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Education and Training

Understanding Your Certificate of Eligibility

This step-by step guide will help you understand your Certificate of Eligibility (COE), including next steps to obtain your benefits. In most cases, you can use either a COE or Award Letter to prove eligibility to your school.

Also see Understanding your Award Letter

Every document you receive from VA will be unique to your case, so please use the following information for advisory purposes only.

Benefits Remaining and Time Limit Percentage and Service Information Yellow Ribbon
Job Recommendations Take COE to School Debt
Career Counseling Appealing Decision Questions

Section: Certificate of Eligibility

This section lists the following information:

  • Your remaining benefits (months and days)
  • The time limit for using your benefits. You must use all your benefits by this time, or you will lose your remaining benefits.
  • The percentage of benefits you’re entitled to and the service information used to calculate that percentage. If the percentage is less than 100 percent, then the VA only pays the equivalent portion for tuition, books, and housing benefits. For example, if your benefit was calculated at 70 percent, the VA only pays 70 percent of your tuition bill; you would be expected to cover the remaining 30 percent of the cost. Assuming you’re enrolled at more than half-time, this means the VA only pays 70 percent of the housing cost based on where your facility is located.  See the current payment rate tables.

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

This certifies that you are entitled to benefits for an approved program of education or training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (38 CFR 21.9590).

You must take this letter to your school. Your school must certify your enrollment before
you can get paid (38 CFR 21.9720).

You have 36 months and 0 days of full-time benefits remaining (38 CFR 21.9550).

You have no time limit to use your education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (38 USC 3321).

You're entitled to receive 100% of the benefits payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill program for training offered by an institution of higher education. We determined this percentage based on your length of creditable active duty service (38 CFR 21.9640; 38 USC 3311). We based our decision on the following service information:

Begin Date

End Date

Service Length (in days)

Training Length (in days)

Total (Service/Training)










You might have applied for multiple VA benefit programs at the same time you applied for GI Bill benefits. Depending on your eligibility for each benefits program, you may have received denial letters. This does not mean you aren’t eligible for the benefit programs listed on this COE. 

Important: If you are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) and another benefit program, you must make an irrevocable election in writing before receiving any Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which means you cannot change back to the other program after you receive any Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.  You can contact us using Ask VA or noting it on your application.

Section: Yellow Ribbon

This section tells you if you are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.  The GI Bill covers tuition and fees for public schools, but may not cover all tuition and fees for private or foreign schools.  This program helps you cover the remaining cost of tuition not covered by the GI Bill.  If you go to a private or foreign school that charges more than the current academic rate that GI Bill pays, the Yellow Ribbon Program can help you cover the remaining cost. 

Important: Not all schools participate.  Here’s how to apply.  

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

Because you are eligible at the 100% benefit rate, you may also be eligible to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program allows schools to enter into an agreement with VA to provide additional financial assistance to individuals who are charged tuitions and fees that exceed the in-state maximum amount payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill program. This benefit is only payable if the Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition and fee payment does not cover the full cost of your school's tuition and fees.

Note: Individuals on active duty are not eligible for this program until August 1, 2022. The Yellow Ribbon Program is not available at all schools. To determine if your school participates, or to receive a list of Yellow Ribbon Program participating schools, please visit

Section: Choosing the Right Career and Training

The VA’s CareerScope tool can help you decide what jobs, classes, and training programs are right for you. The GI Bill Comparison Tool compares the benefits provided at each school.

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

CareerScope® assesses your interests and aptitudes, gives career recommendations and helps you decide which courses or training programs you should focus on. To access CareerScope® please visit

The GI Bill® Comparison tool allows you to compare estimated benefits by school. To access the tool please visit

Section: What You Must Do

This section explains what to do with your COE to start receiving benefits. See information on how long it usually takes to receive your benefits after enrollment is certified. In most cases, you can use either your COE or your most recent Award Letter to prove eligibility to your school.

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

You should take this letter to your school's veterans certifying official as proof of your eligibility and ask him or her to submit your enrollment certification to VA. After your school submits your enrollment certification, your tuition and fees payment will be sent to the school on your behalf. All other payments will be sent directly to you.

