporate community.”  My hope is that Dean Ellis’s vision spurs other top-notch schools to create programs like the MBV for graduate, undergraduate, and continuing education.

For more information about the program and the admissions process, please go http://www.marshall.usc.edu/mbv or contact the program office at mbv@marshall.usc.edu or 213.740.8990.

Writing your resume, part 2: The Functional Format

As promised, here is the long awaited and thrilling post about resumes!  Today we’re looking at the Functional Format style, which is the best one to use for people who are changing careers (like transitioning military folks), those with gaps in their employment history, or people who want to emphasize their skills for a particular job or specialized company.

For men and women who are hanging up their uniforms the functional format is a very useful way of showing the talents and skills that they have developed and used during their time in the military.  Even though many of the functions that servicemen and women perform during their careers are not directly transferable to the corporate sector (think rifleman, tank gunner, weapons repair specialist – you get the idea), the underlying skills and capabilities are relevant and desirable to employers.  Things like leadership (that rifleman was probably a small unit leader too), teamwork (that tank gunner worked closely as a member of the team that formed the tank crew), and detail oriented task management (the weapons repair specialist worked on intricate equipment, ordered parts, and managed supplies on a daily basis).

The functional format is best to show those skills and to articulate how they can be useful for a corporate employer.  Remember, when you write it you need to direct it towards the Human Resources person at the company.  As with all resumes you really need to work hard to “de-militarize” it as much as possible; they don’t know what a rifleman or squad leader is and certainly have no clue about the operations of the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank’s gun system.  Don’t make it easy for the hiring manager to throw your resume in the shredder by making it too difficult to read with military jargon and whatnot.  That said, more jargon is acceptable in the functional format because the target company is probably more familiar with the skill set you are presenting and will likely know some mil-speak.  Just don’t over do it.

There are some great advantages to the functional format, and to take advantage of them it is best to target the resume on the job or company you are interested in.  That takes a little research on your part (hello, internet!) and the patience to make adjustments to tailor your resume for each company as you go.  Focusing on the target in job hunting is just as important as focusing on the target on the rifle range- if you don’t have a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish you won’t hit the target or find a job.

If you do your homework you will find the functional format easier to write because you can direct the reader (in this case, the hiring manager) to what you want them to notice about your abilities.  By researching the requirements for a particular job or needs of the company, you can show how you fit the bill with the exact skills that the employer is looking for.  You can also highlight all of those intangible things that you have been doing while in uniform, such as helping the community, training others, and developing leadership in those junior to you.  It also allows you to cut out anything that you don’t want in your resume, such as gaps in your job history or a lousy grade point average from high school or college.

Another advantage is that you can be much more succinct and direct with the functional format.  In resume writing less is more.  The HR person who receives your resume has a stack of them to go through, and generally speaking you have only a few seconds to grab their attention before they move on to the next one.  If they have no second page to turn to then you have a bit of an advantage because they all look at the first page, and if you can get yours down to one then they will see the whole thing an not have to decide whether to go flip to the next page.

The elements that I used in my functional resume (click here to take a look: Functional Resume)  are pretty standard.  After the standard header information (name, email address, phone number) there are four sections: A summary statement, Functional Experience, Professional Experience, and a bit about Honors, Education, and Publications.

It is the resume that I used when I was leaving active duty and had an opportunity to pursue a job with an organization that was doing fire support and aviation integration operations.  After researching the opportunity and talking to people who were familiar with the company and what they were looking for I highlighted those things that I had done in the past that were relevant and left out those things that weren’t.

Based on my research, I wrote the summary statement to show how my experience was exactly in line with what the company was looking for.  The intent is to keep the hiring manager’s eyes on the page, and by grabbing his or her attention by showing that I had the skills that they were looking for up front it piques their interest.

The functional experience section is the meat of this format.  I chose the six areas that I felt best met the needs of the company and showed my expertise and experience in each.  Notice that there is no timeline associated with the areas,  but instead a series of concrete examples of relevant and specific experience in each.

