How Financial Aid for Veterans Works

The GI Bill was introduced back when these guys served in the military. These days, it's more robust than ever.
The GI Bill was introduced back when these guys served in the military. These days, it's more robust than ever.
Tim Bieber/Getty Images

The idea that the United States should repay the service of its soldiers hasn't been around forever. In fact, veterans got $60 and a train ticket after returning home following World War I. When the Great Depression struck, veterans demanded help and in 1944, the government answered with the GI Bill of Rights.

The GI Bill was fairly radical for its time. College was seen then as a place where America's rich elite went, not soldiers returning from war. But the GI Bill greatly changed that concept and vastly opened higher education to the American public. It's credited with helping to contribute to the post-World War II economic boom by greatly widening the pool of educated professionals in the American work force.

In August 2009, the GI Bill got a makeover. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is considered to contain one of the most robust education benefits packages the U.S. military has ever offered its veterans or troops. The bill expands payments for costs associated with school. It more resembles real financial aid than ever before -- payments are made to colleges rather than to the veterans themselves. And the potential for getting a world-class private education is within reach of veterans with the accompanying Yellow Ribbon Program (more on that later).

But the Post-9/11 Bill didn't come into effect until 2009 and it retroactively covers soldiers who enlisted after September 2001. For soldiers who enlisted after August 2009, the Post-9/11 Bill is the only option. But for the tens of thousands of soldiers who have Montgomery Bill benefits available have a choice: keep the old benefits or switch to the new ones.

There are a lot of factors to consider; this article is meant to provide a rough outline of the more important ones. If you're a veteran or a family member of a veteran seeking financial aid based on military service, be sure to contact your local Veterans Affairs office for more guidance.

In this article, we'll look at the Post-9/11 Bill and compare it to other GI Bill coverage. We'll also look at benefits for family members as well. Read the next page to find out some of the key points to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.