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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served from April 2004 to October 2005 on active duty orders given by the Louisiana National Guard for the OIF III campaign and was discharged from those orders honorably. Once I returned home from the tour and back into active drilling status with the Guard, I inactivated during my contract to pursue overseas government contracting for a year. When I finished that year, I returned home and re-entered the Guard. A year after re-entering the Guard a second time, I inactivated during my contract a second time to pursue overseas government contracting. After I finished working as a civilian overseas a second time, I returned home and re-entered the Guard (this time would be my third time entering/re-entering the Guard). My question is this: because I inactivated during the middle of my contract twice, would I still be eligible for Post 9/11 or would I have to go with Chapter 1606? Or what other information could you provide me with that would help me make a more informed decision on how to maximize my benefits regarding this situation?

A: No you are still eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill based on your deployment for OIF III. What happened after redeploying back home will not change your Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.

However what it will affect is your eligibility to make a transfer of benefits to your spouse or children. To be eligible for the transfer option, you have to have served a minimum of 6 years, be currently serving at the time of the transfer request and agree to serve an additional four years.

By jumping in and out of the guard you are spreading those six years of eligibility out over a greater length of time, not to mention not establishing a good track record for maintaining a good standing in the Guard.

I think you have to decide whether you are going to focus on being an independent contractor overseas and not continue in the Guard, or stay in the Guard and work here in the States. Jumping in and out of the Guard is not good for you or your unit. They can’t depend on you being there when they need you.

Frankly with your track record, I’m surprised you can find a unit that will enlist you.

As far as Chapter 1606, you only get that GI Bill if you enlist for six years. And once you get out of the Guard, there isn’t any residual value left that you can use once out of the Guard as there is with other GI Bills. Once you are out, or have served for 10 years, your Chapter 1606 is null and void.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Are there any sites or books that have non-fenced scholarships, as the article says? I haven’t been able to find anything related to that. Also where would I find scholarships that don’t pay for tuition?

A: For those of you that are not aware of the issue referred to in the question, the VA is the last payer when it comes to multiple forms of financial aid dedicated to pay tuition. So if you are awarded a tuition dedicated scholarship, the VA ends up paying less than they would otherwise, but the same amount of entitlement is deducted from your Post 9/11 GI Bill. Non-tuition dedicated scholarships have no effect on what the VA pays toward your tuition.

Now onto answering the question. I don’t know of any books or listings that specifically categorize scholarships into tuition dedicated or non-dedicated. I think your best bet is to get into a scholarship site and research the individual scholarships to see if you can determine what each one pays.

I can tell you that most scholarships offered by schools are dedicated to tuition. In other words the money in the scholarship is applied directly toward your tuition costs. However, I know of other scholarships which are not dedicated towards tuition, but the schools apply them toward tuition as a matter of policy. If you are eligible for a scholarship, ask the school or the organization awarding the scholarship how the money will be applied or what it can be used to pay.

In the case of non-dedicated scholarship money, some schools deposit it in an account for the student to use as they wish. This could be used to pay room and board, buy books, etc. Many non-school scholarships just issue you a check and you can use the money as you see fit.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am active duty and recently converted my MGIB benefit to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Unfortunately, since that time my command has changed their Tuition Assistance policy and it would now be to my benefit to be back under the MGIB. I have not yet used any benefits but I have already received my certificate of eligibility (COE). Have you ever heard of anyone getting their benefits converted back to the MGIB after receiving a COE? If so what is the process for doing so? Thanks in advance for your help.

A: While it is not common, I have heard of a few people talking the VA into converting them back to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) after switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However with that said, the policy in effect is once you convert you can’t go back. You even sign a statement acknowledging the fact you understand it is a one-way street.

However, being you have not yet used any of your converted Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits yet, I think you have a better chance of converting back to the MGIB, but I wouldn’t bank on it happening. What I don’t know is the reasons the people that were able to convert back used to convince the VA to switch them back.

While commands have been switching their Tuition Assistance (TA) policies around due to budget crunches, using the MGIB with TA has always been the better choice.

Under TA Top-Up, which I assume you are using, the VA converts the amount they had to pay your command into $1,648 segments and deducts a month of entitlement for each $1,648 segment paid out. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA deducts a whole semester’s worth of entitlement (usually four months) regardless of how much (or how little) they had to pay.

