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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Am I still entitled to receive the GI Bill if I was dishonorable discharged and it been close to 10 years ago?

A: No, if you were dishonorably discharged, you cannot use your Montgomery GI Bill benefits regardless of how long it has been. Plus even if you could, they would expire 10-years from your date of discharge and it sounds like your are very close to that magic date now.

If you got a dishonorable discharge, it was a result of a General court-martial, so most likely even the Board of Corrections would not be able to help you upgrade your discharge to a point where you could use and draw GI Bill benefits. As you are finding out, a DD can haunt you for the rest of your life as it generally suspends all veterans benefits for good.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

done Q: I recently started to attend a Community College and am starting to receive Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and am going to school full time. My question is can I transfer my benefits from one school to another? I want to transfer to a University either next semester or the semester after that and am not sure how it works. Do I have to obtain a degree from my community college first before transferring or can I transfer anyway as long as I am accepted and my GPA is good? Also how far in advance would I need to let my schools VA Rep and the VA know this?

A: Yes you can switch to another school.  Just make sure it is GI Bill-approved first. You can either go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1995 – Request for Change of Program or Place of Training or contact your school’s VA certifying Official and they can help you through it. It is probably best to consult your VA official as far as lead time, but I would submit it at least early in the semester prior to the one where you want to make the switch to a different GI Bill school.

You really can’t submit it too early, but you certainly can submit it too late. And while it probably would still work out, you want to make it as easy for the VA as possible to get it auctioned in the shortest amount of time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, will I get my $1,200 back that I had to pay during my first year of enlistment? If I can that would be great because I could use the money to pay off a few bills Thanks for your time.

A: If you have never used your Montgomery GI Bill, and you switch, yes you can get all of your contribution back, but the key is you have to first use up your 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Your contribution will come as part of your last housing allowance check.

If you have used some of your MGIB benefits and switch, then you will get a prorated amount of your contribution back once you expend your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. If you have used all of your MGIB benefits up and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months, you do not get anything back as you used up your original 36 months which is what your contribution purchased.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My daughter is using her husband’s benefits for schooling under Yellow Ribbon. She receives tuition, book stipend and BAH. She has heard that the BAH is taxable. Is this true? And, if so, why? When you are active duty, it is not.

A: No. Any veterans’ benefits including Yellow Ribbon Program benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill, paid under any law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should not be reported as income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will not receive a W-2 from the VA. Here is what IRS 970 publication has to say about GI Bill income:

“Payments you receive for education, training, or subsistence under any law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are tax free. Do not include these payments as income on your federal tax return.

If you qualify for one or more of the education benefits discussed in chapters 2 through 13*, you may have to reduce the amount of education expenses qualifying for a specific benefit by part or all of your VA payments. This applies only to the part of your VA payments that is required to be used for education expenses.


You have returned to college and are receiving two education benefits under the latest GI Bill: (1) a $1,534 monthly basic housing allowance (BAH) that is directly deposited to your checking account, and (2) $3,840 paid directly to your college for tuition. Neither of these benefits is taxable and you do not report them on your tax return. You also want to claim an American opportunity credit on your return. You paid $5,000 in qualified education expenses (explained in detail in chapter 2). To figure the amount of credit, you must first subtract the $3,840 from your qualified education expenses because this payment under the GI Bill was required to be used for education expenses. You do not subtract any amount of the BAH because it was paid to you and its use was not restricted.”

*Chapters 2 through 13 are as follows:

2. American Opportunity Credit

3. Hope Credit

4. Lifetime Learning Credit

5. Student Loan Interest Deduction

6. Student Loan Cancellations and Repayment Assistance

7. Tuition and Fees Deduction

8. Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA)

9. Qualified Tuition Program (QTP)

10. Education Exception to Additional Tax on Early IRA Distributions

11. Education Savings Bond Program

12. Employer-Provided Educational Assistance

13. Business Deduction for Work Related Education.

This should help them when it is time to file taxes. If they prepare their own taxes, more information can be found in the 970 publication. If they have them professionally prepared, the tax preparer will know how to handle GI Bill income.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired in 1991. I applied for employment and was hired in Saudi Arabia. The base commander for the Air Force did not allow access to retired personnel for the use of the education allowance. I finished my contract in the year 2000 and was employed with a contract in Qatar too late to use my allowance. I wrote my congressman about my problem and asked for a continued extension of my allowance with negative results. It’s been over 20 years so can I have a waiver of my education allowance.

