Good Afternoon Everybody! Hope everyone is doing well! Just wanted to take the time to try and help my fellow service members who are close to exiting from one chapter of their life to another. So today, I wanted to talk to you about the GI Bill.
Contrary to popular civilian belief, the GI Bill is not an end all be all answer or easy out for that matter. Were not lucky to have such benefits, on the contrary the GI Bill could never truly equate to the hours, blood, sweat, and tears that we put in. To be honest, the GI Bill is simply a means to an end, a small token of consolation as many Vets transition from one life to another.
Trust me when I say, “It’s a real culture shock.”
So here’s a bit of story time. My final year in the Marines was a rough one. In a nutshell, I was getting out of the Marines and I knew the trajectory of my life would shift away from what had become a habit and a predominant portion of my life. Fortunately, the GI Bill was my opportunity to ease back into the civilian world and earn an education. You know, “try to live a normal life.” I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study or had any particular interest, so I enrolled in what every other community college student usually does, pursue “the basics.”
For many veterans, the GI Bill provides an opportunity not just for an education, but a consistent pay check much like the Marine Corps.
As long as your enrolled at least ¾ of the time, you earn a monthly stipend based on your location known as BAH (Basic Housing Allowance). Many veterans who recently separated from the service utilize this as a means of getting by. Sadly, one of the many fallbacks is that too many veterans enroll strictly to receive this benefit and fail to put forth the needed effort for their future. Fortunately, veteran or soon to be veteran, I am here to bring you 5 Basic Tips that will make the most of the GI Bill benefit.
Here are 5 tips for my fellow servicemembers:
1. Accreditation: If you have an idea of what you want to study great; for those like myself who didn’t have a clue. Let me tell you “Don’t’ Worry!” There is nothing wrong with enrolling in a general studies program at a local community college, for the most part, everyone goes through the same basic curriculum to create the groundwork.
However, the more important factor is being in a well respected, legitimately accredited academic institution. There are many for profit colleges and trade schools that will take advantage of your GI Bill Benefits, your money, and your time plus with very limited value earned in return.
A report conducted by the Veterans Education Success, a Veteran advocacy group, utilized data from the Department of Education and found that the top ten schools receiving GI Bill funding, 7 of them spent more on TV ads then teaching the Veterans. Click here for that reference.
At the top of that list, is the for profit university of Phoenix, Devry, and Strayer universities per the report.
In a 10 billion dollar industry, there is money to be made; do your research at both the state and federal level to understand adequate Accreditation in your home state. The goal is to maximize your education and ensuring superior quality.
2.Forget BAH: Great, we get paid to go school. Cover your rent, pay your phone bill, however, it doesn’t last forever and it shouldn’t be the primary reason you are enrolled. We get it. You’re losing a paycheck and the promise of sure thing is almost too good to be true, but this is misleading. For one, you have to do all the paperwork which can push your GI Bill acceptance a couple of months. So relying solely on this as you separate from the service will leave you with frustration and empty pockets.
Second, if you think about it logically. The monthly stipend is not much and covers only the basic needs for survival.
Improving your knowledge and skill set is the ultimate goal to become a well rounded human being. Many Marines I served with have been out of the Corps for several years without finishing their degree and did it solely for the paycheck. This represents a fixed mindset where one is settling rather then pursuing a struggle that would help them build character. Don’t be afraid of challenging yourself, and finding a subject you love, it’s the ultimate way to grow.
3. Work Study : Now, we know as student veterans we receive our bah, however, its usually not enough. Fortunately, there are work study positions at most colleges across the United States. I worked as a work study at the Pat Tillman Veteran Center at Arizona State University from 2014 to 2016. As a student worker, I helped assist student veterans process their benefits. I was paid an hourly minimum wage that was tax free. I encourage current and potential student veterans to pursue this program, certain eligibility applies (enrolled in gi bill benefits).
Not only is it a great place to work and make a few extra bucks, but you’re surrounded by other student veterans from different walks of life who are pursuing different academic endeavors.
To make the pot sweeter, you’ll be surrounded by individuals who are at different points of their lives after separation who will gladly give you the resources you need to thrive outside the military. I mean why try, stumble, or fail repeatedly when you have the answers there at school with you.
4. Utilize all benefits: If you are about to get out of the service, understand you are entitled to one year unemployment benefits. This will help you stay afloat as you begin to embark on your journey of life after the military. Pursue your disability benefits, research as much as you can about federal benefits and state veteran benefits.
For example, if you enlisted out of Texas you are eligible for the Hazelwood act that will pay for your school separate of the GI Bill.
On top of that there are many state level resources and programs for benefits that you can take advantage of. Vocational Rehab also is a benefit available to some veterans that could help you extend your GI Bill benefits and pay for a masters program for example.
Some have even got extended to pursue a law degree in certain cases. There are also other resources to assist in helping veterans start their own business. Do your research early, you will be surprised how much is out there to help you.
5.Plan to finish: After September 10, 2001, the VA estimates that out of the 5 1 million veterans that have used their post 9/11 education benefits, 32 percent will have a bachelors degree or higher. Click here for that reference.
Remember, you can get away with getting by on your first year out of the service because of unemployment and BAH. Unfortunately, these are limited resources. Make sure you have a solid plan by year one of what you want to study and where you want to be. If you have dreams pursue them with a proper plan, but also have a back up plan in case the first one fails.
The key here is to have a plan and set short term and long term goals. Remember, you don’t get your time back, thus, proper planning can maximize your benefits. So the faster you realize this the faster you achieve a higher level of normalcy in your life. Well, I hope you enjoyed this latest article. As always, as you know we love to hear from all of you so please feel free to contact us here. Till next time-Phan
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