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Is It True I’m Not Eligible For the Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowance?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am also a former spouse after 25 years of marriage.  My active duty ex transferred his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit to me and I began my education a couple months ago. I was informed yesterday because my ex is still active duty, I am not be eligible to receive the housing stipend, only the book allowance.  I called VA personally, twice and received the same answer.  I asked if it would make a difference to send in my divorce decree and I was told no.  The fact that he is still active duty is the key.  He needs to retire before I can receive the housing allowance.

A: That might not be entirely true and here is why. Whether or not you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance hinges on if you are still receiving BAH or not. If you are, then no, you would not be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance as that would in essence be double-dipping. The apparent rationale is that a couple – even if they are no longer married – only qualifies for one housing allowance.

How it reads is “If the service member transfers the benefit, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will provide tuition assistance for the recipient spouse, and subject to certain exceptions, it may also include a housing allowance, book stipend, and other benefits.”

As we know, the monthly housing allowance is equivalent to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents, based on the ZIP code of the school where the student is going to school and the number of credit s/he is taking.

Notable however, if the Post 9/11 GI Bill is transferred to a child, the child would receive the housing allowance and book stipend, even if the parent service member is still on active duty and receiving the Basic Allowance for Housing.

If you are not drawing BAH, then I would send in a copy of your divorce decree as part of your Notice of Disagreement letter indicating that you should get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and why.

Comments  (2)

Mr. Kness, I am a recently divorced service member that transferred my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my former spouse. I came across your blog while researching if my, at the time, soon-to-be ex-wife would receive the Monthly Housing Allowance. You state in your blogs that a former spouse would receive those benefits when she is removed from DEERS. I actually spoke to someone at VA prior to the divorce to ensure the information was correct and at the time (late last year) the VA representative concurred with what you state. My divorce is now finalized and my ex was attempting to find out how to receive the MHA, but the VA rep explained to her that she is not eligible for the MHA since I am still on active duty. I called VA myself to verify and they explained that the VA pays out benefits as if it were being paid to the service member, whether still on active duty or separated/retired. So in my case, my ex, though never having personally served in the Armed Forces, will receive the benefits as if they were being paid to myself, an active duty Soldier, hence no MHA.
My argument with VA was that my ex is not receiving any benefits from the military including BAH so why would they treat a case like this as if my ex were still receiving active duty benefits.
Do you personally deal with any of the VA reps or have had any luck with scenarios like this and how to combat certain VA reps stance on either not knowing or knowing whether a former spouse can receive the MHA while the service member is still on active duty?
I would greatly appreciate your feedback. I know this was a lot to take in so thank you for bearing with me and your time.

posted by Paul
6:53 pm on April 19, 2013

It is my understanding your spouse would get either BAH or MHA, but not both. So in the end it depends on what the divorce proceedings awarded her. One military divorce lawyer stated to me that many times they will fight for the MHA instead of the BAH especially in cases where the servicemember will be in for less than the number of months of Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred to the spouse. From the conversation, I sounded like the default was BAH, and MHA the exception.

posted by Ron Kness
9:00 am on May 1, 2013
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