What kinds of exams are covered?
The VA will reimburse eligible students for the cost of the most-common college entrance exams, as well as national exams for college credit. These include:
Common undergraduate exams:
- SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)
- ACT (American College Testing Program)
- AP (Advanced Placement Exam)
- CLEP (College-Level Examination Program)
- DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests)
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
Common graduate exams:
- LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
- GRE (Graduate Record Exam)
- MAT (Miller Analogies Test)
- GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)
- MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test)
- DAT (Dental Admissions Test)
- OAT (Optometry Admissions Testing)
- PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test)
For a current list of approved national exams, please see the VA’s website, or contact your school certifying official for assistance.
In addition to national exams, the VA will also pay for approved exams for professional licensing and certification, such as medical board exams, bar exams, IT specialist certification exams, teacher credential exams, etc. There is no limit to how many exams you take, or how many times you take the same exam. The VA will even pay if you fail the exam.
For a list of approved professional licensing and certification exams, again, please see the VA’s website, or contact your school certifying official for assistance.
How much will the VA pay?
The VA pays for required test fees, including registration and administrative fees, although some fees associated with the exam may not be covered. Fees that are not covered include late fees, rush fees, and fees for any optional items or services that are not required for the exam. In addition, the VA only pays for actual exam fees, and not the cost of practice exams or prep courses.
Professional licensing and credentialing exams have a maximum reimbursement limit of $2,000 per exam, although there is no limit on how many exams you take or how often you take each exam. Other fees associated with your license or credential are not covered under this program; just the exam itself.
Regardless of the type of exam or how much it costs, remember that this is a reimbursement program, which means you have to pay the costs up-front when you register for the exam, then take the exam and wait for your scores before you can even submit a claim form, then wait for the VA to process your claim before you get your money back. This isn’t a free-exam program, and you will have to bear the cost while waiting for reimbursement. Since the claim forms are handled by snail-mail, it could take a long time before you are reimbursed.
How much does it cost me?
Yes, you read that correctly. Besides the up-front cost of the exam, the test reimbursement program isn’t a freebie – it comes out of your remaining GI Bill entitlement, which is why most people don’t claim this benefit. The amount of entitlement that you have to give up when you claim exam reimbursement depends on which benefit you are using (and you have to have sufficient entitlement remaining to cover the benefit when you claim reimbursement, or your claim will be denied).
Post 9/11 GI Bill®:
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, the VA will charge you a minimum of 1 month of entitlement for EACH exam. If the exam costs more than the national average BAH rate (currently $1,509 for the 2014-2015 academic year, adjusted annually), the VA will pro-rate the amount of entitlement they charge you to the nearest whole month.
You are using the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, and the full-time BAH rate for a student attending your school is $1,000 per month. You took an AP exam that cost $100. If you claim reimbursement, the VA will charge you 1 month of entitlement (the minimum) for that exam.
Your buddy attending the same school took a professional licensing exam that cost $1,595. If he claims reimbursement, the VA will also charge him 1 month of entitlement because it cost more than the national average BAH rate, but is rounded to the nearest month.
As you can see, the person in the second example got the better deal – the exam cost was fully reimbursed, and he only had to give up one month of BAH in exchange for the exam. Since the exam cost more than the BAH, this was probably a good trade-off for the student.
However, the student in the first example also had to give up one month of BAH, while that exam didn’t cost nearly as much. Clearly, this is not a good use of benefits, since a month of BAH is worth much more than that exam. If the student is still in school, it would be better to pay for the exam out of pocket and collect the regular BAH instead.
Depending on where you live and what exam you want to take, the exam reimbursement benefit may or may not be good for you. If you are taking an expensive exam, or are going to school in an area with a low BAH rate, you may be better off by claiming the reimbursement. On the other hand, if the exam is relatively inexpensive, or you live in an area with a high BAH, and you’re still in school, you would probably be better off if you save your entitlement for school and just pay for the exam out of pocket.
It’s also very important to keep in mind that the Post-9/11 GI Bill® also pays tuition and fees, and the book stipend, not just BAH. When you’re considering trading a month of entitlement for an exam, think about what else that month might get you – if you can start another semester at your school and get another tuition and fee payment, book payment, and BAH payment with that month of entitlement, you may not want to spend it on an exam. Unless you’re using transferred GI Bill benefits, or nearing your benefit cap or delimiting date, you could get an entire extra semester’s worth of benefits if you have at least 1 day of entitlement to carry you into the next term, and if your school has a high tuition and high BAH rate, that extra day – the marginal benefit – of entitlement can be huge.
Of course, if you will be graduating soon or have just completed your education but still have entitlement remaining, you may as well use up the rest of your entitlement that would otherwise go to waste.
Bottom line: do the math and budget carefully.
If you are using a VA educational benefit other than the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, such as the Montgomery GI Bill (also called “MGIB” or “chapter 30”), the MGIB-Selected Reserve Bill (chapter 1606), the Reserve Education Assistance Program (also called REAP or chapter 1607), or the Dependents Educational Assistance program (also called DEA or chapter 35), the VA will charge your entitlement an amount proportional to the value of a month of full-time benefits. Specifically, the VA will divide the reimbursement amount by the monthly allowance amount, and charge your entitlement in months and days, rounded to the nearest whole day. It is not rounded to whole months, and there is no minimum.
You are using Chapter 35, and your full-time monthly allowance benefit is $1003. If you take an exam that costs $500 and claim reimbursement, the VA will charge you for 15 days of entitlement, or about half a month.
Your buddy is using Chapter 1606, and your full-time monthly allowance benefit is $367. If she takes the same exam that you take and also claims reimbursement, the VA will charge her 1 month and 11 days of entitlement, or about 1.36 months.
In both of these examples, the students received an even trade of benefits for reimbursement, and there is no gain or loss of benefits by claiming reimbursement. This program is much more equitable than the way the law was written for reimbursement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
How to claim reimbursement:
If you’ve weighed the cost and benefit, and decided to claim reimbursement, the process is fairly straightforward. Here’s how to do it:
- Apply for VA educational benefits, if you haven’t already been using benefits at your school. You must be eligible for benefits, and have sufficient entitlement remaining, to claim reimbursement. Additionally, your delimiting date must not have passed. You may apply online at www.gibill.va.gov.
- Complete VA form 22-0810 for national exams (such as SAT, GRE, or CLEP), or VA form 22-0803 for professional licensing or certification exams.
- Attach all required documents, as instructed on the form. Keep copies for your records.
- Mail the form and supporting documents to the VA Regional Processing office for your jurisdiction. This is not the same as your local VA office or your state/regional VA benefits office. The address and instructions are on the actual form itself. Again, keep copies for your records.
- Generally, you must apply for reimbursement within 1 year after taking an exam.
If you need help filing the claim form, contact your school certifying official, or call the VA’s National Call Center toll-free at 888-442-4551 (888-GI-Bill-1). More information can also be found on the VA’s website.