You could use this comparison as your argument to convert back to conserve on your GI Bill benefits. I hope you are successful, but I have my doubts.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: What is the difference between TA and the Post 9/11 GI Bill? And the difference between the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill?

A: There are too many difference to name them all here, but I’ll cover some of the main ones. For starters, Tuition Assistance (TA) is an education financial aid program provided by your service branch. When using it, they can pay up to a specified amount per credit in tuition. Anything over that amount and you have to pay the difference. Many TA programs use $250 per credit and up to $4,500 per academic year as their tuition guidelines.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is managed by the VA where they pay your tuition directly to your school. If you have three years or more of eligible service, then they would pay your tuition up to the resident level at a public school in full or up to $19,198.31 per year if attending a private school. Public or private, you still get the housing allowance each month and a book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 yearly cap).

Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), the VA pays you up to $1,648 per month to go to school provided you had at least three years of service. Out of that amount, you have to pay your own tuition, fees and books.

However, under the Tuition Top-Up program, your tuition is paid in full by your service branch, but the amount over what they are allowed to pay is billed to the VA. They in turn deduct a dollar amount from your MGIB or a semester’s worth of time if using the Post 9/11 GI Bill from your remaining balance. Tuition Top-Up is a good way to maximize your GI Bill as TA pays most of the cost.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is it best to use the MGIB if you’re doing online classes and should I switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill after completing online to go into the classroom, or keep doing online to exhaust MGIB?

A: If you use your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) for online classes, you’ll get paid the same amount as if you were attending classroom classes – up to $1,648 per month provided you served for at least three years and your rate of pursuit is classified as full-time. Out of that amount, you have to pay tuition, fees, books, etc. Over the course of a four-month semester, you would gross $6,592 from your MGIB going to school full-time.

Under the same conditions if you used the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition, but you would also get up to $41.67 per credit per semester in book stipend money and up to $714.50 per month in housing allowance. Over the course of a semester, you would get $3,358 gross ($714.50 X 4 in housing allowance + $500 in book stipend), but your tuition would already have been paid by the VA. So the only other cost out of this amount would be for books.

You’ll have to do the math using your school’s tuition figures to see which one would come out the best for you. The breakeven point between the two GI Bills is $3,234, meaning if your tuition and books exceeds that amount, you are better off using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Keep in mind that if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB entitlement left, all you get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that same number of months of entitlement you had left under the MGIB and not the additional 12 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I had the Montgomery GI Bill when I was on active duty in the 90s, I found out after some deployments with NG that I am eligible for 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I contacted the VA to get a COE for my school and asked why I only had 13 months and 3 days of Post 9/11 GI Bill? I was told by the guy that I have 48 months total, regardless of how I split it up. Now I am finding out that I had to use the remaining 13 months 3 days on the MGIB. I have not used any of the remaining months left. How can I change back to use the 13 months on Montgomery GI Bill? So I can use the 36 months of the Post 9/11? Is there a way? Thanks slowly getting frustrated!

A: You are a victim of partial information. The “guy” that told you that you could have 48 months total was not entirely wrong. Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, the maximum combined number of months of benefit you can have is 48. But you don’t automatically get that number – the part he forgot to tell you.

The only way is to first use up all 36 months of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits, then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional 12 months. Evidently he didn’t go into the explanation of how to get 48 months.

You don’t get both 36 months of the MGIB and 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The only way you can get 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is if that is the only GI Bill you have.

The reason why your COE showed you have 13 months and 3 days of Post 9/11 GI Bill is because that is the amount of unused benefits you had left under your MGIB.

The VA Form 22-1990 is very explicit in explaining that once you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can’t switch back. As a matter of fact, the exact wording Block 9F is “My election is irrevocable and may not be changed.”

As a final note, your deployments with the Guard does not make you eligible for 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it makes you eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, big difference – you either get the same number of unused remaining months you have left under the MGIB or the 12 additional months, if you had first exhausted your MGIB.

Don’t feel bad; I run into servicemembers every day that didn’t get the “full story” when “the guy” was explaining what benefits they were authorized.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My MGIB time runs out the first month of my next semester. I understand I am eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill for an additional 12 months. What can I expect to happen in the middle of my semester when my MGIB time runs out and it switches to the new GI Bill? Do I need to fill out any new forms in order for my benefits to continue through the middle of a semester?

A: It depends on what you mean when you say your “MGIB time runs out the first month of my next semester”. If you mean that is when you will have used up the last of your 36 months of entitlement, and you are not eligible for another GI Bill, then nothing happens and you will continue to get your MGIB payment until the end of the semester.

