So you’ve done it. You’ve served your country honorably [or you have received benefits from your spouse or parent] and have decided to utilize your hard earned education benefits. Thankfully, in addition to the Post 9/11 GI Bill covering tuition and fees, it also provides a significant TAX FREE housing benefit. Depending where your school is located this housing benefit may be larger than the tuition payments themselves! The BAH rate is variable and is based in part on the Department of Defense’s E-5 with dependents Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate.
Unlike tuition, BAH is paid directly to the beneficiary [student veteran]. Which allows you to ultimately spend the money however you’d like. If you want to stay with family or bunk up with a bunch of people. You can freely pocket that excess money!
Things that Affect your BAH:
Location and Physical Attendance
Location, location, location. This something you may have heard over and over again regarding the price of real estate. So it should be no surprise to learn that where your school is located is one of the biggest factors when it comes to how much BAH you will get. If you are planning on going to a school located in Middle America, you can expect your BAH to be on the lower end. Now, if you are going to a school in say San Diego or New York city. You can certainly expect a much larger BAH check!
That being said there are some contributing factors regarding location that you should be aware of:
- Taking all classes online will result in your BAH rate being half of the national average BAH rate for an E-5 with dependents.
- If you are attending school at a foreign school your BAH rate will be the national average BAH rate for an E-5 with dependents. Currently that breaks down to $1,789.00 (August 2019 – July 2020).
- Taking classes at a school that has multiple campuses. You will be paid based on the BAH of the campus that you most often attend. No longer will you receive the BAH of the more expensive campus.
- Schools in U.S. Territories. You will receive Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) at the E-5 with dependents rate for the area the school is in.
NOTE: A student who is full time that takes just one class in person will allow them to get the FULL BAH amount.
Whether you started using your GI Bill Benefits before January 1, 2018
Due to the implementation of the Forever GI Bill. Students who started using their education benefits before January 1, 2018 will receive a slightly higher BAH rate. This equates to a rate difference of $100 or so depending on your location.
If you do not meet the requirements to earn the 100% benefit level for the GI Bill your BAH will be prorated accordingly.
Being a Part Time student
If you are a full time student. Then you are good to go. You get your full BAH amount. However, if you are not a full time student then your BAH will be pro-rated. That is… so long as you are over at least 51% of full-time. Taking 50% or less than the credits needed to be considered full time will result in you getting no BAH! Below are some tables that breakdown how much you should expect to get based upon how many credits you take.
|16 Week Courses BAH Rates|
|6 or less||0.00%|
|8 Week Courses BAH Rates|
|3 or less||0.00%|
Active Duty Status
Unfortunately, you cannot receive the BAH from the Post 9/11 GI Bill while you are still Active Duty. This is something to keep in mind if you plan on starting school while you are Transition Leave.
Kicker Bonus (AKA College Fund)
You may be eligible for additional BAH money depending on your original or reenlistment contracts! In an effort to recruit and retain highly qualified Soldiers for critical or short Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) the Kicker Bonus was offered. Depending on how long that contact was for you may be entitled to an additional $100 to over $850 a month! Your service branch should automatically notify the VA that you are entitled to this bonus. However, if you do not receive the bonus and it is in your contract. Contact the VA and send them a copy of your contract so they can ensure you get all the benefits you have earned.
GI Bill Calculator
The VA has recently released a new BAH Calculator that will help you determine how much BAH you can expect to make based on the zip code of your school.
GI Bill BAH Calculator: https://www.va.gov/gi-bill-comparison-tool