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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a Post 9/11 GI Bill participant in graduate school. My school’s certifying official has reservations about letting me take classes that are outside of my degree program. Can I use my benefits to take classes outside of my degree program in order to prepare for a more advanced degree (doctorate)?

A: No you can’t – at least if you plan on the VA paying for them. The VA will only let you have one degree plan in place at a time. If the classes you want to take are not on that degree plan, the VA will not pay for them … period.

Also, the credits for those classes will not count either as far as calculating your Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance and book stipend. To see what kind of effect it can have as far as how much you would get, let’s say your school considers 12 credits as full-time and you are taking 12 credits but two 3-credit classes are not on your current degree plan. Because you are not taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers full-time, you would not qualify for any housing allowance and you would only get $250 in book stipend instead of $500.

Let’s use the same scenario, but this time say you are taking one 3-credit class not on your degree plan and your full-time monthly housing amount is $1,600. Instead of paying you for 12 credits, the VA would only pay you for 9 instead, dropping your housing allowance down to $1,200 instead of $1,600. Plus you would have to pay tuition for the unauthorized class.

Your school VA Certifying Official was wise in having reservations about you taking non-degree plan courses. Now you know the rules and how it would affect your payment, so you can make an informed choice as far as if you want to do it or not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently using my Chapter 30, but it expires (10 years) in November, at which point I plan on using my Post 9/11 GI Bill (60%) to finish my last two semesters…how much should I get roughly?

A: Once your Chapter 30 GI Bill expires, apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Even though the VA policy is that you get the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the Montgomery BI Bill (MGIB), I’m hearing from many veterans that they are getting what they had left under the old GI Bill and their additional 12 months they have coming under the New GI Bill. If you switch before your MGIB expires, then all you would get is that same number of months.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying after it expires – even if you only get what you had left under Chapter 30.

As far as how much you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, without knowing the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking, I can’t answer your question, however you can figure it out for yourself.

Go to the BAH Calculator and enter in the zip code of your school in the Duty Zip Code field. Now select E-5 from the drop-down menu in the Pay Grade field. Click on Submit.

If your rate of pursuit will be full-time, then take the E-5-With-Dependents figure returned and multiply it by .60. That will be about what you’ll get in monthly housing allowance money. If you are less than full-time then take the 60% monthly housing allowance amount and multiply it by your rate of pursuit. For example if your school considers 12 credits as full-time and you are taking 9, your multiplier would be 75% (9/12). In other words, you would get 75% of 60% amount if you were taking 9 credits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good morning! I was wondering if it was possible since I EAS in August of 2014 to apply for my Post 9/11 GI Bill early so I could have everything set up and ready so that I would be able to start school in September directly after I get out?

A: Not really and here is why. If this is the only tour you have had (and I suspect it is), then you don’t have a DD-214 yet which is required before the VA can authorize your GI Bill benefits. They have to know that you have a fully Honorable discharge in order to use your benefits and that information comes off of your DD-214.

However, with that said, you should still be able to request your Certificate of Eligibility once you are out and get it in time to start school in September. Since going to their new software, the VA has gotten a lot quicker at processing GI Bill applications. I think their time is like down to 22 days for new first-time users; about 6 days for repeat users.

Once you get your Certificate of Eligibility, hand in a copy of it when you register for school. That tells the school you are a GI Bill student and gets the ball rolling for them to get your tuition paid by the VA and for you to start getting your housing allowance and book stipend.

The book stipend you should see sometime during the first month you are in school; it calculates at $41.67 per credit with a $1,000 yearly cap. Being the VA pays one month in arrears, you most likely won’t see your first Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance payment until sometime in October. It is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. The U.S. average is about $1,300 per month.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If my old MGIB-AD GI Bill expired after 10 years then I join the National Guard after it has already expired and go on a 90+ day Title 10 deployment, will that start the 10 year clock over again? Or is it gone forever after it expires and I’m only eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: The rules say your Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) will expire 10 years from your last date of discharge and the delimitation date resets with a Title 10 tour of at least 90 days, so yes it would reset your delimitation clock. And with your 90+ day deployment, you’ll also have minimum coverage (40%) under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

When you get back from deployment, be sure to get your DD-214 updated to show your new discharge date. Send in a copy of your updated DD-214 along with VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website to get a new Certificate of Eligibility that you’ll need when enrolling in school.

