GI Bill Frequently Asked Questions
How to start the benefits process
Veterans need to visit va.gov and "apply for benefits."
You will need to have the name and address of the school you wish to attend (located in the sidebar) and your bank routing number to fill out the application.
The VA will mail the Certificate of Eligibility (COE), or award letter, within 30 days from the date the VA application was submitted. The COE includes details of the VA education benefit that the student is entitled.
Applicants can call the GI Bill® hotline (1-888-442-4551), two-weeks after applying, to learn if they are eligible.
Veterans should keep this timeline in mind when they register for classes as it may lead to unforeseen out of pocket expenses.
The VA has a guide to understanding your benefits award. Please see their guide.
What if I have previously used my GI Bill® benefits but am now attending Montana State University Billings?
(Please note, as of August 2022, a Change of Program is no longer necessary) Veterans will need to submit a change of program at va.gov, switching from their previous institution to Montana State University Billings.
GI Bill® rates are highly dependent upon the type of benefits you qualify for and level of qualification. Veterans should use the GI Bill® Comparison tool to ensure a proper estimate of benefits. (or contact the Military and Veteran Success Center).
Additionally, payments are prorated based on attendance and type of benefits. A veteran must attend over half time (7 SH for undergraduate degrees) to receive a housing stipend.
Example: A veteran (undergrad) takes 9 credits during the fall semester; the veteran would then receive 3/4 BAH. *
GI Bill® Comparison Tool: VA.gov
*An undergrade student is considered full time at MSUB when they take 12 or more credits a semester. Graduate students are full time when they take 7 or more credits.
Now that I am enrolled and received my Certificate of Eligibility from the VA, what should I do to start my benefits process at Montana State University Billings?
Veterans should contact the Military and Veterans Success Center to initiate the certification process.
They will need to fill out a New Veteran Student Intake Form and Prior Learning Training Assessment Form. Once complete, the intake, prior learning, and certificate of eligibility needs to be sent to the Military and Veterans Success Center.
Additionally, 4-6 weeks prior to each semester of attendance, veterans need to notify the Military and Veterans Success Center. Failing to do so may result in delayed payments to the veteran and University.
If you start a semester with benefits, but they will exhaust during your current semester, the VA will continue to pay for the entire semester under the following circumstances;
- - You are using Chapter 33 benefits.
- - You are the veteran and they are your benefits (i.e. Not a transfer of entitlement recipient)
- - You will not reach your delimiting date during the semester
If any of these are not true, then your benefits will stop on the day you exhaust your benefits or reach your delimiting date. All school tuition and fees will be pro-rated based on the end date of entitlement and housing stipends will end on that date.
Enrollment verification is required for Chapters 1606, 30 and now 33. Failure to verify attendance may result in suspension of a student's housing stipend.
Below you will find how and where to verify enrollment for each chapter.
Chapters 30 and 1606 beneficiaries can verify their attendance through the Web Automated Verification (WAVE) program or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) at 1-877-823-2378.
Chapter 33 students can find updated information on the VA's website or through their guide sheet.
The short answer is YES! However, students must attend at least one day in person and provide documentation, signed by your instructor, that proves you attended in person. This is because hyflex courses are generally considered online courses according to the school catalog and school system. The Hyflex form serves as proof and documentation in the event of a VA audit.
The form can be found here.
I have been advised not to take a full semester due to student teaching, clinicals, or lab work. Is there any way I can still recieve my full housing stipend?
Again, the short answer is yes, provided the course meets specific criteria and we have written documentation that justifies the extra demand beyond the courses actual semester hour worth. In these cases we can certify using clock hours instead of semester hours.
It is usually best to discuss the potential with us before making any assumptions.
If we have already spoken or you have used this option in the past, you can find the required from here.
Yes we do. Once a veteran attends their first semester, they will have priority enrollment for the next semester. This typically means that the day after registration opens for students attending their senior year, registration will open for any student using GI Bill benefits. Students should coordinate with their advisors accordingly to take full advantage.
How to avoid debts and out of pocket expenses
The VA will pay for any tuition at the Montana resident rate for Chapter 33 (eligible at the 100% rate) and Chapter 31 students. All other benefit types (Chapter 30, 35 and 1606) are paid directly to the veteran or dependent receiving benefits. Any questions regarding clarification should be directed to the Military and Veterans Success Center.
Out of state students should contact the Military and Veterans Success Center to identify what options are available to offset any out of state costs.
There are multiple federal guidelines that govern military and veteran tuition rates. If you are on active duty*, receiving GI Bill benefits (Chapters 31, 33, 35), and live in Montana, contact the Military and Veterans Success Center to have your residency adjusted.
If you are using Chapter 33 benefits (Post 9/11, including transferred benefits) and are eligible at the 100% rate (typically based on 36 months or more of active service), and do not live in Montana, you might qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program, which would offset any out of state tuition and fee costs.
*Active duty military members using their branches TA are still responsible for additional fees. TA will only cover the cost of tuition. Please also note that being active duty alone does not ensure in state tuition. The military (or dependent) must either be a resident of Montana or stationed in Montana under active duty orders (drilling does not count).
*Effective August 1st, 2021, the "within three years" was removed and veterans will be eligible for resident rates as long as they served at least 90 days of active service and recieved an honorable discharge.
The Military and Veteran Success Center conducts a double certification. What this means is that after the add/drop period, we will adjust your certification, to include your tuition and fees.
