The GI Bill can only be used for educational purposes. As of 2011, the two versions of the GI Bill are the Post 9/11 and Montgomery bills, which offer slightly different benefits. The Post 9/11 Bill pays living and housing stipends in the form of checks. The stipends can be cashed at any bank, but the VA only issues them to students enrolled in an accredited university or community college.
The GI Bill is a program, not a physical bill or check, that provides benefits to veterans to help them transfer back to civilian life. When the program was established in 1944, it provided veterans with help on housing loans, starting businesses and unemployment insurance, but the program was slowly stripped over the decades. In 2008, President Obama introduced the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which expands benefits for veterans, but the benefits must be applied to post-secondary education.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available for veterans who served for at least 30 days after September 11, 2001. The program offers up to 100 percent of tuition and fees (but no more than the tuition at the most expensive state university in the veteran's school's state), as well as $1,000 for books and supplies, a monthly housing stipend based on the local real estate market and relocation assistance. Amounts depend on the veteran's length and type of duty. Veterans can only use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for expenses associated with an accredited college.
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Montgomery GI Bill
To be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill, a veteran must have graduated from high school, served two years of active duty and contributed $100 to the program for 12 months. The Montgomery Bill pays a monthly tuition assistance amount that changes ever October ($1,426 as of October 2010). The money can be used to pay for tuition at any vocational, training or apprenticeship program as well as any college.
Cash and the GI Bill
Both the Montgomery and Post 9/11 bills send veterans monthly checks or direct deposits. However, veterans can only receive this assistance while enrolled in an eligible educational program; veterans cannot simply get cash out of the GI Bill.