How to get the most out of your veteran education benefits

Getting a degree doesn’t have to break the bank.

Leaving the military and embarking on a journey into civilian life can be daunting. The economy’s current state is fragile and job prospects for even the most talented veteran can be uncertain. In the midst of this economic downsizing, however, lies a solid opportunity for former service members to utilize their full education benefits, move headfirst into a new career, and collect a check while doing so.

One VA benefit you can take advantage of after service is the Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E) program, formerly known as Vocational Rehab. This program is for veterans with a service-connected disability. VR&E offers various training tracks that can help you learn new skills, find employment that suits your current skill set or even start a business. In some cases, your family members may also qualify for assistance. You can check your eligibility on their website and explore their career track options. It’s worthwhile to mention that if you haven’t connected with the VA or applied for disability benefits yet, now is a great time. Countless resources available to you — including health, financial, and quality of life — if you only ask. Don’t put off applying for benefits just because you think you might not be eligible.

If you haven’t tapped into your GI Bill, post-service is a prime time to do so. First, you’ll need to determine your eligibility for GI Bill benefits. You can easily do that on the VA’s website on their education eligibility page. After you determine your eligibility you can apply for your education benefits. The VA is the authority for determining what GI Bill benefits you can receive. You can apply on their website by clicking the Apply for Education Benefits link on the homepage. A local VA office or an accredited Veterans Service Organization (such as your local American Legion) can also assist you with your application. 

Going to school doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your family’s financial stability. Depending on what type of school or training you enroll in and where your school is located, your GI Bill benefits include a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies on top of paying tuition and fees. Getting a degree doesn’t have to break the bank or cause extra financial stress for you or your family.

If you want to get a degree but don’t know where to start, Purdue University Global designed degree programs custom-built for veterans, which capitalize on your prior military training and strengths as a former servicemember. They have extensively reviewed occupational training from each service branch, which helps put you on the fast track to earning their Associate of Applied Science in Small Group Management by taking training courses that military members have already completed (such as the Corporals Course for Marines or the Advanced Leader Course, Warrior Leader Course, or Basic Leader Course for Army soldiers) and converting them into class credit. And by class credit, we’re not just talking about PE or Gen Ed classes—you can earn credit for major requirements and electives. If you served in the Air Force or Navy, credit transfer options are available for you as well. For no-cost, Purdue Global will review your civilian transcripts or Joint Services Transcript to calculate what your transfer credits look like for their program.* Depending on your skill set, you could complete an associate degree in as few as six courses.

As an added benefit, Purdue Global’s AAS in Small Group Management degree is part of a stackable degree path, which allows you to earn subsequent degrees, such as a bachelor’s or master’s, in a fraction of the time it would take you in a traditional education path. After earning your AAS, you can transfer your course credits into a Purdue Global bachelor’s degree program using their Advanced Start Credit program. After earning a bachelor’s degree, you can also fast track to a master’s degree for certain programs in the same way. You can talk to an advisor to find out more about what would work best for your goals.

If you’re not ready to use your GI Bill just yet, Purdue Global has tuition reduction options for veterans that are worth exploring.

It can be tempting to look at the current state of the American job market and the economy and feel anxious about the future, especially after enjoying a certain amount of job security while serving in the military. There’s no better time than now to hunker down and advance your education and skill set while enjoying financial security from various VA benefits. When the economic outlook starts to improve, you’ll be ready to launch into the workforce with new confidence and perhaps a new degree to boot.§

* Credit awards have service-level requirements. Exact transfer amount may vary depending on completed military courses and occupations as listed on your official Joint Services Transcript(s). Applicable state-specific program requirements, as listed in the University Catalog, may reduce the available transfer credits. All credits must be validated on official transcript(s) to be eligible for transfer.

† The 6-course determination is specific to Army soldiers and Marines and is based on the transfer of 60 quarter credit hours toward the 90-credit AAS in Small Group Management. Coursework reduction reflects an educational mapping based on the completion of enlisted professional military education (EPME), credit for occupation duties, and credit for additional sources of prior learning (such as functional training, CLEP/DSST exams, and other college credit). Credit awards will vary based on occupation, skill level, completed military courses as listed on your official Joint Services Transcript(s), and applicable prior learning that can apply toward degree requirements. Purdue Global does not guarantee the transferability of credit from any of these sources. All credits must be validated on official transcript(s) to be eligible for transfer.

Military tuition rates cannot be combined with other Purdue Global tuition reductions or ExcelTrackTM pricing.

§ Purdue Global cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. 

This article was sponsored by Purdue University Global.