The reason this is done is to ensure that the veteran receives their book stipends in a timely manner, and to avoid payment discrepancies to the veteran and university. Please notify us of any changes to credit hours or modality of instruction after certification, as it may result in student debt.
Additionally, if you are using any benefits other than Chapter 31 (VR&E) or Chapter 33 (Post 9/11), you will always be certified at $0.00 because the VA does not make any direct payments to the school.
If a veteran drops courses or changes their initial registration in any way, they should contact the Military and Veterans Success Center immediately. A new certification will need to be submitted reflecting the changes.
If a veteran drops any courses during or after the add/drop period, it may create a student debt. Please contact the us prior to dropping a course after the add/drop period so that we can discuss your options to avoid a debt to the VA.
If you think you might fail a class, contact us as soon as possible. There are resources on campus that can provide tutoring support, all at no cost to the student.
If you fail a class and did not continue to attend through the last day of the semester, a student debt may be established. This may lead to the veteran and school both owing money back to the VA. In the case of the school, those debts will then be billed back to the student by the university. Veterans should seek educational support through Veterans Upward Bound, the Academic Support Center, or TRiO Student Support Services to avoid failing a course. If you think you might fail, do not, under any circumstances, stop attending. Otherwise a debt is likely.
The Military and Veterans Support Center is more than happy to help coordinate educational support services.
If you receive an incomplete grade, you have one year to complete any additional course work so that you receive a passing grade. If the incomplete status remains after one year, the grade will be reported to the VA as a failing grade. Once this happens, it will likely result in an overpayment from the VA to the student and school, as students often stop attending courses they take an incomplete grade in.
The student may then be responsible for reimbursement to the school for unpaid tuition and fees.
Students should contact the Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0668 to verify the reason for debt and process to repay the debt.
As of January 2020, the student should only receive debts established for stipends they received. Debts are established after a change to their rate of pursuit. Contacting the Military and Veterans Success Center immediately following any withdrawals can help limit student debt.
Students placed on Academic Probation do not have to pay back the VA if they attended all of their classes through the last day of the semester.
Students placed on Academic Suspension must be reported to the VA. The VA may send a debt letter to students placed on Academic Suspension. Additionally, suspension, will likely result in the repayment of most, if not all of the payments the veteran and school recieved during the enrolled period in which the student recieved their academic suspension.
However, regardless of the receipt of a debt letter, education benefits may be suspended.
When a student’s Federal VA Education Benefits are placed on Suspension, the student has two options to regain eligibility for benefits:
- Federal VA Education Benefit Suspension Appeal Form:
Students that have been placed on Suspension will receive an email that includes a link to the Federal VA Education Benefit Suspension Appeal form. The appeal form should be filled out by students who had an extenuating circumstance occur during their schooling that directly caused them to not meet the satisfactory academic progress criteria.
- Re-establish Satisfactory Academic Progress:
Students are able to regain eligibility for their Federal VA Education Benefits by successfully completing a minimum of six college level credits with a minimum 2.0 semester GPA. Once this step is completed, the student would be placed on Probation, and the student would be eligible to receive their Federal VA Education Benefits for the next semester of attendance.
Additional rules and questions
Veterans may only take classes that apply to their current degree plan. If a veteran decides to change their degree plan, they should contact the Military and Veterans Success Center to avoid denial of benefits.
Example: Excessive electives that do not apply to the current degree plan are not allowed.
The rounding out rule is an option that allows students to take additional classes during their last semester of education in order to maximise their housing stipend. However this rule is only availible to Chapter 33 students that are within their last term, and only includes course work that would typically be an approved course within their current degree program. (e.g. a History student that could have taken HSTA 336 as part of their degree program but took HSTR 336 as an elective option instead, could then take HSTA 336 in their last semester in order to go from 9 credits to 12 credits)
Contact the Military and Veterans Success Center for more information.
There are multiple reasons your payment might have changed. Payments are prorated and this is typically the most common cause in changes to the rate of payment from month to month.
- Your benefits have been exhausted do to months remaining or date of expiration.
- There may have been a change to modality of instruction or credits certified.
If veterans have questions about their payment or remaining beneifts, they must contact the GI Bill® hotline (1-888-442-4551), the Military and Veterans Success Center does not have access to these answers.
If you are using Chapter 31 (VR&E) or Chapter 33 (Post 9/11) benefits and have a tuition-specific scholarship, then it will be subracted from your tuition and fees prior to VA certification. This is required by the VA regulation and federal law.
Example: A veterans tuition is $4,000 and they receive a $2,000 tuition scholarship, we will report the tuition to the VA as $2,000.
If you are using Chapter 31 (VR&E) or Chapter 33 (Post 9/11) benefits and have a non-tuition specific scholarship (e.g. it can be used towards housing, books, and living expenses) then we are not required to report the scholarship to the VA.
If you are using Chapter 30, 35, or 1606 benefits and receiving a scholarship whether tuition-specific or not, we are not required to report the scholarship to the VA because the student receives a "living stipend" instead of the school receiving tuition and fees.
How do I submit feedback or a complaint regarding my GI Bill® or GI Bill® assistance from the school?
Complaints can be submitted directly to the VA, however we ask that you first allow the Military and Veterans Success Center to try to resolve any issues you may have.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by the VA is avaialble at the official U.S. goverment website at GI Bill | Veterans Affairs (va.gov)