A: I’m not sure how 20 years ties in with an education waiver. The delimiting date of the Montgomery GI Bill (which would have been the one you would have had back in 1991) had a 10-year expiration date, so it expired in 2001.

Generally speaking, the VA only issues GI Bill delimiting date extensions in three instances:

  • If you were detained by a foreign power;
  • Unable to attend classes;
  • Recalled to active duty.

While you were unable to physically attend classes, it probably would be a hard case to make that you could not attend online classes. Besides the Air Force secure network, there had to be an unsecure network for all airmen and base employees to privately access the Internet, email, etc.

If there was not, and you can prove it, then you may have a case to argue with the VA. Otherwise, it will be pointless to try.

I’m not sure what you mean when you say a negative response. If your congressman never replied back, that is one thing. If you did get a response back, but it was not favorable, then it is another indication that it is probably a dead issue.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Army for the years from 1983-1987. My question is do I qualify for any kind of educational benefits? My wife is going to school to learn English and  is there any kind of benefits that would help her (us) with financial aid? Thank you.

A: Back then, you would have had to sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and made the $1,200 contribution to qualify for the MGIB. If you did not do that, then most likely you didn’t have the MGIB.

In the end though, it would not have made a difference anyway for a couple of reasons. One, even if you had the MGIB, it did not have a transfer option, so it would not have been any help to your wife. Two, the Montgomery GI Bill has a 10-year shelf life meaning if you did not use it within 10-years from your date of discharge, the education benefits expired.

As a suggestion, have your wife fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That will give her (and you) an idea of what kind and how much education financial assistance she could get if she goes to school. All you would be out is a little time and you might be surprised what she could get for educational assistance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like to maybe learn to make knives on a GI Bill so I can work at home.

A: That may be a tough sell. The GI Bill’s intent is to train veterans in a vocation of some type where they can make a living from the training provided by the GI Bill. There can be a fine line between an avocation (hobby) and vocation (job or career). I’m not saying it is impossible, but you will have to sufficiently justify it to the point where the VA will approve your training program.

My friend builds custom knives, and from what he charges, I know it is possible to make a living from that skill. He easily sells all the knives he can make at gun shows. He learned the trade from a mentor that did it for years before him.

If you can find a VA-approved knife-making training program, it could be possible using a GI Bill other than the Post 9/11 GI Bill. That most likely would not pay for a non-degree program unless you can find a course that is taught at a school also teaching degree courses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How many u’s can you have until they take military funds for school away?

A: The VA won’t take your GI Bill school funds away, but they will suspend paying any additional funds until they are satisfied that what caused you to fail a class has been corrected. Once the school sends notice to the VA that you failed a class, you will have to contact the VA and explain why.

Whether or not you have to pay the VA for that class will depend on if there were mitigating circumstances or not causing you to fail. Mitigating circumstances are something beyond your control, such as a temporary disability that prevented you from attending class.

If mitigating circumstances were the cause, then you will not have to pay for the class and the VA will pay again for you to re-take the class. However, if the circumstances were non-mitigating (within your control), then you most likely will have to pay for the class, but the VA will pay you again to take it over once they have been assured the reason for failing in the first place has been corrected.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I gave up my Montgomery GI Bill for Student Loan Repayment Program instead, am I still eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: You may be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, however, it really depends on how long of a time-span we are talking about. When you signed up for SLRP, you incurred a three-year service obligation to pay it back. During those three years, you did not gain eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you can’t have the Student Loan Repayment Program and the GI Bill for the same period of time. However on a six-year enlistment, you could get both as you would get 100% eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill for the second three years. The only thing you would not get would be the transfer-to-benefits option. That would require you to reenlist for an additional four years once you are at the six-year mark.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am in the process of getting out of the Army and going to college full time. When I enlisted I signed up with a GI Bill Kicker. My question is how does that affect the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: You can use a Kicker with the Post 9/11 GI Bill if it is a true kicker – one you did not have to pay into. Many people call the $600 Buy-Up program a kicker when in fact, it is not and it cannot be used with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If your Kicker is an enlistment incentive for signing up for a critical MOS or into a critical unit, or for the Army College Fund, then it is a true kicker and may be used with either the Post 9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill.

When you send in your application to start using your GI Bill, be sure and include the documentation showing that you are authorized a Kicker and for how much. Otherwise the VA doesn’t know, nor will they pay you without documentation. It will either show in your DD Form 4 Enlistment Packet or it will be a separate form/annex in the packet.