Veterans, the GI Bill is the biggest and most important investment in your education the U.S. government has ever made. Don't let it go to waste.

From the moment you leave the service, you have 10 years to use all your veterans benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and 15 years to use your benefits accorded under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

When those years are up, so too is your eligibility to attend any college or university under the program. No matter how good the reason, the government will under no circumstances extend those benefits for you if you fail to take advantage of them within that 10- to 15-year window.

In entering your life after service, you'll have a number of tough choices to make – namely, do you attend school full-time, get a full-time job, or try to balance an education and employment? 

Whatever path you choose, do not let your GI Bill benefits gather dust. Here's why using them is so important, according to the Transitioning Veteran blog: 

New opportunities
Having a college degree, certification, vocational training or some kind of apprenticeship on your resume will grant you access to a wide range of new opportunities in the civilian world. Because many employers look for job candidates with a college degree these days, obtaining one and coupling it with your military experience and related skills puts you way ahead of the pack. 

A safety net
Veterans know better than most how quickly a situation can change down range.To a certain extent, the same applies to the civilian workforce. Should you be laid off or your employment situation change – with a move, for example – having a degree or certification will help you get back into your field more quickly or else acquire a similar position elsewhere. 

Salary boost
When it comes to money, your education can make a big difference in how much you're taking home at the end of the day. A Pew Research study from 2014 found that the earnings difference between those with a degree and those without one was about $17,500 annually. That's the kind of salary boost you don't want to leave on the table. 

The GI Bill is one of the easiest ways a veteran can transition from military service to having a degree and a comfortable salary in four or five years. Don't let it go to waste by giving your money to a predatory school – not all for-profit schools are bad, but be careful – or at one that just isn't the right fit for you. 

Most of all, though, just don't let the opportunity to succeed pass you by. You've worked too hard and sacrificed too much to let that happen.