Furthering your education is often a beneficial way to transition into a civilian career after serving in the military. Whether you decide to attend college or trade school, your institution may request documentation outlining your eligibility for veteran education benefits. Wondering how to get a GI Bill certificate of eligibility? Here’s all you need to know about the GI Bill and how to get the most out of your benefits.
What is the GI BillⓇ certificate of eligibility?
The GI Bill certificate of eligibility (COE) summarizes military education benefits for servicemembers and veterans. This Department of Veterans Affairs document shows the benefits you’ve redeemed as well as the remaining balance you can use. The information in a COE is also available online in the Statement of Benefits section of your VA account.
Since veterans can get the most up-to-date information on their education benefits through their online accounts, most people only need the certificate of eligibility when applying to schools or pursuing military-related grants and scholarships. Many scholarship organizations only cover educational expenses after benefits are exhausted; therefore, the COE is requested as proof of your benefits history.
However, a child or spouse of a service member must also obtain a GI Bill eligibility certificate if they plan to use military benefits since they don’t have a VA account.
How To Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility
1. Make sure you’re eligible.
Before applying for a certificate, make sure you qualify for VA education benefits. In most cases, servicemembers and veterans are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill if they served at least 90 days of active duty after September 10, 2001. Depending on the program, you may also qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve or Active Duty service members if you have satisfied the two-to-six-year obligation.
Veterans who were disabled during active duty typically have shorter service requirements, but in all cases, you must have an honorable discharge.
2. Gather the necessary documents.
The next step is to gather the necessary documents needed to apply for your veteran’s education benefits. To apply, you’ll need the following materials:
- A social security number
- Education records or transcripts
- Military history documentation
- Direct deposit information
- Information about the institution you’re attending
3. Apply for education benefits.
The next step in this process is to apply for education benefits. Getting approved for the GI Bill will allow you to obtain a certificate of eligibility showing which benefits you qualify for.
You have four options for applying:
- Apply online: Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website and sign in to your account. After a short preliminary questionnaire, you’ll be prompted to enter your personal information. The VA estimates that this process takes about 15 minutes. You’ll also have the opportunity to start the application without signing in if you haven’t already set up an account.
- Apply by mail: If you prefer to apply by mail, you can download the VA Form 22-1990 online, visit a nearby VA office to request one, or call 888-442-4551 to have the paperwork sent directly to your address. Once complete, mail the form to a regional processing office.
- Apply in person: Look for a VA regional office in your area if you want to apply in person. In many cases, your school’s financial aid or veterans affairs office can help with this process.
- Apply with the help of trained professionals: If you need help filing your claim, you can contact an accredited representative to guide you through the initial application process for free. An accredited representative is typically a Veterans Service Officer (VSO), attorney, or claims agent certified in the VA claims process.
4. Wait for the VA’s response.
Once you press “submit,” the only thing left to do is wait for an answer from the VA. On average, it takes approximately 30 days to receive an award letter after filing a benefits application. However, you won’t receive a COE until you actually submit a claim to use your benefits. Expect to wait four to six weeks to receive the certificate once your claim is processed.
If, for some reason, your application is denied, you can request a review and submit new information that could lead to a favorable decision. If you’ve already been through the benefits application process and simply want to request a new copy of your COE, you can do so through your online account or by calling 888-442-4551.
What benefits are available?
GI Bill benefits offer a variety of pathways to higher education for veterans. The goal is to equip veterans with essential skills required for their desired field by offering assistance and aid for those who need it.
Benefits vary by program, but in general, the GI Bill can help you pay for undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational institutions, career counseling, and other training programs. These benefits also include related fees, such as books, supplies, exams, certifications, and housing. You can even transfer your VA education benefits to your spouse or child if your service period qualifies in this category.
For disabled veterans, benefits also cover support services to help you pursue a career or education. If they have a service-connected disability, veterans may qualify for additional benefits under the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program. Assistance could include case management, housing stipends, independent living services, job placement or counseling, resumé building, and on-the-job accommodations.
One of the best ways to determine what benefits you qualify for is using the GI Bill Comparison Tool. You can search by location, employer, or institution to find organizations that will allow you to use your benefits to the fullest. Military-friendly schools, for instance, offer more comprehensive support for veterans. Northeastern is committed to supporting servicemembers and veterans who are furthering their education, including extensive support services, CAVS group, and Yellow Ribbon program support.
If you’re ready to take a step toward your future, it’s a good idea to get started on your GI Bill benefits application as soon as possible. Under current programs, the majority of benefits either don’t expire or stay active for several years, making it worthwhile to find out what you’re entitled to even if you don’t plan to attend school right now.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.