However if you mean that you will reach your 10-year limit in that first month, then your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) payments stop immediately as by law the VA can’t continue paying you after that date 10 years from your last date of discharge.

Since you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to submit VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website to switch to it. Just be sure to put an effective date in Block 9F that is a week or two after you think you have run out of MGIB entitlement. That way you’ll get your additional 12 months of benefits. Put in a date where you still have some MGIB benefits left and all you’ll get is that same number of days/months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

By the time you get your Certificate of Eligibility, it will show that you have less than 12 months of benefits left, because the VA will have deducted the amount you needed from the time when you ran out of MGIB benefits and to the end of the semester.

If you are going to hit your delimitation date, then you still need to send in the same form, but all you are going to get is the same number of months you had left under the MGIB and not get the additional 12 months. I know, it sucks, but that is the way the current rules are written.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I was a member of the Army National Guard from 3/2005 to 3/2011. I am now currently on IRR. I am looking at going back to school and would like to use my GI Bill but I don’t understand if I qualify or not. I believe I was told that I am eligible for the selected Reserve GI Bill with the kicker when I enlisted but now that I have been discharged in good standing will the GI Bill still pay for my schooling?

A: No your Reserve GI Bill, also known as the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), will not pay for your schooling. The MGIB-SR is unique in that it expires on the day of your discharge from the National Guard. So unless you have another GI Bill you can use, you have nothing in the way of a GI Bill to pay for school.

However, if you deployed on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, you may have some eligibility under the Post 9/11 GI Bill or Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP). A one-year deployment, which is common in the Guard, would get you 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 60% tier or $988.80 under REAP as a full-time student.

Under REAP, you have to pay all your own education expenses out of your monthly amount. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your tuition is paid directly to your school by the VA and you get a monthly housing allowance that can be at least what you get under REAP or more (even at the 60% tier) and once per semester a book stipend.

If your deployment was before August 1, 2009, then your coverage would be under REAP, however, you may do better under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Converting to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is as easy as filling out VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My father transferred his GI Bill benefits to me last year as I was starting my senior year in high school. By the end of my senior year, I had received a full scholarship to an in-state 4-year university in South Carolina which is 3 1/2 hours away from home. Therefore, I do not need to utilize any of my father’s GI Bill for my freshman year in college. Does this mean that I do not qualify to receive the BAH stipend? I was given the impression that I am not eligible to receive the BAH stipend unless I am actually using the GI Bill to pay my tuition. Any clarification on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: The impression you were given is not correct – you can still get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and book stipend without it paying for your tuition. The problem is that is all you would get out of your transferred benefits. In my humble estimation, it would be a waste of benefits.

What many students don’t realize is that the VA is the last payee when other forms of tuition assistance are available, so if your scholarship pays your tuition, there is nothing for the VA left to pay. So all you get is the housing allowance and book stipend, but the entitlement use is the same as if the VA was paying tuition – one month of entitlement use for each month of school.

Because you have up to age 26 to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits, personally I would save them back to use in a year where maybe my whole tuition is not paid or if I don’t get a scholarship for that year.

Or, if you have aspirations of getting an advanced degree, in which the tuition is much more expensive, you could use your GI Bill transferred benefits to pay for that degree and then collect your housing allowance and book stipend.

The decision is yours, but what your father gave you is worth quite a bit of money if you use it wisely.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If my father is still on active duty, can I receive any kind of benefits? If so what kind and form do I need to fill out?

A: Yes you can receive some benefits, but only if your father makes a transfer of some or all of his Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement. And only he can do that transfer request and it has to be done while he is still on active duty; once retired and it is too late.

There are actually three service requirements he has to meet:
• First, he has to have served for at least six years or more.
• Second, he has to be currently serving at the time of the request (which he is)
• Third, he has make sure he has at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of transfer.

If he meets these three requirements, then he can start the process by going to the Transfer of Benefits section at milConnect.com and follow the instructions.

Once his request is approved, then you have to go to the eBenefits.com website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get your Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when enrolling in school as a Post 9/11 GI Bill student. Also know that you have to use your transferred benefits by age 26 or you lose them.

The benefit you get is three-fold:
• The VA pays your tuition directly to your school
• You get a monthly housing allowance
• Once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap) you get a book stipend.

If he wants to help pay your way through college, this would be a great way to do it.