Section: Debt Information

This section explains what you must do if you:

  • Have a change of enrollment
  • Drop or withdraw from a class
  • Don’t attend classes or the training programs

In some of these instances, you may create a debt to the VA if you’re overpaid for tuition, books, or housing. See additional information about debts to the VA.

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

You must promptly notify your school's veterans certifying official and the VA. If there is any change in your enrollment, it may create a debt due to overpayment. Generally, VA cannot pay for:

• Courses you don't attend.
• Courses from which you withdraw.
• Courses you complete but receive a grade which will not count towards graduation.

 If you have a change of enrollment which resulted in an overpayment of tuition and fees or Yellow Ribbon, you may see that debt indicated as a tuition and fee or Yellow Ribbon debt amount to be collected. However, VA will not collect the tuition and fee or Yellow Ribbon debt from you. Rather, VA will collect this amount from your school. (Authority 38 U.S.C. 3685(b)) In turn, your school may require you to pay them any outstanding balance for tuition and fees or Yellow Ribbon. VA will not manage your tuition and fee or Yellow Ribbon debts anymore - schools will hold these debts. You will have to go through your school if you owe money for dropping a class or withdrawing from school. The school may be reaching out to you for the debt. It is important that you contact the school and work through any issues.

For additional information regarding debts, please visit


Section: Career Counseling

This section provides information on professional career counseling services and additional factors to consider when deciding on a school.

An important thing to consider when selecting schools are articulation agreements. These are contracts between schools that determine what credits transfer and if students have guaranteed admission to another school if they choose to transfer. You can find out more about these policies by doing research, talking to a school counselor, or calling the VA.

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

The receipt of this Certificate of Eligibility (COE) means that you are also eligible for VA-provided professional career counseling services at any time during your eligibility period.
Please note: When considering the school(s) for which you would like to receive your educational training, we recommend that you research your perspective school using the GI Bill Comparison Tool and our “Factors to Consider When Choosing a School: A guide before using the G.I. Bill”.

Pay particular attention to whether your prospective school(s) has articulation agreements in place, what the agreement involves, and how it applies to credit transferability should you wish to transfer to a different school at a later date.

If you have questions, particularly about articulation agreements, or would like more information about career counseling services, you may call VA to speak directly with a customer service representative at 1-800-827-1000.

Additionally, if you are within six months of discharge, you may be eligible for VA's professional career counseling. For more information, call 1-800-827-1000.

Section: What You Should Do If You Disagree With Our Decision

This section explains your options for appealing the COE if you disagree with any part of the decision. The VA form mentioned in this section (20-0998, Your Rights to Seek Further Review of Our Decision) is attached at the end of the letter. Please click on each link below to access and download applications:

Supplemental Claim
Higher-Level Review
Appeal to the Board

From a Template Certificate of Eligibility

If you do not agree with this decision, you have one year from the date of this letter to select a review option to preserve your earliest effective benefit date. The review options and their proper applications are as follows, for a(n):

  • Supplemental Claim, complete VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim
  • Higher-Level Review, complete VA Form 20-0996, Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review
  • Appeal to the Board, complete VA Form 10182, Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement)

Please see the enclosed VA Form 20-0998, Your Rights to Seek Further Review of Our Decision. It explains your options for an additional review. You may obtain any of the required applications by downloading them from or by contacting us at 1 (888) GI BILL 1 (1-888-442-4551). You can also learn more about the disagreement process at If you would like to obtain or access evidence used in making this decision, please contact us as noted below. Some evidence may be obtained by signing in at

Section: If You Have Questions or Need Assistance

Every document is different, so only use this page as a general guide.  We have a similar guide to your Certificate of Eligibility/Award Letter.  You can review the entire document or click to a specific section through these shortcuts.  Each section is copied here so you can compare the example to your own version.

VA Forms

Frequently Asked Questions
Ask A Question:
Include your full name and VA file number
Mailing Address:
Include your full name and VA file number on the inside of mailed correspondence (not on envelope)
See address at the top of this letter
Education Call Center 1-888-GI-BILL-1 (1-888-442-4551) (inside the U.S)
001-918-781-5678 (outside the U.S.)
TTY, Federal Relay 711
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
VA Regional Office Location
GI Bill® Comparison Tool:
This tool allows you to get information on a school’s value and affordability; and to compare estimated benefits by school.