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.

A smoking U.S. Army Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle in Poland on January 18, 2020 (Facebook/Orzysz 998)

A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle burst into flames on the side of a Polish roadway on Saturday, the Army confirmed on Monday.

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A U.S. Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) runs for cover during a live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. (U.S. Army/Gertrud Zach)

A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.

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The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.

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Comedian and activist Jon Stewart meets with members of Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM), a coalition of veteran and military service organizations, Jan. 17 on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy of TEAM)

Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.

"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."

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A demonstrator stands outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Thousands of pro-gun supporters are expected at the rally to oppose gun control legislation like universal background checks that are being pushed by the newly elected Democratic legislature. (Associated Press/Julio Cortez)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer

This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.

This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.

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