Certificate of Eligibility Policy

Why we need your COE

One of our most commonly asked questions is why we need a recent Certificate of Eligibility on file to certify you. Even though the VA doesn’t mandate we do, as an institution, GW needs a COE to ensure that we can advise you on the best use of your benefits.

Why don’t you accept eBenefits screenshots? It says it provides all the same information as a COE.

As a one-time placeholder, we will accept an eBenefits screenshot if it’s your first semester with us. This ensures that you can receive your benefits in a timely manner, and will trigger the VA to send you another COE. After that first semester, we will need a copy of your paper COE in order to certify you. You can email a copy to us, or bring it in to our office where we can scan it in for you.

This is because, despite what the VA says on the screenshot, your paper COE does provide unique information that eBenefits does not. This is especially true if you’d like to participate in our Yellow Ribbon Program. In order to use Yellow Ribbon, you must be 100% eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill®* and not on active duty, nor using benefits from an active duty spouse. Paper COEs make this clear by providing your eligibility percentage and a chart of your service dates and status.  eBenefits screenshots, however, do not provide your service dates and status.  Previously, we could infer if you were active duty or not based on the presence of a delimiting date on your eBenefits. However, the Forever GI Bill® has changed this. Every service member that separated on or after January 1, 2013 no longer has a delimiting date to use benefits. This means that we cannot identify whether or not you’re on active duty from an eBenefits screenshot, and by proxy, whether you’re eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

Why do you need an updated COE?

COEs provide many points of information that help us help you. Firstly, updated COEs may indicate a change in entitlement, like additional eligibility percentage, a switch in benefit chapters, or Yellow Ribbon eligibility. Secondly, new COEs help us keep track of how many months of entitlement you have remaining. This means we can provide you with more accurate estimates on how much entitlement you may use in a semester, and is especially beneficial if you’re trying to plan the rest of your academic career. It also alerts us if you’re close to exhausting your benefits. If we see that’s the case, we can help you explore other funding options available to you.  Finally, new COEs allow us to better liaise to Student Accounts on your behalf. We can lift holds, remove finance charges, and prevent collections actions on your account, but only if we can vouch that you have the means to pay your balance via your GI Bill® entitlement outlined on your COE.

When you first are admitted to GW, we’ll need a COE dated from the last calendar year. After that, we’ll need a new COE every two years, or whenever a change of entitlement status occurs, whichever comes first.

How do I get an updated COE?

The VA will mail you a new COE every time you are certified. If you are not receiving this mail, please call the VA (1-888-442-4551) to ensure they have your current address on file.

To request a new COE, you can call the above hotline, or you can use the Submit a Question function on the GI Bill® website. COEs are typically received within 30 days.