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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My name is Abraham and I am looking into attending Pima Medical Institute next year but I am unsure of a few things.

1. I have 100% of my Chapter 33 and enough months to finish out the program, but will it be covered entirely or will I owe a portion of the program? The program is for an associate’s degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant.

2. Will I receive the full amount of MHA each and every month since it is a year round program and I will be completing more than 12 credits a semester? If I will not receive the full amount, how much should I expect to receive each month? I would be attending the Mesa campus.

A: The Pima Medical Institute is a private post-secondary school Abraham that has 13 campuses total in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and Washington. However, only their Mesa, Tucson, Denver, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Houston and Seattle locations have the associate degree program in Physical Therapy Assistant.

On their website, they are showing $11,070 in tuition and fees, and $559 in books and supplies. Being you are at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier, the VA should pay for all of your tuition and fees. Their new maximum for private schools is up to $20,235.02 per year as of August 1st.

Because it is a degree–producing course, they would also pay $41.67 per credit per semester (with a $1,000 per year cap) in book stipend money. You should get paid the book stipend for all the semesters except the summer one. With only $559 in book costs, you’ll make a little extra money there.

Pima’s website is showing your program at 18 months long; going year round is no problem. The VA will pay you the full amount due to you each month while in the program.

As far as how much you’ll get in housing allowance, the BAH Calculator is showing $1,461 per month for Mesa, AZ. For 12 credits per semester, your book stipend would be $500 per semester. This should give you a good idea of how much you should get so you can plan accordingly.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I wanted to get a certification in massage therapy school, can I get paid the housing allowance? If yes, what type of schools can I attend?

A: If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to attend a vocational school that teaches massage therapy, then yes, you would get the monthly housing allowance (MHA). It would be calculated based on the zip code of your school and because it is a non-degree program, it is considered to be a full-time program. In degree programs, the number of credit are factored into the housing allowance, so students with a rate of pursuit of less than full-time get less than students who have a full-time rate of pursuit.

You would also get up to $83 per month in book stipend money. This too differs from being in a degree program as those students get up to $41.67 per credit per semester in book stipend money.

The VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school. If it is a public school, then they would pay up to 100%. If you would attend a private school, then the VA would pay up to $20,235.02 per year towards your tuition.

With either school, if you are at a tier less than 100%, the amount they would pay would be pro-rated down to a lesser amount and the balance would be your responsibility to pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been using my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for school under the system where my time on active duty qualified me for 60% of my tuition. I just learned that my Reserve time would qualify me for 90% coverage. If it is accurate and I am qualified for a higher percentage tier, will the VA back pay me for extra 30% that I was paying that the Post 9/11 GI Bill should have been covering?

A: I’m not sure what you mean when you say “… under the system where my time on active duty qualified me for 60% of my tuition.” That “system” is eligible time. If you are at 60%, then it means you spent at least 12 months, but less than 18 months, on active duty, so I’m guessing that time was on Title 10 Orders in support of a contingency operation in either the National Guard or Reserves. But then you reference your Reserve time, so I don’t think you were in the Reserves at the time you earned your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

For your Reserve time to count as eligible Post 9/11 GI Bill time, it would have to have been either mobilized Title 10 time or Title 32 time in the AGR (Army Guard Reserve) Program.

If you are eligible at the 90% tier level, the VA would pay you back pay in only two instances. One, you would have had to have been at the 90% level during the whole time you are claiming back pay and two the VA can only pay back pay one year back. So if the back pay you want to claim is over a year old, you would not get it anyway even if you were at the 90% eligible level and they paid you for 60%.

The one way to find out which tier level you are really at is to submit new VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. In return, you’ll get your Certificate of Eligibility that shows which GI Bill you have, the tier level, how many months of entitlement you have left to use and your delimitation date. Also send in with your form any documentation that would prove you should be at a higher level.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I bought into the Montgomery GI Bill while in the Air Force. I’m currently in and have four years of service. I’m just curious about transferring my GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill or if I even need to do that because we automatically are given the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

A: Before transferring to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there are a couple of considerations you should first make. One, what is your education goal? If it is just getting a four-year degree and stopping, then you most likely would be better off with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

However if you plan to get a graduate degree, then you may want to first use up your 36 months of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to get your bachelor’s degree, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of entitlement which would go a long ways towards paying for a master’s degree. Doing it this way would also be a better use of your additional Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits because of the way the it pays and the high cost of graduate school when compared to undergraduate work.

