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Can You Explain the Advantages/Disadvantages of Using the Top-Up Program?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently on active duty, eligible for retirement FEB 2013. I am currently enrolled in an accelerated Bachelors program, I have utilized 9 credits hours for the first “block” and upon my enrollment in the second “block” of classes I will exceed my available TA by 2 credits hours (Navy 16 credit hours x $250.00 = $4,000 a year). Could you please explain the advantages/disadvantages of using Top-up using for the remaining two credits and possibly for the rest of the fiscal year until I’m allocated more TA?2. Should I switch to the “New GI-Bill” or stick with the MGIB? If so, when should I switch?3. Do I have to extend my enlistment beyond my retirement date to be eligible to transfer some of my GI-Bill entitlements to my dependent daughter? Thank you!

A: The advantage of using Top-Up is it allows you to continue your education beyond what Tuition Assistance (TA) will pay, and while it does reduce your GI Bill entitlements, it does so at a much slower rate. It ends up taking you longer to use up your 36 months of benefits. Outside of using GI Bill entitlement, there really isn’t any disadvantage to using the Top-Up program.

As far as your second question, there are a couple of considerations you will have to look at. One, if you switch with entitlement left under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then you will get the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the MGIB.

However, if you expend all of your MGIB entitlements first and then switch, you can get an additional 12 months of entitlement. Also, if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, when you use up your entitlement, you will get a portion of your MGIB contribution back.

Under the MGIB, you most likely get $1,426 per month and you have to pay all of your own education expenses. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you get your tuition and fees paid for by the VA directly to your school and you get a book stipend and a monthly housing allowance. Generally speaking, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a better deal financially for those earning a degree.

Being you are eligible to retire in 2013, you may be required to extend for an additional year or so, if you want to transfer some of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your daughter. If you had less than a year left to retirement that most likely would not be the case.

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