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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I recently received information in the mail about the MGIB, as well as the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I was given my 24 month reminder about my education benefits, which stated that I could use my Post 9/11 GI Bill, and that if I paid for my MGIB, that I would be eligible for that as well. I thought there was only “one” GI Bill to use. What’s not clear to me, is whether or not I’ll receive both, or one, and it seems I get different information per person I ask, and I’m just seeking clarification. Thanks for the help!

A: There are actually six GI Bills right now:

  • MGIB-AD;
  • MGIB-SR;
  • REAP;
  • VEAP;
  • DEA;
  • Post 9/11 GI Bill.

You may be eligible for two GI Bills – your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB-AD) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The key is though, you can’t use both at the same time. So your choices are to finish using your 24 months of MGIB benefits, and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill (and get an additional 12 months of benefits) or to switch right now and use up your remaining 24 months as Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, but not get the additional 12 months.

Which one you choose largely depends on your education goal as the Post 9/11 GI Bill (right now) will not normally pay for non-degree courses, where the MGIB will pay for both degree and non-degree programs. Also, the pay structure is vastly different between the two.

You become eligible for minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits by serving on active duty for at least 90-days after September 10, 2001 with no contribution required. Three years of service after that date gets you full benefits, except the transfer option.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Today is Jan 15, 2011. I am enrolled in Bay State College in MA and I start Jan 18, 2011. I have yet to apply for VA because I don’t know which to go with. I need money to pay rent and bills, and I’m unemployed.

I am married with 2 kids (6 yr old and 4 yr old). I will do pre-reqs first then in Sept, I will start my actual program for PTA. VONAPP says ” If electing chapter 33 in lieu of chapter 30, my months of entitlement under chapter 33 will be limited to the number of months of entitlement remaining under chapter 30 on the effective date of my election. However, if I completely exhaust my entitlement under chapter 30 before the effective date of my chapter 33 election, I may receive up to 12 additional months of benefits under chapter 33.” What does that mean? What is the better choice? Thank you.

A: It means that if you switch to Chapter 33 (Post 9/11 GI Bill) with months left on your Chapter 30 (Montgomery GI Bill), all you will get is the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, if you first exhaust all your Chapter 30 months before the effective date of your Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you would get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

If you have not used any of your Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30) and you don’t plan to go any further with your post-secondary education than a four-year degree, then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away.

The VA will pay your tuition and eligible fees and you will get a monthly housing allowance and a yearly book stipend. The housing allowance averages $1,200 per month with the East and West Coasts over double that amount. The Midwest is slightly lower than the average. The book stipend is paid at the rate of $41.67 per credit and maxes out at $1,000 per year.

Chapter 30 currently pays $1,421 per month and you have to pay all your own tuition, fees and other education-related expenses, so from a monetary standpoint, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a better deal.

I would normally caution you first to ensure your program is degree-producing, as right now the Post 9/11 GI Bill will not pay for non-degree courses. But after August 1st, that won’t make a difference as the GI Bill 2.0 will allow the Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for non-degree programs also.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I just enrolled for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but I put the start date for February 2011, to start receiving my payments. But I want to delay my enrollment or payments until later in the year – can I still do this?

A: You can, but to prevent confusion, let the VA know now that you plan to delay using your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. There are two forms that have to match up before a payment is triggered, your VA Form 22-1990 GI Bill Application and a Certificate of Enrollment.

If you don’t enroll in school, then your school will not send in their paperwork, however, the VA is thinking they should get one, based on your start date on your VA Form 22-1990. So to prevent confusion, just let the VA know your plans have changed and that you will be delaying your start of school.

Once you get ready to start school, take your Certificate of Eligibility to your school when you enroll. Once you are enrolled, your school will send in their paperwork to the VA and your benefits will start coming to you.  While it would not be an absolute necessity to contact the VA, it is a courtesy to do so.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I was awarded 12 months of benefits under the new GI Bill last week. But I took classes during the spring using no MGIB benefits. Will I be able to apply some of those months retroactively? Thanks!

A: The question is did you still have Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits at the time you took the classes and didn’t use them, or had you exhausted them before taking those classes. If you had MGIB benefits and didn’t use them you might get reimbursed at the MGIB rate because that is the GI Bill you had a the time and you had benefits left.

If you had exhausted them, you should be able to claim reimbursement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. And I’m assuming you were eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the time you took the classes and your classes are obviously within one-year from the date when you want to claim the benefits. Generally those are the two qualifying factors to claim reimbursement.

