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Montgomery GI Bill Goes Unused by Half Who "Buy"

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2000 – Can you imagine turning down $20,000 in education benefits -- especially if you paid for it in advance with cold cash and sweat equity?

Half of all service members eligible for Montgomery GI Bill benefits regularly do just that, according to Department of Veterans Affairs officials. Service members qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill benefits by contributing a nonrefundable $100 per month throughout their first year of active service and successfully completing an active-duty "hitch."

Walking away from the benefit is a waste of great investment, VA officials said. At the current $536 monthly benefit for 36 months of full-time schooling, the MGIB pays $16 for every $1 members must invest, Dennis Douglas, VA deputy director for education services told the American Forces Information Service.

He and other VA officials stressed MGIB benefits do not have to be paid back, unlike student loans.

Recent changes to the Montgomery GI Bill make it even better, said VA spokesman Terry Jemison. The program, he said, now pays the cost of some preparatory courses for college and graduate school entrance exams. Also, eligibility has been expanded to some officer training school graduates and surviving spouses. Proposals now under consideration before Congress would increase monthly payments, he added.

The education benefit provides many military men and women with education opportunities that otherwise might not be available, according to Jemison.

"We owe them, I believe," Douglass said. "It really is an opportunity for us to honor them for what they did for this nation."

The VA maintains a Web site offering detailed information, application forms and FAQs covering the Montgomery GI Bill, earlier GI bills and other VA educational programs at http://www.gibill.va.gov.

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