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How Can My Daughter Best Use Her Three GI Bills?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello Ron, my daughter is serving in the National Guard and has been deployed for one year so she is eligible for the Chapters 1606, 1607 and the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 60% rate. Per the WAVE website she has 28 months and 16 days remaining on the 1606 GI Bill. My daughter just switched from 1606 to 1607 (REAP) GI Bill during September 2013. Her education goals are to complete her BA degree in May 2014 (9 additional months) at an in-state public university. Her tuition has been covered by the Guard tuition assistance. Then to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree which takes 33 months. Tuition would be $13k/year or $30k/year plus living expenses, depending on if she gets into the in-state public school or goes to a private school. My questions are: Considering she has 9 months plus 33 months = 42 months of school remaining how can she best use the remaining 1607 and 60% entitlement on the Post 9/11 GI Bill to the best advantage? Can she collect 12 months total on combined 1606 and 1607 then switch to the Post 9/11 and use it for 36 months? Her National Guard duty ends March 2014.

A: Under the Rule of 48, the maximum number of combined GI Bill months of benefits cannot exceed 48. So that means that between her three GI Bills, she only has up to 48 months that she can use. Now let’s look at the way she can use them.

Her Chapter 1606 will end when she is discharged from the National Guard in March 2014. But, because it is the lowest paying of the three with no residual benefits once she is out, it would be my last choice to use. The current rate of payment is $362 per month for a full-time rate of pursuit.

With one year of consecutive qualifying service, i.e. deployed under Title 10 in support of a contingency operation, Chapter 1607 or REAP currently pays $988.80 based on full-time student status. Under REAP, she has up to 10 years from her date of discharge from the National Guard to use her Chapter 1607 benefits.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most generous of the three GI Bills financially. By attending an in-state school, 60% of her tuition would be paid by the VA directly to her school. If she decides to attend a private school, then 60% of up to $19,198.31 per year would be paid directly to her school by the VA. She would be responsible for the 40% of tuition and fees not paid by the VA.

She would also get a monthly housing allowance (MHA) that on average is about $1,300. Once per semester, she would get a book stipend. That has a $1,000 per academic year cap. At her current Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level, she could get up to 60% of each the MHA and book stipend.

When she switched to REAP, she had to give up a GI Bill and the one she most likely gave up was her Chapter 1606 GI Bill, which by the way was a good move. I think her best bet now is to finish using up her 28 months of REAP benefits and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months of benefits. If she switched now, she would only get the same number of months she has left under REAP and not the additional 12 months.

Also, by using her Post 9/11 GI Bill last, it would end up paying her more due to her higher tuition costs for her physical training program.

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