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You’ve likely heard about the GI Bill® and the educational benefits available through it. Currently, there are two, major educational programs available to veterans and service members: the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post-9/11 GI Bill®.
But there’s another educational benefits program you may have also heard of: the VEAP (Veterans’ Educational Assistance) Program. If you were an active-duty service member a few decades ago, you may have even contributed to it. More importantly, you may be eligible for a refund of monies you contributed to the program and didn’t use.
Here’s what you’ll want to know:
The VEAP Program Explained
If you’re wondering, what is the VEAP Program, you’re not alone. That’s because it’s been closed to new participants for close to 40 years. But if you’ve looked into veteran or service member educational benefits, you’ve likely come across information about the VEAP Program.
Before the Montgomery GI Bill® (and certainly before the Post-9/11 GI Bill®), active-duty service members could participate in the VEAP Program, which stands for (Post-Vietnam Era) Veterans’ Educational Assistant Program.
Anyone entering active duty between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985 was eligible to participate in the VEAP Program. More specifically…
The voluntary VEAP Program was open to active-duty service members on January 1, 1977. On June 30, 1985, the VEAP Program was closed to new participants (right around the time the Montgomery GI Bill® program was introduced) but was temporarily reopened between October 28, 1986 and March 31, 1987 to provide service members a final chance to apply before open enrollment ended on April 1, 1987.
Here’s how it worked:
Through the VEAP Program, active-duty service members could contribute up to $2,700 of their own money to be used at a later date for educational purposes. For every $1 a service member contributed, the U.S. military would contribute $2 — i.e., a $2-to-$1 government match.
So, if a service member contributed $2,700, the Department of Defense would contribute $5,400, for a total amount of $8,100.
You’re part of the VEAP Program if:
If you served in the Air Force, you must also have:
What Education Benefits Can VEAP Be Used For?
Your VEAP money can be used to cover the cost of tuition associated with college degrees (associate, bachelors, masters), certificates, or diplomas through VA-approved institutions. You can also use it to cover the cost of:
You may also be able to use your VEAP benefits for remedial, refresher, and deficiency courses.
Can I Still Use my VEAP Benefits?
Yes, despite the program being stopped, if you’re still on active duty or it’s been less than ten years since you left active duty, you can still use your VEAP benefits, even if you’ve used some of them in the past. Whatever’s left in your VEAP account is yours to use toward attaining a college degree or other educational pursuit, provided you have at least three months’ worth of contributions in the fund.
Similar to today’s Montgomery GI Bill® benefits, VEAP benefits pay up to 36 months of military college education, and they expire 10 years following your date of discharge or release from active duty. If you were disabled or you were a POW during this time, your VEAP benefits may be extended.
If you want to use your unexpired VEAP benefits, you’ll need to contact the VA’s Education Call Center at 888-442-4551. You can also get in touch with your regional VA office.
Calling All Veterans Who Entered Active Duty Between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985!
In 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs began searching for 115,000 veterans who contributed to the VEAP Program but never used their funds. Veterans who contributed to the VEAP Program but didn’t use any or all of their benefits may be eligible for refunds of up to $2,700. That means up to $300 million in VEAP benefits is currently unclaimed!
Did you contribute to the VEAP Program? Complete VA Form 22-5281 – Application for Refund of Educational Contributions to learn if you’re eligible to receive a refund!
I Can’t Remember If I Enrolled in the VEAP Program. How Can I Find Out if I Did?
Check your separation/discharge form – DD-214. If you enrolled in the VEAP Program, it will be listed on your DD-214.
I Have VEAP Benefits that I Never Used. How Do I Get a Refund?
If you don’t use your VEAP benefits with 10 years of your discharge, you’ll automatically receive a refund from the VA. You’ll be refunded only the amount you contributed to the fund, which is up to $2,700 – government contributions are not refunded. But you can request your refund earlier, if desired.
If you have VEAP benefits you’re entitled to or you’re owed a refund you never received, you must submit VA Form 22-5281 – Application for Refund of Educational Contributions to your nearest VA regional office.
You can also call the GI Bill®® hotline at 888-442-4551 (M-F, 7:00AM-6:00PM Central Time). If you’re overseas, call 001-918-781-5678.
Can I Collect a Refund for VEAP Benefits as a Surviving Spouse or Next of Kin?
Yes, you can request a refund for VEAP contributions made by your service member spouse. You’ll receive a refund of any service member contributions made into an unexpired VEAP account. Note that any government contributions made are not refundable.
Can my VEAP Benefits Transfer to the Montgomery GI Bill®?
No, no current opportunities exist to convert any of your VEAP benefits over to the Montgomery GI Bill® program.
But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be one in the future. The last “open season” to transfer VEAP benefits to the Montgomery GI Bill® ended on October 31, 2001. The VA has not announced any future “open season” dates.