The next section covers professional experience.  Again, there is no strict timeline associated with the bullets but I did include the years that I was deployed overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan.  I chose to include those dates specifically because it showed that I had recent combat experience in fire support (remember, this resume went out in 2011).  Only the jobs and deployments that are directly associated with fire support are included, though.  My tours and assignments in other areas are irrelevant for this format and would have just resulted in a lot of wasted space and an unneeded second page.

Lastly comes the Education, Honors, and Publications section.  This bit is where you can cherry-pick those things that you have done to highlight your skills and achievements during your career.  In my case I was fortunate to receive some awards that are unusual and have been published quite a bit.  You should look through your awards, professional military education graduation certificates, and other certifications or qualifications and include those that will help break you out of the pack and highlight why you are the best candidate for the job.

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Lessons Learned:

1)  The functional resume format is best for people changing careers, with gaps in their employment history, or want to emphasize specific skill sets for a particular job or specialized company.

2)  Less is more- shoot for one page.  This format is the easiest of the three to get down to one page.

3)  Look hard at your career and pick out those things that are directly related to the job you are seeking or the company where you want to work.  Ruthlessly cut out things that are not relevant!

4)  Be selective in the military jargon that you include.  For companies that you know will understand it – for example, if you are applying for a job at Bell Helicopter it is OK to talk about your zillions of hours flying the AH-1W/AH-1Z attack helicopter – but don’t go overboard.  For those less familiar you would want to describe your extensive experience as a pilot who flew attack helicopters in the Marines.

Writing your resume, part 1: The Chronological Style

Finding a job is a process, and a critical part of that process is having a resume that will entice prospective employers into calling you in for an interview.  We’re going to be taking a few deep dives into the wonderful world of resumes over the next few posts, but before we put pen to paper or electron to screen let’s talk a little about resumes in general.

There are as many opinions about resumes as there are people who write and read them.  Just type “Resume” into Google and you will find over 80 million results.  Clicking a few links will take you to sites that proclaim that resumes are dead and that the “new” business world uses social media to find employees while other sites say that traditional resumes are the key to finding work at established and respectable companies.  What I am writing about are the things that I have learned and used to get jobs after leaving the military, so keep that in mind as we talk about resumes.  I have used all three types in my pursuit of employment, and all three have resulted in job offers.

There are three basic types of standard resumes, and each has its place depending on the circumstance and type of job you are pursuing.  In today’s post we will take a look at the style that is most commonly used: The Chronological style.

The chronological form of a resume is the simplest of the three to put together.  In simple terms it tells the story of your professional life and career history to the prospective employer, who then decides whether or not you are worth bringing in to meet in person.

There are pros and cons to the chronological format, so let’s look at each in turn:

Pros

  • It shows the relevance of your work experience over time.  It is actually a “reverse-chronological” resume because you list your most recent experience first and work backwards from there, but everyone just calls it the chronological style for simplicity’s sake.  Since it shows your most recent work first, you can highlight your current skill set and talents up front and show how you have garnered experience and developed those skills over time.
  • It is fact based.  Since you list your experience on a timeline you can show when you learned your skills, where and when you received relevant education and training, and articulate your experience to show how you have grown professionally over time.
  • It is a universal format that is understood across industries and around the world.
  • It can add credibility by showing what organizations you have worked in and the duties you performed in them throughout your career.  This can also be a con, however, because you must remember that civilian hiring managers have no idea about military units or service jargon, so you need to be able to put your experience into terms that they will understand.

Cons

  • This is not a good format in cases where you have little or no experience to show.  For example, if you were in the military for one enlistment this format will probably work to your disadvantage because you don’t have that much to show for experience over time.  In that case, a functional resume (which we’ll talk about in a future post) is probably a better format to use.
  • It is also not a good format in cases where you have large time gaps in your experience base.  Since it the format is a timeline, having gaps of a year or two here and there may raise a few eyebrows on the employer’s side of the fence.
  • Likewise, if you have switched jobs frequently then this may not be the best format to use.  That telegraphs to the employer that you may not be committed to working for them in the long term.
  • It also may not be a good format for people looking for specific jobs in specific industries that require specific skills – the combination or functional formats are much better suited for those circumstances.

