Policies & Processes
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.
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.
GW certifies GI Bill® benefits in a two-cycle process. The first cycle is the student's enrollment, leaving the tuition at $0.00. The first cycle triggers the housing and book stipends to begin on time. Military and Veteran Services has nicknamed this process the "zero-cert."
The second cycle begins the day after the drop/add period, at which point Military and Veteran Services reports tuition and fees to the VA. Students are able to adjust their schedule up until this period. The second cycle is completed within the week following the last day of the drop/add period. Our office refers to this cycle as "cert week."
Why does GW use this process?
We "zero-cert" students before the semester starts so that students receive their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as soon as possible. We do not initially certify tuition and fees to allow students the flixibility to adjust their schedules during the add/drop period without tuition funds going back and forth between GW and the VA.
How does it affect my benefits?
Students will be certified for credit hours and not tuition. Students will still get their BAH on time.
How will this process affect students?
If a student requests certification before the term begins, our office will coordinate with Student Accounts to prevent any late fees or finance charges while we wait for VA funds to arrive. Holds might be placed on accounts if your tuition is not fully covered by VA education benefits. If all out-of-pocket expenses are paid, including housing, dining, study abroad fees, etc., our office can review your account for a hold removal. If you are unsure what your out-of-pocket expenses might be, please contact our office.
What are the advantages to this process?
- No tuition and fee debt letters
- Less confusion with scholarships
- Does not affect BAH
If you have any questions about this process, please contact Military & Veteran Services.
In January 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced upcoming changes to their approach to study abroad eligibility and payments. Effective August 1, 2020, the Post 9/11 GI Bill® will NOT pay for Study Abroad UNLESS it is specifically listed in the degree plan as a DEGREE REQUIREMENT. Few programs at GW have a study abroad requirement. If your program does, please coordinate with your academic department/program and our office to ensure your program qualifies for VA payments under this policy.
If you have any questions, please contact our office to speak with a School Certifying Official BEFORE applying for Study Abroad.