Also, if you are considering of making a transfer of benefits to either your spouse or kids, you’ll want to transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill while you are still serving and make a transfer of at least one month of benefits to each one before you get out. The MGIB doesn’t have any transfer option to it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m going back to school to be a full-time student… at the same time I want to use my Post 9/11 GI Bill to get a private pilot license/certification… I’m assuming the VA won’t allow that?

A: It is possible to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill to get your private pilot’s license, but you can’t do it as a standalone program. However, some of the four-year aviation programs that terminate with a bachelor’s degree in aviation include getting a private pilot’s license as part of their VA-approved program. If you are going to school full-time anyway, why not go for your aviation degree and let your Post 9/11 GI Bill pay for it.

The VA doesn’t pay for a private pilot’s license alone because they consider it an avocation instead of a vocation – which the whole point of the GI Bill in the first place – to train you in something that you can make a career of. Just getting a private pilot’s license alone doesn’t fill that bill.

However, when it is part of a larger aviation training program, like one that would lead to being a commercial pilot, then it is a requirement of the program and covered. See the difference?

If you decide to get your private pilot’s license on your own, and once you pass the medical certification, then you could use your Post 9/11 GI Bill to get a certification in:
• Rotary wing
• B747-400
• Dual engine
• Flight Engineer

For flight certification programs, the Post 9/11 Bill will pay up to $11,562.86 per year. If you choose a four-year aviation program, then it would pay 100% of tuition and fees at a public school and up to $20,235.02 per year at a private VA-approved school having a four-year aviation program.

To me it is a no-brainer – get your four-year aviation degree.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am eligible for both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Hazelwood Act. I am currently on active duty and will retire in one year. I have three daughters. The first will start at Texas A&M in the Fall 2014. What are my options for funding her education while reserving some for the next two children? Specifically, can I use the Hazelwood exemption first, even though I am still active duty? Can I save the Post 9/11 GI Bill for daughter number 2 or 3 in case they opt for a private school or out of state school? Thanks for the help.
Cheers! — Rust

A: No you can’t use your Hazelwood Act first, because to do so, you need a DD214 showing you have been discharged and you don’t have that yet. At the least, make a transfer of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to each daughter – at least one month to daughters 2 and 3 and nine months to daughter number 1 before you get out. Now daughter number 1 is covered for the first year.

By giving each one at least one month of benefits, now you have the flexibility to move your transferred benefits around after you retire. If you don’t give daughters 2 and 3 at least one month of benefits, you could not give them any after retiring.

You have 150 hours of Hazelwood Act benefits you can transfer, however normally you can use Hazelwood Act benefits only after using up all of your Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you wanted to keep it fair among all three daughters what about giving daughter number one 28 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and daughters 2 and 3 each 4 months. Then give each daughters 2 and 3 seventy-five hours of Hazelwood Act benefits. That way each daughter gets a total of 28 months of benefits between the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Hazelwood Act.

Granted, dollar-wise it would not be fair as daughter number one would end up with more benefits financially. With some thought, you can probably work out a fairer breakdown, but at least this gives you something to think about.

And maybe daughter number one only wants to get a two-year degree in which you would have 4 additional months to divide up among the other two daughters. The key is to give each daughter some Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits while you are still serving and then revoke and reallocate as necessary once you are out and they are in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have some Part 61 flight instructors willing to support my intended use of GI Bill to pay for a Commercial Twin Engine rating. However they want me to do all the leg work to get them all forms they would need to fill out to become approved by the VA and such. Couple of questions:

• Can you get me more info such as the required forms that the part 61 trainer will need to fill out.
• Roughly how long would it take them to get approved?
• Can I start my training before they are approved and still get reimbursement once their VA approval comes in?
• Do I have to have a Class 2 medical prior to starting the training
Thanks! — James

A: Hi James. I’ll answer each one of your questions in the order asked. First, your flight instructors will have to be part of a VA-approved flight school before the VA would approve the rating you want to take. If their school is not approved, they can go to this link for information on how to get approved. While the link refers to foreign schools, the requesting process is the same for U.S. schools.

As far as how long it takes to get approved, I won’t even guess. The VA has to investigate the entity requesting approval. It can get to be a lengthy back and forth process. If you are in a hurry to get started, my suggestion is to go to a school already approved.

No, the school has to be approved first before your Post 9/11 GI Bill can pay for the training. The rational is what happens if the school ends up not getting approved? Approval is not a rubber stamp process and many schools don’t get approved.

