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How Long Will I Still Qualify for Benefits?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Army from Feb 99 – Aug 03 (some stop loss there) and I used the GI Bill to finish my associate’s degree from 07 to 08. Now I would like to finish my bachelors and possibly masters at a local state university (Montclair State University in New Jersey). Do I still qualify for benefits and how much longer would I have if I still do? Also, I work full-time so I would be looking to do this at night. How many credits would I need to take at once, figuring a 3-credit course is around $1,000?

A: I’m not following the last part of your question “How many credits would I need to take at once, figuring a 3-credit course is around $1,000?” To take in order to do what?

If you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), it is good for 10 years from your date of discharge, so it will be expiring in 2013. If you used 18 months to get your associate’s degree, then you should have about another 18 months left.

Right now the MGIB is paying $1,421 per month to go to school and you have to pay all your own education-related expenses, such as tuition, fees, books, supplies, etc.

With 23 months of service after September 10, 2001, you also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 70% level. The VA would pay up to 70% of your tuition and fees and you would get 70% of the housing allowance authorized for the zip code of your school (provided you are taking enough credits to be a greater-than-half-time student). You would also get up to $700 per year is a book stipend (70% of the $1,000 per year maximum).

If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with months of benefit left on your MGIB, you get the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill months of benefit as you had before you switched, however, if you first exhaust your MGIB, and then switch, you could get an additional 12 months of benefit. Also note, once you exhaust your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back. You also would have up to 15 years from your date of discharge to finish using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

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