It’s no secret that Wisconsin leads the nation in benefits, services and opportunities offered to transitioning military veterans and their families. And that’s on top of the Wisconsin education system recently being ranked among the best in the nation for both higher education and Pre-K-12th grade. These are a few of the many reasons why Wisconsin is the top state for veterans to move to with their families after their service.
Chief among the benefits available to veterans who move to Wisconsin is the Wisconsin GI Bill, which differs from the Federal GI Bill and allows eligible veterans, their spouses and dependent children to access free tuition at many colleges and universities in the state.
With the Wisconsin GI Bill, following their service and a move to Wisconsin, an eligible veteran and their entire immediate family can get remitted standard academic tuition and segregated fees at any University of Wisconsin System school (including 26 campuses across the state) or at any Wisconsin Technical College System institution (including 16 technical colleges and 49 campuses in every community in Wisconsin, large or small, urban or rural). The benefit is good for up to 128 academic credits or eight semesters (whichever is greater), and there is no limit on the number of the dependents who can use it.
Another appeal of the Wisconsin GI Bill is that it has no delimiting period. Those who are eligible can use it at any time, and there are no limits on the level of study, income limits or restrictions. That means individuals can use it for either undergraduate or graduate study, and any unused portion can be transferred to another qualifying school.
How to Start the Process Today
So how can you take advantage of the Wisconsin GI Bill as you prepare for post-military life?
- To start, those interested will need to determine their eligibility. There’s a five-year residency requirement in Wisconsin, applying only to veterans who were not Wisconsin residents at the time of their entry into active service. Additional eligibility requirements differ based on who the student is.
- The Wisconsin GI Bill approval process is a two-fold. First, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs certifies that the applicant is eligible. Then, the school needs to approve the application.
- To start the process of signing up, eligible transitioning veterans need to apply through the WDVA and its Veterans Benefits Resource Center (VBRC), which provides easily accessible “customer service” to individuals on programs, benefits and services. Contact the VBRC locally at 608.266.1311, toll-free at 1.800.WIS.VETS, online through the WDVA’s “live chat” feature or visit the WDVA’s Central Office at 2135 Rimrock Road in Madison, where walk-ins are welcome.
- Transitioning veterans planning to apply for the Wisconsin GI Bill upon separation should come ready with a copy of their separation of service document (DD-214), disability rating letter and documentation of Wisconsin residence for the past five years. Once a successful eligibility determination is made through the WDVA, a letter will be issued and applying at a qualifying Wisconsin school is as easy as doing just that.
- For veterans who were not a Wisconsin resident at the time of their entry into service or who may not immediately meet the five-year residency requirement, the same process applies after fulfilling the five-year Wisconsin residency requirement.