Yes. Again the rational is what happens if the VA paid for a bunch of flight training only to find out you can’t pass the medical exam required to fly. It would be a waste of money so they required you to pass the medical first if required, before they pay for training.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: As a spouse of an active duty member who has passed his GI Bill to me, can I use the bill to get two different master’s degrees from two different schools?

A: You probably could with proper justification, but not at the same time. Why? Because the VA will only let you work on one degree plan at a time. However you could attend two schools at the same time while working on one degree plan.

The way to do it is to designate the school that would be issuing your degree as your parent school. Your other school is your secondary school. Have your parent school approve the classes you want to take at your secondary school. Once you have finished classes there, your secondary school will send a transcript of your credits to your parent school and they will credit your degree plan with those credits.

Now onto using Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to fund two master’s degrees. Typically the VA will only approve a degree plan that is higher than the one you used your GI Bill entitlement for the last time. So if you use it to get your first master’s degree, they normally would not approve you getting a second degree at the same level, unless the two degrees are in related fields and you can convince how getting the second master’s degree will help you career-wise.

Without knowing more information, would it be wiser to save the entitlement you would use for a second master’s degree and instead apply it toward a PhD? The VA would most likely approve that degree plan without reservation.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I have approx. 18 months left on my MGIB and I’m wondering how to maximize the transfer to the new 9/11 GI Bill and provide those to my 2 kids before I leave the military. How much can I end up transferring to them? Will they only receive 18 months, 36 months, or 48 months? For me to obligate another 4 years of service, I’m hoping to be able to get 48 months but don’t know how. Thanks for the help. — Steve

A: There is not a way to get more Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement than what you have left under the Montgomery GI Bill Steve. If you only have 18 months of entitlement left, then that is the total amount of entitlement you have to split between your two kids – each one could get up to 9 months of entitlement or you could split it up however you want – as long as it doesn’t total over 18 months. And yes, to make that transfer, you would have to commit to an additional four years of service.

The question you have to ask yourself is “Is it worthwhile for me to serve four more years in order to give each kid one academic year of benefits?”

Depending on where your kids go to school, it indeed could be worth it. Right now, the if they were to attend a private school, the VA would pay up to $20,235.02 per year in tuition directly to each of their schools.

If their tuition exceeded that amount, and their schools were part of the Yellow Ribbon Program, the school could pay up to half of the difference and the VA would pay an equal amount (on top of the $20,235.02 they already paid.) If they decide to attend a public school in their home state, then their tuition would be paid in full by the VA.

Each kid would also get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance which averages $1,300 per month (even if they lived at home rent free). Since it is based on the zip code of the school and the number of credit each one takes, theirs could be more or less than the average.

In addition, each kid would get up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend. So if you total that all up, that year of entitlement to each kid could be worth upwards of $33,000. If they end up using the Yellow Ribbon Program, it would be even higher – probably around $40,000 per kid.

So is that worth another four years of service? To me it would be, but that is a decision you’ll have to make on your own. Just don’t wait too long before making that decision as once you start transitional leave, you can’t request a transfer of benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was active duty Army from 1985-87, enrolled in MGIB and paid my $1,200. In 1988 I joined the Reserves but due to circumstances I wasn’t able to satisfy the attendance requirement. I’m not sure about my discharge. Fast forward to 2009, I went active duty again however recruiter told me due to prior service I had to dis-enroll for education benefits. I completed 4 more years on active duty ETS’ing in 2013. I joined the Reserves again and still attend drills. The question I have is what education benefit will I be eligible for?

A: You’ll have benefits under both the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD), Post 9/11 GI Bill and possibly the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR).

Even though the MGIB-AD has a 10-year shelf life, and your original start date would have been when you first got out in 1987, the date resets itself if you enlist for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order, meaning your date started over again with your 2013 ETS. That is also your start date for your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, but you have up to 15 years to use it.

And while you have benefits under two GI Bills and possibly three, note that under the Rule of 48, the most number of combined months of entitlement you can get is 48 months.

The way to get all 48 months is to first use up your 36 months of MGIB-AD, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional 12 months totaling 48. If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB-AD benefits left, then all you’ll get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months you had left under the MGIB-AD and not the additional 12 months of entitlement.

And you could do that – give up your MGIB-AD and use all 36 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you may also have one other option.

If you also have the MGIB-SR, you could give up that GI Bill, use those 36 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and then use up your final 12 months under the MGIB-AD. The advantage to doing it this way is that the Post 9/11 GI Bill in most cases pays a lot more than the MGIB-AD.