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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been approved for the Post 9/11 GI Bill but am still on active duty and have not begun to collect any money for schooling or the BAH. Is it possible for me to instead use the Montgomery GI Bill? I think it would better fit my needs.

A: If you choose to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill while still on active duty, you will not get the housing allowance. However the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school and you would get the book stipend.

Being you ask if you could use the Montgomery GI Bill instead, my question is “Did you sign up for the MGIB when you enlisted and pay the $1,200 contribution fee?” If so, you did have the MGIB, but the issue is you gave it up when you switched over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If all you have is the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you can’t switch over to the MGIB if you had not signed up for it and paid the contribution fee.

Switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is an irrevocable action that normally can’t be undone. However having said that, I have heard in some cases where the individual that had not yet started drawing benefits, the VA would allow them to switch back.

I want to point out that this is not something that automatically happens by you requesting it. I would assume, you would have to provide a good reason for wanting to switch back. That is why in Block 9F of Part II of VA Form 22-1990 it says that you understand “My election is irrevocable and may not be changed.”

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello. I am currently enrolled and attending MMI (marine mechanics institute) in Orlando Florida. My start date was Oct 4, 2013 and my grad date is Sept 30, 2014. I currently receive the Montgomery GI Bill and was curious if I am actually eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I was told by the student services office that I was not, but I’m beginning to wonder if they know what they are talking about. I served in the USAF May 1999 thru May 2003, honorably discharged. If I am eligible would I be able to receive benefits retroactive to my start date?

A: You could have some coverage under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, however it might not be as much as your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).

Eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill goes back to September 10, 2001, so if you got out in May 2003, the most you would have in entitlement would be 21 months of eligible service. Twenty-one months would put you at the 70% tier.

Now let’s run the number of both GI Bills to see which one is the best one for you to use. Under the MGIB, you should be getting around $1,648 per month.
Out of that amount you have to pay all of your education expenses, such as tuition, fees and books and supplies.

According to the MMI website, they charge $31,300 in tuition for the 12-month course. At $1,648 per month, over the course of the 12 months, you would get about $19,776. The difference of $11,524 would be your responsibility to pay.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay up to 70% of your tuition directly to your school or about $21,910. You would also get 70% of the housing allowance of $1,434 per month. Over the course of 12 months this would be another $12,045. Finally, you would get 70% of the $83 per month book stipend money or another or $697. So if you do the math, the total is $34,652.

So the Post 9/11 GI Bill would be a better deal for you even at the 70% tier. As far as getting retro pay back to your start date, you should be able to as the VA can go back as far as one year.

Check with your VA Certifying Official at your school to see what would be the best way to go about switching GI Bills and requesting back pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am having a hard time learning about the Montgomery GI Bill. I was in the Marines and deployed, returned and let go for epilepsy. I was told I had both GI Bills and I want to make sure I have the Montgomery Bill. I want to see what I have just like I see my bank account. According the eBenefits site I have used I think 19 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I just want to know more about what I have and what is out there for me.

A: It is possible you have both the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, when you have two or more GI Bill and want to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to give up one of your other GI Bills. If the MGIB was the only other GI Bill you have, and you have used up some of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, then I’m assuming the GI Bill you gave up was the MGIB and hence you don’t have any education benefits left under it that you could use.

However, the way your question is worded, were you in the Marine Reserves? If so, then you might have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). If you were active duty and in the Reserves, you could have all three GI Bills. In that case, you might have given up your MGIB-SR for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and you would still have the (MGIB-AD) left to use.

Under the Rule of 48, however, when you have two or more GI Bills, the most combined months of benefits is capped at 48. So if you do still have benefits left under the MGIB-AD, the most it would be is 12 months after you finish using your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As far as seeing your benefits like your bank account, I’m not aware of a way to display the information like that. Your best bet would be to contact the VA and ask them what they see in your record of benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I read that if my husband does transfer his G.I. Bill to me, it is only half but after he is out of the Army, we still won’t be eligible for the monthly housing allowance because I was not the solider. Is that correct?

A: I’m not sure what you mean by “it is still only half ….” I’m assuming you are talking about you would not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance if you use your Post 9/11 GI Bill while he is still serving. That part is correct although in most cases, what you are losing is far less than half.

