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.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Click here for more information about VA education benefits.

What is the certification process?

The certification process is how Military & Veteran Services (MVS) systematically submits certifications to the VA. There are approximately 1000 VA education benefits users at GW, 700 of which use the GI Bill®. The process is initiated by the student's request for certification via GWeb which should be done prior to the first day of classes (according to the University calendar) but no more than 60 days. Only one request is needed unless there are changes to student's request.
MVS uses a two-step process. The first step, nicknamed the zero-cert, is when MVS reports students' enrollment (total credits), leaving the tuition at $0.00. This step prompts the VA to send the book stipend and start the monthly housing allowance (MHA) on time, for those who are eligible. 
The second step, or the final-cert, is when MVS report students' enrollment and total tuition. This step prompts the VA to send tuition payment(s) to GW.  

When do certifications get reported to the VA?

Zero-certs are submitted up to 30 days prior, but no later than the first week of classes. Final-certs are submitted the week following the drop/add period.
This timeline is recommended by the VA to better ensure students and universities receive applicable payments in a timely manner. Students will always receive notification by mail (and text/email, when opted) from the VA each time a certification is submitted for their enrollments. 

How does this process affect the GW bill?

When students request certification via GWeb prior to the first day of classes (according to the University calendar), MVS will coordinate with Student Accounts Office (SAO) to protect the GW account from late fees, holds, and the requirement of payment by the first day of class. When students request after the first day, or not at all, MVS can not ensure these protections and payment will be required by the first day. It is always best to request certification as early as possible, but no more than 60 days prior to the semester.
VA funds should begin arriving at GW approximately 30 days after final-certs are submitted to the VA. While students are waiting for VA funds to be applied to their account, they may receive an automated past due message from SAO. So long as students have receive VA notification of their certification, they can expect that GW will receive tuition from the VA soon. Students can contact MVS if they have questions about their certification or receiving a past due automated message. 
When students have out-of-pocket expenses, the most common ways to settle the bill are:
  1. Pay the bill. Once VA funds are applied and if a credit is created, request a refund.
    NOTE: Requests for refunds are automatically "denied" until verified by MVS. Once verified, SAO can release the refund.  
  2.  Wait for VA funding to be applied to determine your remaining out-of-pocket expenses, then pay that portion.
  3. Determine the out-of-pocket expenses and pay that portion of the bill, then wait for VA funding to be applied.

When students are protected from required payment by the first day, there is typically no need to set up a payment plan. If you are unsure how to determine if there will be any out-of-pocket expenses or have questions about the certification process, please contact MVS.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Click here for more information about VA education benefits.
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.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Click here for more information about VA education benefits.