In case you have not been keeping up with the MGIB payment, it now pays up to $1,648 per month to go to school full-time. Once you have exhausted your MGIB entitlement, you could apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get up to an additional 12 months of entitlement. But know because you only have minimum coverage, it would only pay up to 40% of your tuition and fees and you would get that percentage of the housing allowance and book stipend, but at least it is something and it didn’t cost you anything to get.

If you want to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill coverage, send in a new VA Form 22-1990. Just be sure your effective date is after the date you run out of MGIB entitlement.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in the Army (Active Duty) in July of 2008 and was injured and medically retired in June of 2009. Do you know if a veteran with a 90% VA disability rating (40% disability from the Army, required for medical retirement) is entitled to the full GI Bill benefits or only partial due to the less than 2-3 years served?

A: It depends on whether your medical discharge was deemed service-connected or not. If it is service-connected, then all you had to serve was 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001 and you would get the full 36 months of entitlement at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier.

That means the VA would pay 100% of the resident tuition if you attend a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year if you attend a private school. You would also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program which would be valuable if you are paying out-state tuition or your private school charges more than what the VA can pay by law. The Yellow Ribbon Program would pick up most if not all of the difference. You would also get 100% of both the housing allowance authorized for the zip code of your school and the maximum book stipend of $41.67 per credit.

However if your medical discharge was not service-connected, then the most you could hope for would be 36 months of entitlement at the 50% tier level.

If you are talking about the Montgomery GI Bill, and your discharge is service-connected, then you would get up to $1,648 per month up to 36 months in education benefits. Out of this amount you would have to pay your own tuition, fees and books. If not service connected, then the best you can hope for would be one month of benefits for each month served or about 11 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am doing on-line courses at American Military University which I would love to do to get my degree. I am about to retire and I am living right now in Kentucky. I am looking at taking a couple of classes in the bluegrass also (face-to-face) to work on my degree plan. Will I be able to get my BAH if I am attending two different institutions and will be courses be paid for with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Thanks!

A: Yes you would be able to get your Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (NOT BAH) and yes classes at both institution would be paid for with the Post 9/11 GI Bill – but only if you go about it the correct way.

First, check with AMU as far as if they will let you take classes on campus at your school in Kentucky. Why is that important? For two reasons. First they have to approve the classes you are going to take in Kentucky as they are the one that have to credit your degree plan with the Kentucky credits. Second, if they do not approve the classes or will not accept the credits, then the VA would not pay for the Kentucky classes.

Here’s how it works when taking classes at two schools. The school issuing your degree (AMU) is called the parent school; the other school (the one in Kentucky) the secondary school. Your parent school has to approve the classes you want to take in Kentucky. If they will not approve any classes, the process stops there.

Assuming they do approve some classes, they send a letter to your school in Kentucky informing them of the classes they have approved you of taking at that school. Once you have completed the classes, your Kentucky school will put the credits on a transcript and send them to AMU. AMU credits your degree plan with those credits and the process is complete.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently an E-2 veteran, who is married to an E-5 active duty solider. He recently PCS’d to Garmisch, Germany taking myself and our two daughters along. Upon arriving, a person from the education center heard I was going to school, and said that I would qualify for BAH. I was not aware of this, and I have not had much luck in my search to understand. We are currently living on-post, and I am not the actual soldier stationed over here, so how exactly would I qualify for BAH? Or is there something else that I would qualify for?

A: I’m assuming you are talking about the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and not BAH for housing. If you have your own Post 9/11 GI Bill, the person at the Education Center was correct. By having your own GI Bill, you are treated as an individual veteran meaning the VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school and you would get a monthly housing allowance.

Each semester you would also get the book stipend that calculates out at $41.67 per credit. There is a $1,000 per year cap on the book stipend, but it is enough for a couple of 12-credit semesters per academic year.

Now let’s talk about how much your Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay. It depends on two things: the fact that your school is overseas and your Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level.

By attending a school in Germany, the VA would pay up to $19,198.31 per year in tuition and fees, assuming you would be going to school full-time and are at the 100% tier. If you are less than full-time or at a lesser percentage, then that amount would be adjusted down accordingly.

As far as the housing allowance, you would get the foreign rate up to $1,429 per month. This amount is also based on a rate of pursuit of full-time and maxed out on the tier level.

As far as the book stipend, it is based on the number of credits you take and tier percentage. If you are at a tier less than 100%, then the $41.67 per credit would be prorated down to your tier percentage.

