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If I’m Using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Should I Pay the Tuition My School Billed Me?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband (active-duty Navy officer) transferred all of his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to me. I have already registered for classes for this semester and my classes start in one week. I just applied to use those benefits through my university’s veterans’ affairs office and they said it can take weeks for the VA to process my request. In the meantime – I’ve already been billed by the university for the first semester. If I pay out of pocket (or use my Pell Grant or Stafford Loan) to pay for this semester, will I be reimbursed by the VA? I did include my direct deposit information on the form. Or do I not receive benefits until the start of the next semester? Thank you! Renee

A: I would go talk to your school Renee and see first if they know you are using GI Bill benefits and second if they can wait until they get paid by the VA. Some schools have the student pay up front and then reimburse the student once the VA pays them. That is a clumsy system, but some schools don’t want to wait for their money.

I’m leery of having you pay the tuition and here is why. Things can get really screwed up fast if your school is not on the ball. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA is the last payer when other forms of payment are involved. So if you pay and your school records that tuition payment, then there is nothing left for the VA to pay.

It probably works O.K. if your school holds your tuition payment in escrow and bills the VA for the full amount, but as you can imagine, there are lots of moving parts to a system like this. Unfortunately if something does go awry, it is really difficult to get it straightened out.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying ask lots of questions as to how they do it. If they have a large veteran student population and have been doing it for a few years, it probably works great. If it is a new system or they are not used to working with veterans, I would proceed more cautiously.

It can take up to 8 weeks to get your first Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance payment. After that, you should see something monthly. Your book stipend usually comes as a separate payment shortly after the start of the semester.

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