Use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill by the National Guard and Reserves
In 2016, members of the reserve component received an average of $12,500 in benefits (measured in 2018 dollars) under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This report describes their use of those benefits and compares how the reserve and regular components use their benefits.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides educational benefits to service members and veterans who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001. This GI Bill (officially the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008), which covers tuition, fees, housing, and related educational expenses, is managed by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Partial benefits are available after 90 days of active-duty service, and many members of the National Guard and reserves have met that threshold because they have been activated for extended periods in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those with longer active-duty service receive greater benefits.
Scope of This Report
This report focuses on the reserve component’s use of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in 2016 and the cost of those benefits. (Throughout this report, “reserve component” refers collectively to the non-active-duty part of the U.S. military, which encompasses the National Guard and reserves.) In 2016, about 78,500 members of the reserve component used the program, and the total cost to VBA for those benefits was about $1 billion. About half of that amount was for tuition and fees; most of the remainder was for housing allowances. The cost of providing education benefits to the reserve component under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is higher than it was under earlier laws.
Whereas the Montgomery GI Bill–Selected Reserve program and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) have been available only to members of the reserve component, the Post-9/11 GI Bill may be used by both the reserve and regular components. The report compares the way members of the reserve and regular components use their benefits.
Overall, there were few variations in how members of the reserve component and other veterans used their benefits, but there was a difference in how much those benefits cost.
Spending on veterans from the regular component was higher on average, mainly because most of them were eligible for full benefits, whereas members from the reserve component were more likely to qualify for a lower benefit level because they tend to have less time on active duty.
CBO found that the average annual spending per person in the reserve component was $12,500 in 2016 (measured in 2018 dollars).
By comparison, average annual spending per person for beneficiaries from the regular component was $18,800.
There was little distinction between the ways members of the National Guard and members of the reserves used their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.