So let’s get to it!

The basic format that I use for the chronological resume contains four elements of information:

1)  Your name and contact information, including your telephone number and email address.  As I wrote earlier, make sure that your telephone number is one that you can control (i.e., your cel phone) because you don’t want your preschooler answering the phone when a potential employer calls.  It may be cute, but you probably won’t get the message that they called.  Also, make sure your voicemail greeting is professional sounding – “Yo, dude, I am getting hammered right now and can’t answer my phone!” will not result in a job offer.  Trust me!  Likewise, make sure your email address is not offensive or controversial.  If yours is “drunkguy@whatever.com” then get a free gmail or yahoo email address and use it solely for job search purposes.  I don’t recommend including your home address on your resume, though, because you cannot control where it will end up.  Identity thieves are everywhere.

2)  A summary statement.  This is a thumbnail sketch of who you are in terms of your experience.  Not everyone agrees that you need one, but I include one in my resume to get the attention of the reader as quickly as possible- after all, they are reading hundreds of these things and if you don’t grab their interest quickly your resume will land in the trash can.

3)  Your experience over time.  This is the meat of the resume.  Here is where you need to show what you are made of and what you have done in such a manner that the employer will like what they see.  It is a remarkably difficult task to be able to strip down a lifetime’s worth of experience into less than two pages, so be ready to spend some time on this section.  I recommend that you include no more than ten years worth of experience (for those with more) because anything beyond that timeframe is pretty dated, and the most relevant stuff is the most recent stuff anyway.  The format I use lists my job title first along with the associated dates, and then put a few bullets underneath that show what I did in that job.  It took me a lot of practice to write my military experience down in such a way that a non-military person could understand it.  Also, look at how the bullets are formed: They follow the “action verb” format, meaning that they show that I did something followed by the effects of what I did.  This resonates much more than using the passive tense.

4)  Your education and other pertinent info.  The education bit is self explanatory, but what about certifications, awards, or other things that you have done that reinforce your work history or differentiate you from the pack?   This is where they go.  For my resume, I include things like awards I have received, associations I am affiliated with, and applicable qualifications and certifications.  Things not to include are your hobbies, marital status, family information, or anything not related to the job you are seeking.  Those things can be distractors for the reader and may actually turn them off; if you write that you are an avid hunter and the reader is a vegetarian then you are in for trouble.  Also, you only have two pages, so don’t waste space on things that don’t matter!

At any rate, the chronological style is the best resume type to start with.  You will use elements of it for the other two formats as well, so you won’t have to reinvent any wheels.

The internet is full of samples that you can check out.  Here is what my chronological resume from when I left active duty looks like: Chronological Resume , so feel free to follow the style I used or branch out on your own.  For what it’s worth, this particular resume resulted in a job offer.

In the next post we’ll tackle the functional resume format…

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Lessons Learned:

1.  Of the three basic resume types, the Chronological Style is the most common and most widely used.

2.  It is best for those who have no interruptions in their job history and can show a logical progression in education, skills, and experience over time.

3.  It is not the best resume for very specific skill sets or for those with very little experience or education to show.  The functional format is best for those circumstances.

4.  Only include the things that matter; keep your hobbies personal items off of the resume.

5.  Proofread, proofread, proofread.  Then proofread again.  Believe it or not, I just saw a typo on the resume I included in this post.  See if you can find it….

6.  Make it professional, and keep it to two pages!

A fascinating education opportunity: Fidelis

SgtMaj (Retired) Frank Pulley, a good friend of mine who is actively involved with military transition while representing the Marine Corps Association and Foundation recently introduced me to a remarkably innovative organization that offers a variety of opportunities for veterans and active duty folks to pursue higher education.  Promising education in and of itself is not particularly innovative – there are plenty of companies and schools in that business – but what makes this venture noteworthy is how it provides a comprehensive path from prospective student to employed graduate by working closely with colleges, universities, governmental agencies, and prospective employers.

