Objective: To inform veterans in the state of California about new educational programs within the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Resource: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/tuition_assistance.asp , http://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/searchInst.do#content-area

Time to read: 3 minutes

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately 663 institutions of higher learning in the state where a veteran or dependent can utilize their GI Bill. Often times there is much confusion surrounding what schools accept the GI Bill or if your veteran is actually eligible to receive the tuition assistance.

Although Wounded Warrior Homes provides transitional housing, we’d like to bring attention to tuition assistance whether veterans are beginning or continuing their education after service.

In 2000, the President signed an amendment to the GI Bill that permits VA to pay a Tuition Assistance Top-up benefit. If you’re a recipient of the Montgomery GI Bill, Active Duty or Post-9/11 GI Bill program, you should learn about the Top-up program and its benefits.

If you want to use tuition assistance to complete a degree while on active duty, or take some courses and use the rest of your benefits after you’ve served, Top-up can help. The Top-up program allows participants to use the GI Bill to supplement tuition fees which aren’t covered by tuition assistance. Your benefit can make up the difference between the cost of the course and the amount of tuition assistance paid by the military.

One thing to consider is the cost of the courses you plan to take. If the courses are expensive, you should calculate whether or not the remaining benefits will cover additional courses and training you might need. Once you’ve figured out if the cost-benefit makes sense for you, you should speak to your School Certifying Official (SCO) and discuss applying for Top-up.

Top-up covers 36 months of payment and you have to be approved for federal tuition assistance by a military department. The amount of the benefit will be limited to how much you would receive for the course if regular benefits were paid. The total amount of the benefits paid by the military combined with the amount paid by the VA can’t exceed the total cost of the course, but can fully cover tuition.

Depending on which GI Bill you’re using, your entitlements are different, so you should speak to your School Certifying Official for assistance.