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How Does Using Tuition Top-Up With TA Affect My GI Bill Benefits?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am working on getting my degree while overseas still on active duty. Distance learning is really my only option and I only have time to take one or two classes a term.

How would using Top-Up along with TA affect my total GI Bill entitlements considering it would only be about $300 dollars a term? Would I lose what was left after 36 months?

If I am going to be doing this for about the next 2 years (a few distance classes a term) and have to use Top-Up, which GI Bill is better? All of the information I find is assuming full time students. Thank you so much if you can clear up this confusion. Jeff

A: Yes I can clear up your confusion. First, let’s talk about GI Bills. The Montgomery GI Bill will be your better option in your particular situation. Because your are on active duty, you would not get a housing allowance or book stipend if you used the Post 9/11 GI Bill anyway, plus this would leave an option open for you after you use up all of your MGIB education benefits – switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and getting an additional 12 months of education benefit that you could use once you are out. If you would take enough classes to be considered over half-time (usually 7 credits or more), then you would then also get the housing allowance and book stipend.

If you are using Tuition Top-Up with TA, then your service branch pays all of your tuition (up to the $250 per credit and annual $4,500 cap) and they bill the VA for the portion not covered by TA. The VA pays your service branch for the amount billed and they convert this dollar amount to months and days of GI Bill entitlement. The VA deducts this amount from your unused entitlement.

At $300 per term, it won’t amount to much of a deduction – maybe around 7 days per term.

As far as losing what is left, no you won’t – at least not right away. Under the MGIB, you have 10 years from your date of discharge to finish using your entitlement.  Like I said earlier, then you can switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, get 12 more months of entitlement and have up to 15 years to use that up. A pretty sweet deal, don’t you think?

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