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As an IT professional, you’ll likely need to continue learning throughout your career, often in the form of training for certification exams. The cost of certification exams really adds up, so it’s a good thing that the VA reimburses for them!
Here are some factors to consider as you plan for your IT certifications.
MGIB and Your Career
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) was established following World War II as a way to ensure that service members had educational opportunities that led to successful careers. As a veteran eligible for the Chapter 30 (MGIB-AD) or Chapter 33 (Post 9/11) Montgomery GI Bill, you have some great benefits coming to you. Whichever benefit you qualify for, you can use it to pay for your IT certification exams.
The cost of your exam must be under the VA’s financial cap. The MGIB covers approved exams that cost $2,000 or less, which should cover most IT certifications. You won’t be able to use the GI Bill for certs like the Cisco Certified Architect (CCar) exam ($7,500), but it will cover pricey tests like the lab portion of the CCIE exam ($1,400).
Your exam must be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA provides an online list of approved licenses and certifications. (Pro-tip: search by “Country” rather than “State,” and then perform a keyword search for your exam.) A cursory search reveals that the VA covers the most common Cisco, CompTIA, VMware, Microsoft, Oracle, and PMI certifications.
What the MGIB Doesn’t Cover
Unfortunately, the MGIB does not cover the costs associated with training bootcamps, exam courses, or test materials under either version of the MGIB. Nor will they reimburse administrative or registration fees.
Applying for Exam Reimbursement
If you’re using your VA benefits, then you’ll need to apply for them through the VA’s online portal. It’s a fairly simple process to initiate, but approval might take some time, so plan ahead. You’ll need a copy of your DD Form 214 and banking information to setup a direct deposit to receive your benefits funds.
If you’ve already applied for and received benefits in the past, you can apply for reimbursal for new expenses, like certs, by filling out VA Form 22-0803, Application for Reimbursement of Licensing or Certification Fees, and mail it to your VA Regional Processing office. As soon as it’s processed, they’ll direct deposit the requested amount in your bank account. They do not require documentation that you took the exam.
Once approved, the VA will charge the cost of the exam against your remaining benefits according to the rules of your GI Bill program:
Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33)
The wording is a little confusing, but essentially the VA will charge you one month of benefits for every $1,832.96* that they reimburse, rounded up to the nearest full month. So, even inexpensive exams will cost you one month of benefits. For example, if the VA reimburses you for a $400 exam, they’ll charge you a full month of benefits. If they reimburse you for an exam that costs between $1,832.97 and $2,000, then they’ll charge you two months of benefits.
*This is the 2016 monthly entitlement charge rate, which will change every year.
MGIB (Chapter 30)
Chapter 30 benefits are a little easier. The VA will only charge the cost of the exam proportionately against your remaining monthly benefits. In 2016, one month of benefits equals $1,717, which means that if you take a $400 exam, they’ll charge you seven days.
Whatever benefit you qualify for, the VA will reimburse you for as many exams as you take, including any you don’t pass, and re-certification exams.
Making the Most Of the MGIB
Think about your benefits as money you’ve earned (because it is), so plan ahead.
If you have even the slightest inkling that you might go back to school (even community college), it might be wise to hold off on requesting reimbursement. After all, a single month of Post-9/11 benefits are worth considerably more than a $350 exam. That month of benefits is likely worth more like $2,500 or more. It all depends on your future plans.
As a lifelong learner, you’ll want make your remaining benefits last as long as possible without letting them expire, so use your benefits strategically to meet your career goals.
For more tips on how to ease your transition into a civilian IT career, download the free Military to Civilian IT Career Guide!
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