The “… out of the Army …” part is not correct. If you choose to go to a brick and mortar school using your transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits once your husband is out, then you would get all of the housing allowance as a full-time student. However, if your rate of pursuit is less than full-time, then your housing allowance would be pro-rated down accordingly.

For example, if your school considers 12 credits as full-time and you are only taking 9, then you would get 9/12ths of the full amount or 3/4ths of it per month.

The other instance where you would get less than the full amount is if you are taking all of your classes online. Then you are maxed out at $754.50 per month as a full-time student. Of course, the way around it is to take at least one class on campus per semester. The rest of them can be all online and you would still qualify for the full housing allowance.

Also, you would get the book stipend whether your husband is serving or not while you are going to school. It calculates out at $41.67 per credit per semester, but does have a yearly cap of $1,000.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I was deployed as a Reservist in 2003 for 12 months and then received an Honorable discharge in 2009. I have since sought a disability rating and am being told that I will likely get a rating of 50% service related disability. Where does that leave me in relation to the Post 9/11 Bill? Do I qualify only for my 12 months of service or does my rating as a disabled veteran at 50% change the percent? Thank you. — Dane

A: Your disability rating has nothing to do with your Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility Dane. You would get the same whether you had a disability rating of 100% or 0%.

What does control New GI Bill eligibility is the number of months of eligible time. As a Reservist, the only time that counts is your deployed time, unless you happen to be in the Title 32 AGR program; if so that time counts toward your eligibility also.

But if all the eligible time you have is your 12 months deployment in 2003, then you will be at the 60% tier, meaning everything the VA pays will be at that percentage. So if you are a full-time student at a public institution, the VA would pay 60% of your tuition and fees. If you are attending a private institution, then they could pay a maximum of $12,150 per year (60% of the $20,2235.02 per year maximum). Under either venue, the 40% difference left would be your responsibility to pay. And because you are not at the 100% tier, the Yellow Ribbon Program would not apply.

As far as the monthly housing allowance, you would get 60%$ of the amount calculated from the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. If less than full-time, then you would have to take your 60% figure and multiply it by your rate of pursuit percentage. For example, if your school considered 12 credits to be full-time and you were taking 9, then you would multiply your 60% figure, by 75%, so you would get 75% of the 60%.

For the book stipend, you would get 60% of the $41.67 per credit per semester (up to the $600) per year limit).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How far in advance should I apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance? I just got back from a deployment and EAS on September 15th. Is that enough time? How do I go about that?

A: You don’t have to “apply” for the Post 9/11 GI Bill in the traditional sense of the word. How the process works is you have to first get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by going to the eBenefits website and submitting VA Form 22-1990. If this deployment is your only Title 10 active duty service then you’ll have to wait to apply until you have a copy of your DD214; the VA needs that document to verify your Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.

Once you have your COE, take a copy of it with you when you register for school. Once registered, your school sends in a Certificate of Enrollment which tells the VA you are enrolled in their school. That form from the school (matched up against your COE) is what starts the payment process. The school gets paid their tuition and eligible fees at your Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level percentage, and you will start getting your monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

The VA pays you in arrears, so don’t expect your first housing allowance until at least a month after you start school. It is calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take, if you attend class on campus. However, if you attend all classes online, then the most you can get in housing allowance is $754.50.

Your book stipend is a separate payment at the rate of $41.67 per credit and should come toward the beginning of your semester. There is a $1,000 per year cap on it but it’s enough for a couple of full-time semesters per academic year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can our son use the Post 9/11 GI Bill? My husband retired in Jan 2005. He served 20 years and is 100% disabled. I know our son qualifies for the DEA, and I think that is great but it still does not pay enough. Can you offer any advice?

A: The only way your son could use your husband’s Post 9/11 GI Bill is if he had transferred benefits to your son while he was still serving. But that was impossible being he retired in 2005 as the Post 9/11 GI Bill was not enacted until August 1, 2009. And there is not any type of retroactive policy that would allow him to make a transfer of benefits now.

That is a Catch-22 for military members retiring before August 1, 2009. The Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits go back to September 10, 2001, and while the veteran can use the benefits up to 15 years from their last date of discharge, they can’t pass the benefits to a spouse or dependent children.

However, there are other financial aid options for your son. If you Google “scholarships for children of disabled veterans”, you’ll get back quite a list of potential sources of education funding.

