I recently separated from the Navy after 10 years of active duty service. Shortly after separation, I decided to go back to college. I knew that I had Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that I could use, but there were a few things I didn’t know.
You still qualify for federal student aid.
Even if you are receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you can still receive federal student aid as well. I was unaware of this when I started my graduate degree. If you would like to apply for federal student aid, then you will have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can save yourself some time by making sure you gather all the documents needed to apply.
You may be eligible for a Monthly Housing Allowance.
Remember the Basic Allowance for Housing you used to get while you were active duty? You can get a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) while attending college classes when you use your Post 9/11 GI Bill! Even if you are taking online courses, you can still receive up to $684 a month in MHA. The Post 9/11 GI Bill also covers tuition and fees, and even provides an annual stipend of up to $1000 for books and supplies.
Applying for benefits is easier than I thought it would be.
I won’t say that the application is a short one, but Department of Veterans Affairs has a tool called the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP) that you can use to apply for your education benefits and many other veteran benefits as well. Also, by using this tool, your application is sent directly to the VA office with jurisdiction over your application, and processing will begin as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the VONAPP is specifically for aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In order to qualify for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans and other forms of federal student aid, you still need to fill out the FAFSA.
Transitioning from military to civilian life can be a bit difficult. However, with the help of Federal Student Aid and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, paying for my college didn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be for you either. You have devoted years of your life to serving your country; now you can take advantage of a few of the benefits that you have earned. Your military service is appreciated. Happy Veterans Day.
Dominique Ramirez is a New Media Analyst at Federal Student Aid and a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve