How To Be A GI Bill Expert: Know Your Surroundings

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Lisa Cullen, Contingency Operating Base Basra education officer, talks with Staff Sgt. Edward Ortiz, 1078th Military Police Company, 34th Infantry Division squad leader from Buford, Ga., about the options offered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill Chapter 33.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Debralee Best

To be a GI Bill expert means to know your surroundings. There are school personnel dedicated to helping you with the GI Bill, the policies you should be aware of, and little known parts of the program that can power you through graduation and beyond.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides dedicated support to school personnel.  

You rely on your school certifying official, or SCO, to provide support and report your information to VA about your attendance. SCOs are the frontline personnel administering the GI Bill and VA provides a wealth of support for them including:

This help is provided free of charge and your SCO should take advantage of it. A SCO who utilizes what VA provides is someone who considers your best interests.  If you find your SCO is not providing the support you need then please direct him or her to the resources listed above or call VA at 1-888-GIBILL-1.

Related: How to be a GI Bill expert: Know your payment »

Know the difference between VA requirements and local school policies.

Your school or employer plays an important a role in helping process the GI Bill, but can sometimes unfairly place VA between you and your payment. VA sends you a certificate of eligibility confirming your entitlement to the GI Bill. Schools do not have to require a certificate to report your enrollment to VA, but some still do. There’s no VA policy that schools require you to show proof of eligibility. A school can verify your enrollment without it, though it may go against their local policy.

VA will not prioritize your application if a school decides not to verify your enrollment without a certificate of eligibility. If you or your friends are in this situation then ask if your school will accept a DD-214 in lieu of a certificate.

Find the hidden gems in the GI Bill to help you in school and beyond.

Finally, there are free services VA provides and underutilized parts of the GI Bill to help you succeed. VA offers educational and career counseling service with a Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment counselor at no cost. Tutorial assistance is available if you are receiving VA educational assistance at the half-time or greater rate and have a deficiency in a subject. In fact, no entitlement is charged for using tutorial assistance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Are you interested in going to medical or law school after you finish your degree? The GI Bill pays for national tests like the LSAT, GRE, MCAT and more. VA will reimburse you for required test fees, but some fees are not covered like registration or administrative fees.

If you understand the support VA provides those around you, then you’ll master your surroundings. And don’t forget the small but beneficial parts of the GI Bill to help you achieve your educational goals. Do these things and you’ll be a GI Bill expert in no time.

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

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