The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has long been committed to making sure education benefits are available to those who join the military. Modern VA education benefits recognize that today’s veterans and active-duty military service members may struggle to pay tuition or find education or training that’s a good fit.
Military education benefits include unique programs for veterans and service members, as well as their spouses and dependents, which include career counseling, tuition help for a variety of college and non-college programs, help with housing and other necessities for those pursuing a degree or training. There are even military benefits to help start a business or get technical job training.
Department of Veterans Affairs Education Programs
VA education benefits include the GI Bill, which has four separate programs based on when the service member entered the military and length of service. Other VA education benefits provide support for military spouses and dependents and for veterans, including help transitioning into post-military jobs.
The GI Bill
The GI Bill comprises four chapters that provide education benefits for military members and veterans. Each chapter has unique benefits and qualification requirements. Programs pay for up to 36 months of education. Veterans and service members may only use one GI Bill program but can use a non-GI Bill VA program for a total 48 months of education.
The GI Bill provides money for:
- Two-year, four-year, advanced degree college programs
- Vocational, technical training
- Apprenticeships, on-the-job training
- National testing
Military Spouse and Family Educational Assistance Programs
Spouse and family education assistance programs pay some, or all, tuition and other expenses:
- Survivors’ and Dependents Educational Assistance program (DEA) – monthly payments for tuition or job-training for families of service members who died, are missing, or disabled in the line of duty.
- Fry Scholarship tuition (full, to a limit), housing, expenses for family of service members who died in the line of duty after Sept. 11, 2001.
- Unused GI Bill benefits can be transferred to spouses or children
- Military branch family education benefits.
Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program
The VR&E is for veterans with service-connected disabilities. It provides coaching, counseling, and resources on five tracks. Services include employment evaluations, job training, apprenticeships, job-seeking skills, postsecondary training and education, support for starting a business, and independent living services for veterans whose disability keeps them from working in traditional employment.
Military Assistance Tuition Programs
Military Tuition Assistance (TA) is a VA education benefit that covers tuition, in some cases the entire amount, for education or job training. It pays up to $4,500 a year, directly to the school, for academic or technical courses at two- and four-year colleges. As long as the course is completed and other requirements are met, the money doesn’t have to be paid back.
Military TA is separate from the GI Bill, so veterans and service members can make progress on their education goals without tapping into their GI Bill benefits.
TA is available to members or veterans of all military branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves. Each branch has its own qualifying requirements, eligibility criteria and restrictions.
Military Tuition Assistance Top-Up is available for eligible active-duty military and veterans who qualify for GI Bill benefits. It helps bridge the gap when tuition is higher than what TA will cover.
Additional Military Education Assistance Options
Other military education benefits offered by the federal government, states, as well as private sources, can be used to supplement VA education assistance. They include:
Federal education grants – money that doesn’t have to be paid back –the Pell Grant, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Academic Competitiveness Grant, National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant, among others. All have different requirements, some academic and some financial.
Stafford Loans are low-interest direct loans from the U.S. Department of Education that don’t have to be paid back until the student graduates or leaves school. They are available for those enrolled in college at least half time.
The U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid website has a section on education benefits for veterans, military members and families.
USA.gov has information on grants, loans, education benefits, job help and more for active-duty military personnel.
The VA website has detailed information on military education benefits, including how to apply for and keep track of them.
» Learn More: Transfering Military Education to College Credits
About The Author
Maureen Milliken has been writing about finance, banking, investment, entrepreneurship, real estate and other related topics for more than 30 years. She started as the “Business Beat” columnist for the now-defunct Haverhill (Mass.) Gazette and currently is one of the hosts of the Mainebiz business-focused podcast, “The Day that Changed Everything” in addition to her daily writing. She also is is the author of three mystery novels and two nonfiction books.
- N.A. (2022, January 5) About GI Bill benefits. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/education/about-gi-bill-benefits/
- N.A. (2022, January 13) Tuition Assistance Top-Up. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/education/about-gi-bill-benefits/how-to-use-benefits/tuition-assistance-top-up/
- N.A. (2022, July 7) Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E). Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/
- N.A. (2022, May 16) Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/education/survivor-dependent-benefits/dependents-education-assistance/
- N.A. (ND) Tuition Assistance, Tuition Assistance Top-Up and VA Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/education/TU.pdf