What is the G.I. Bill “Buy Up” Program?

The GI Bill of Rights, now simply known as the GI Bill, provides benefits to military servicemen and women who wish to pursue an education and career. The bill was controversial when it was initially passed in 1944, and it has is taken on many modifications over the years. One of those modifications is the inclusion of the Buy Up program, which allows military personnel to make an additional contribution to their GI Bill benefits.

Who is Eligible for the Buy Up Option?

The Buy Up option generally applies to Montgomery GI Bill beneficiaries. The Montgomery version of the bill covers active duty and selective reserve personnel. Active duty members may enroll in the program and pay $100 each month for 12 months, at which point they are entitled to receive education benefits after they have completed the minimum service requirement. Selective reserve members must actively participate in drills and have a six year commitment in order to be eligible.

Those who select the more recent Post 9/11 GI Bill are not eligible for the Buy Up program, even if they have already made contributions to it.

Maximizing Education Benefit

The Buy Up program allows those who are covered by the Montgomery GI Bill to increase their education benefits by making a higher payment each month. Participants may increase their overall GI Bill benefits by up to $5,400. However, there are a few important considerations that must be evaluated before participating in the Buy Up program. Important Factors First, active duty service members may increase their standard monthly pay rate by up to $150. They may make additional contributions in $20 increments up to $600. Each $20 contribution translates to an additional $180 increase to the total 36 month benefit value. Guard and Reserve members are now also eligible to participate in this program. Another consideration for those who wish to participate in the Buy Up program is the date they initially joined the military. The program is available to those whose first time enlistment date is after June 30, 1985. They must still be on active duty and elect to contribute any amount between $20 and $600 before separating from the military. The request must be made through the applicable military branch using form DD2366-1. Finally, program participants should be aware that there is currently no interface that alerts the VA as to whether a service member has made additional payments through the Buy Up program. Participating service members are requested to provide photocopies of for DD Form 2366, the LES’s if contributions are deducted from payroll, and DD Form 11 if cash amount is paid in full. Provision of these forms will prove that a Buy Up contribution was made and help the VA process the service member’s claim.

Overall, the GI Buy Up program can be a great advantage to servicemen and women who wish to enhance their Montgomery GI Bill benefits. The most important points to note are that the program is only available to those who have elected the Montgomery GI Bill, and good personal record keeping practices are essential.