The name of this great organization is Fidelis.  Named the Fast Company magazine’s #7 Most Innovative Company in early 2012, it was created by former Marine Captain and Iraq combat veteran Gunnar Counselman.  The company’s mission is to build a scalable solution to the military-to-civilian career transition in partnership with leading universities, military organizations, and great companies.

The idea for the company arose from Gunnar’s experience as he transitioned from active duty to the private sector.  As a veteran fresh from the fight in Iraq he entered the Harvard Business School, and upon graduation started a very successful career in the civilian world with a top-tier consulting firm.  During his graduate studies and his entry into corporate life he was startled by the differences between active service in the Marine Corps and life in the civilian environment and how difficult it was to make the transition between the two.  He mulled it over for several years, and with the conviction of someone willing to take the plunge he started Fidelis in order to not just help military folks make it through the transition by pursuing higher education but also to partner with corporations and business to employ them upon graduation.

Fidelis is much more than just a college and job placement firm.  It goes much deeper than that; each student works with a transitional coach and a network of mentors who help determine long term objectives, interests, and goals.  Once these are established, the coach and mentors guide the student through a tailored educational process that links their objectives with a personalized educational program that meets their educational needs.  With Fidelis’s help, the student enters college and obtains their degree – but the company’s commitment to the student does not end there.  The new graduate works with his or her coach, mentors, and the corporate sector to find the best employment fit.  The commitment does not end on the first day at work, either.  Fidelis is there for months afterwards to ensure that the transition process is successful.

The company has a broad array of colleges, universities, corporations, and business who all work through Fidelis to create the bridge from uniformed member of the armed forces to successful business professional.  They offer several programs that transitioning military people can pursue:

-2+2Plus: This program is for active duty personnel who know that they will be transitioning in the next year or two and don’t have a degree.  They can take general education classes using the company’s innovative social learning platform that marries courses from the  University of California with Fidelis’s learning program.  Designed to get the student back up to speed educationally and prepare them for enrollment in a full-time college or university while still on active duty, the technology used is flexible, intuitive, and supportive of the demanding requirements that are part and parcel of being in the military.  Once they leave active duty, the program continues as mentors and coaches guide the veteran to a college or university where they enroll in a program that meets their objectives and ultimately ends with placement in the private sector.

-Pre-MBA Bootcamp:  This program is for veterans who already have a college degree and are pursuing an MBA in one of the top 30 programs nationwide.  In conjunction with UCLA the program prepares the student with courses in finance, accounting, and quantitative analysis as well as providing an opportunity to socialize and network with other students.

-Silicon Valley Concentration:  Designed for veterans who already have a four year degree and are interested in the technology sector, this program is focused on a specific degree or discipline.  The program begins with a six week long course that introduces the technologies and companies that are the hub of Silicon Valley technology.  The mentors and counselors then work with the student to determine which aspects of the tech world that they want to pursue, and collectively they create a pathway to get there through focused training that results in technical certifications that bring the student to the cutting edge of ever-changing technology.  As with the other programs the mentorship and coaching does not end with a diploma, but instead follows the new employee as they pursue their new career.

All of this is done with little or no cost to the student other than the costs associated with enrolling in school.  The costs are borne by the companies that are investing in quality future employees and by colleges and universities who help educate veteran students.  Fidelis provides a remarkable opportunity for transitioning military people who want to pursue higher education and find a new career.  Take a look at what they offer- I am certain you will be as intrigued as I was!

The GI Bill

As I wrote in my last post I am pursuing my MBA at the University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School, and I truly appreciate all of you who helped out with my research project.  Getting an education is expensive these days, and fortunately for me, and for all honorably discharged veterans, the VA is there to help out with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the GI Bill, here is a quick rundown of how it came about and evolved into what it has become today:

The GI Bill originated with the end of the Second World War.  In 1944 the U. S. Government passed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act.  Apparently calling the new law by its formal name was a mouthful, so it quickly became named after the people it was designed to help- the GIs returning from the war (GI was slang for anyone in uniform, coming from the term “Government Issue” or “Galvanized Iron”, depending on which story you believe).  Anyhow, the veterans coming home from Europe and the Pacific were able to take advantage of a wide array of benefits which included home, small business, and farm loans, unemployment compensation, and educational benefits.  As a result of the program a staggering sum of nearly 8,000,000 veterans (almost half of all who served during the war) pursued higher education.