One of the websites I went into listed the top 10 scholarships for military dependents. The point is the money is out there, but it does take some work to find the sources and some more work to apply. If your son is able to score only a couple of sources, it would supplement his Chapter 35 monthly amount and lessen the amount of money he would have to get through student loans.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am in the Army Reserve with 6 years in the Army Nat’l Guard and I was told my husband could use my GI Bill but I would have to switch is to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. What do I have to do to get it switched and get him enrolled in a school for diesel mechanics?

A: First of all, you may have gotten some bad information. As a Reservist or National Guard person, the only time that counts toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility is the time you were activated in a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, like Iraq or Afghanistan. A one-year tour would put you at the 60% tier level. So if you did not deploy, you do not have the Post 9/11 GI Bill to transfer to your husband.

However if you did deploy for at least a 90-day period, then you could make a transfer of benefits to him. Just go to the milConnect website and follow the instruction in the Transfer of Benefits section.

Once your transfer is approved, your husband will have to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, he’ll get his Certificate of Eligibility that he will need when enrolling in his diesel mechanics course as a GI Bill student.

The VA will pay a portion of his tuition depending on the Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level that you have. He inherits that same tier level. The difference between what the VA pays and the school charges will be his responsibility to pay.

In addition, he’ll also get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend. Both will also be pro-rated at the same percentage as his tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When I go to the website to apply for Post 9/11 it doesn’t ask for an effective date. I do not want to run the risk of messing up and only getting to convert a few days left on my GI Bill. I have 1 month and 9 days left on my GI Bill and want to exhaust it then apply for Post 9/11….can anyone offer any thoughts or advice?

A: The effective date that you have to fill in is part of VA Form 22-1990 found on the eBenefits , but is not part of the actual website itself.
Once you are in the VA Form 22-1990 form, in Part II – Education Benefit Being Applied For, put a check in Block 9F. This is saying that you want to switch over to Chapter 33 – Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Now go down 8 lines and you’ll see where it says “I elect to receive Chapter 33 education benefits in lieu of the education benefit checked below, effective _______.” For an effective date, put down a date that is a week or so after when you are sure you will have exhausted your Montgomery GI Bill benefits.

It really won’t make a difference as long as your date is after you have used up the last your MGIB benefits, because it’ll roll over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill the day after you are out of MGIB benefits. Then finish out Part II by checking the Chapter 30 Block. This is the GI Bill you are giving up (even though it doesn’t have any benefits left to use).

Once your switch is approved, your new Certificate of Eligibility will show that you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have 12 additional months of benefits and an additional 5 years to use them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’ve served in the Army now for 5+ years and am in the process of ACAP to separate from the military. I plan to start school in Denver next fall…I recently failed a record PT test and was told that if I failed another I would be separated from the Army and would lose all benefits including the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I have heard numerous answers from that as long as you get an honorable discharge you will get your GI Bill benefits to if you don’t complete your term of enlistment you will forfeit all GI Bill benefits. I was just wanting to clear up the issue and see what the correct issue is on that.

A: What you heard – “as long as you get an honorable discharge you will get your GI Bill benefits” – is the truth. If you do end up failing another pt test, talk to your Commander about what discharge s/he is considering, your plans for using your GI Bill and how a discharge less than fully Honorable would prevent you from accomplishing your plans. You Commander knows all this stuff already, but it doesn’t hurt to let him or her know that you also know it and that you plan to better yourself if s/he allows you to use your GI Bill benefits.

As a matter of Code, your command has to do the following first before issuing a Chapter 13 discharge – Separation for Unsatisfactory Performance. You must have been formally counseled in writing at least once prior to initiation of the chapter action, and this counseling must include:

1. The reason for the chapter action.

2. The fact that separation action may be initiated if you fail another pt test.

3. The type of discharge that could result from the possible separation action and the effect of each type.

4. That you should have been given reasonable time to correct the deficiency.

This must not have happened yet or otherwise you would know what kind of discharge they were considering.

If the CO gives you a Chapter 13, then you would not be able to use your GI Bill benefits. Your only option then is to try and convince the Army Discharge Board to upgrade your discharge to Honorable – something done in only 41% of the cases heard.

As far as not finishing out your enlistment, don’t worry about that. You have served for at least three years after September 10, 2001 – all that is required for full 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Get the Honorable discharge and you’ll be all set.