If you did not have your own Post 9/11 GI Bill, and were going to use benefits transferred to you from your husband, then you would not get the housing allowance, but you would still get the book stipend and get your tuition paid.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I’m taking 14 credits at one campus with my school, but 1 credit at another campus at the same school, which housing will I receive? Is it pro-rated per credit? The difference in housing is substantial, so I wanted to ensure I was making the correct choice.

A: You would get the Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing rate for the campus where you are taking the most credits; the one that will be issuing you your degree. The campus where you are taking 14 credits is known as your parent school; the other campus is your secondary school.

Before you take any classes at your secondary school, be sure to get them approved first by your parent school. The way it works is once your parent school approves of the classes you’ll take at the secondary school, they will send a letter to them.

Once you have finished the approved classes, the secondary school will send a transcript to your parent school and they in turn will post the credits to your degree plan.

If you expect the VA to pay for the classes you take at the secondary school, this is how you have to do it as the VA will only allow you to have one degree plan at a time. If you don’t run it through your primary school, the VA would not pay for classes at your secondary school because they would not be on a degree plan from that school.

I’m not sure of your reasoning to take a class at a different school being you are taking the rest of your credits in classroom classes (on campus) at the first school. I could see it if you were taking 14 credits all online from one school and the one credit on campus from a different school so that you could get the full housing allowance, but by the way your question is worded that is not the case.

If it were, then your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance would be calculated off of the zip code of your secondary school instead of your parent school. With all online classes, your housing allowance amount would be maxed out at $714.50 per month instead of almost double that amount by taking one resident class per semester that you can apply to your degree plan.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: What if I have already completed my BS, and have a few days remaining on my Chapter 30? I would like to use the 12 extra months on the Post 9/11 GI Bill for an apprenticeship program. Any advice on exhausting the remaining benefits in this situation?

A: My advice is to start your apprenticeship program using your remaining days of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) entitlement. Then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to use the additional 12 months to complete as much of your apprenticeship as possible.

If you would switch over now, current stated VA policy dictates that all you would get is same number of days under the New GI Bill as you had left unused under the old GI Bill. So you could only expect to get the few remaining MGIB days by converting. But by using up those few days first, you would get the additional time.

The apprenticeship payment programs do vary depending on which GI Bill you use. Under the MGIB you would get $1,236 per month for the first 6 months, $906.40 per month for the second 6 months and $576.80 per month for the remainder of your program.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your payment would be the monthly housing allowance:
• 100% – 1st 6 months
• 80% – 2nd 6 months
• 60% – 3rd 6 months
• 40% – 4th 6 months
• 20% – each month for the remaining months of the program

But because you only have a few days left under the old GI Bill, you your first month would be the prorated amount of $1,236. Then you would switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and instead get the MHA at the appropriate percentages for the next 12 months until your entitlement ends.

The only catch is that some apprenticeship programs may be approved for one GI Bill or the other and maybe not both. Be sure your program is approved for both GI Bills.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’m a commissioned officer in the Army who is about to ETS. I’m looking forward to continue my studies and looking to get my Masters in International Law overseas more specifically in Iceland, Finland or Norway. Does the GI Bill cover any school in those countries? Thanks.

A: While there are several VA-approved schools in each of those countries – 2 in Iceland, 14 in Finland and 13 in Norway – none of them have a masters in international law. If you do happen to find a foreign VA-approved school with a master’s in IL, then you could use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get some of your education-related school costs paid for.

The amount in tuition the VA pays is the same at a foreign school as it would at a private school – up to $19,198.31 per year. As far as Monthly Housing Allowance, it pays the foreign school rate of $1,429 per month. Unlike the MHA in the United States, where the amount you receive is based on the zip code of the school and the number of credits you take, if you are going to school full-time overseas you get the fixed amount regardless of which foreign school you attend.

However the book stipend is calculated the same as it would be if you attended a U.S. based school – $41.67 per credit up to the $1,000 annual cap.
Keep in mind that if you attend a foreign school, you would not be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Having this program can be an economic boom as your school can pay up to 50% of the difference between what your school charges and what your GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount.

But to take advantage of this program, you have to attend a school here in the U.S. that includes their International Law program in their Yellow Ribbon Agreement. It is something to look into as it could save you thousands of dollars over the course of your master’s degree program.