Over the following decades GIs went to war again and again, and as they did the GI Bill was there to help veterans when they came home from places like Korea and Vietnam.  In the 1960s benefits were opened up to veterans who did not serve in war, and over time the GI Bill dwindled until it was a shadow of its former self, essentially offering a small stipend to help defray college expenses.

That changed with 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  With hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines serving tour after tour in harm’s way the Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, which quickly became known as the “Post 9/11” or “new” GI Bill.  It focuses primarily on educational benefits for veterans (as shown below, which I adapted  from their website  at http://www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/index.html):

– The GI Bill will pay an eligible veteran’s full tuition & fees directly to the school for all public school in-state students. For those attending private or foreign schools tuition & fees are capped at $17,500 per academic year.  For those attending a more expensive private school or a public school as a non-resident out-of-state student, a program exists which may help to reimburse the difference (the “Yellow Ribbon” program).

-For those attending classes at the greater than ½ time rate, a monthly housing allowance (MHA) based on the Basic Allowance for Housing for an E-5 with dependents at the location of the school. For those enrolled solely in distance learning the housing allowance payable is equal to ½ the national average BAH for an E-5 with dependents ($673.44 for the 2011 academic year & $684.00 for the 2012 academic year)

-An annual books & supplies stipend of $1,000 paid proportionately based on enrollment.

-A one-time rural benefit payment for eligible individuals.

As you can see, the new GI Bill is pretty generous.  Not everyone is eligible, however.  In order to take advantage of the benefits the veteran must meet the following criteria:

-You must have served at least 90 aggregate days on active duty after September 10, 2001, and you are still on active duty or were honorably discharged from the active duty; or
– released from active duty and placed on the retired list or temporary disability retired list; or
– released from active duty and transferred to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve; or
– released from the active duty for further service in a reserve component of the Armed Forces.
You may also be eligible if you were honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability and you served 30 continuous days after September 10,2001.

In my case, I was originally eligible for what was known as the Montgomery GI Bill when I enlisted back in the early 1980s.  I used it to help pay for tuition and fees for my undergraduate work, and I received payments of about $150 a month or so, depending on how many credits I was signed up for.  Now that I have transitioned out of uniform I am eligible for the new GI Bill, but there is a catch.

Of course!

There is always a catch.  It turns out that veterans are only allowed to take advantage of GI Bill benefits for a total of 48 monthly periods.  If you are in school for a full year, then you use 12 months of benefits.  If you take summers off, you use up nine months.  In my case, I used up 45 months of my benefits while I was enlisted, and that didn’t leave much for me to use after I got out!

Fortunately, the new GI Bill recognizes that there are a lot of us in that position.  The VA authorizes an additional year (12 months of benefits) for vets like me who used up a lot of their alloted time.  For me, the fifteen or so months works out pretty well because my program is nineteen months long.  Fortunately I had been saving some money to prepare for my post-military education –  otherwise I would have been out of luck.

So the GI Bill is a tremendous benefit for veterans who are eligible.  I highly encourage any separating or retiring servicemember to look into it, and to do so soon.  It is an expensive proposition for the government to pay for such a generous program, and it probably won’t last forever…

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1.  As with any VA program you must register for benefits.  Go to www.va.gov and complete the VONAPP (Veterans On Line Application) in order to get started.  You can complete the paperwork at any time, so get started as soon as you can in order to draw benefits as soon as you start school.

2.  There are different rules for public and private schools.  Basically, the VA will pay up to the highest state school rate for the state you attend college, but for private schools there is a cap on tuition and fees.  Make sure to surf the VA GI Bill website to find out what pertains to your situation.

3.  A great benefit is the housing allowance that you receive while attending school.  It only pays while you are in class (no spring break or summer payments) and it is also not allowed it you are still on active duty.  It may be to your advantage to start your education after you get off terminal leave if you want to receive the full benefits available.