The VA will only retroactively pay back one year, so I wouldn’t delay in submitting a claim for reimbursement. Spring is coming quick and your one-year mark will soon be here.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m in the Ohio Army National Guard and while I’m eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, I have not ever received a BAH.  I filled out VA paperwork for my college. I do receive a GI Bill, but I am enrolled in a Michigan college so my tuition is not paid for. Is this why I’m not receiving BAH? Or is there someone I’m suppose to contact? Anything would help.

A:  I think we are mixing apples and oranges. First, from what you said – “ I do receive a GI Bill, but I am enrolled in a Michigan college so my tuition is not paid for”, it sounds like you are not using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you were, then your tuition and eligible fees would be paid for up to the in-state maximum for Michigan. Being the New GI Bill is a Federal program, where you go to school really doesn’t determine if you get the housing allowance or not. It is determined by your rate of pursuit and your training venue.

You would get the housing allowance, if you are a greater-than-half-time student (rate of pursuit) and not taking all online courses (training venue). If both of these parameters apply in your case, then you should get the housing allowance; because you are not receiving it, tells me are not on the Post 9/11 GI Bill and are on one of the Montgomery GI Bills (MGIBs)which do not pay a housing allowance.

I suspect you are using the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), either the active duty or selected reserve. With either MGIB, you get paid a monthly amount and you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses, and neither MGIB pays a housing allowance.

As a National Guardsman, you would be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill if you had deployed for at least 91 days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operations, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. If you never had any active duty time or deployed, then you are not eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you are eligible, then fill out VA Form 22-1990 to relinquish your Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve or Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty benefits and to start using your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.  

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a son of a 100 percent disabled veteran. He is 70 percent SC and 30 percent UI. I am a college student as of June 2009. My question is…. am I able to get Chapter 35 benefits from my dad? From what I’m reading is if I was under 26 at the time he was initially awarded his benefits (which was 1994 and I was around 20 years of age) and the date he was notified 100 percent I can get the benefits. I would then be given a certificate of eligibility and I would be able to choose my start date (which would be the date I started school) and then get back-pay for those months? Does this sound right? Really sounds too good to be true. I am 36 years old and this would really help me out with school loans, etc.

A:  You know what they say about things too good to be true? While your “plan” sounds good, it won’t work. Under Chapter 35, you have to use up your education benefits by age 26, except in two isolated instances.

If you served in the military at some time when you were between the ages of 18 and 26, you’re your benefits can be extended, but not past age 31. If you were recalled into military service after September 10, 2001, your benefits can be extended and they can go past age 31. But outside of those two exceptions, of which neither sounds like applies in your situation, you will not be authorized benefits past age 26.

My question is why didn’t you apply for Chapter 35 benefits when your dad was listed a 100% disabled back in 1994. If you were 20 then, you would had six years to use up your 45 months of benefits and not had the school loans today that you now have.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’ve been trying my best to understand these new provisions to the GI Bills but I just can’t wrap my head around it. What is the best way to go for a soldier who is ETS’ing after six years of service who would like to pursue a medical degree as a full-time student on campus?

A:  You only have two choices. One, if you bought in to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you can use your benefits to go to school for 36 months. Once you have exhausted your MGIB benefits, you can switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits. Obviously something you can use if you are pursuing a medical degree as that will involve more than four years of school.

The second option is to go straight to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and use up your 36 months of benefits and not get the additional 12 months.

The biggest difference between the two programs is how much each pays. If you use the MGIB, then you would get $1,421 per month to go to school for 36 months and you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA pays your tuition and fees (up to the in-state maximum) and you get a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend. The housing allowance averages $1,000 per month across the whole United States with both the East and West Coasts over double that amount. The Midwest states are slightly less than the average.

Monetarily, it makes the most sense to go straight to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, however, it also depends on how important those additional 12 months are to you – only you will be able to decide on that aspect of it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was on active duty in the Marine Corps from 1996-2000. I used my GI Bill for one course at my local community college. In 2001, I enlisted in the Army and still currently serving. I am not sure of my Montgomery GI Bill status.

A: Your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) status is probably still good as your GI Bill shelf life should start on the date of your last separation, which hasn’t happened yet. The MGIB has a 10-year delimiting date, meaning it is good for only 10 years from your date of discharge.

The good news is you are also eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You have more than enough service time (three years after September 10, 2001 on Title 10 orders) for 100% benefit eligibility. If that was the only GI Bill you had, or if you had the MGIB, but never used it, then you would normally get 36 months of benefits.

But, because you used your MGIB for one course, which was probably around 3 to 4 months of benefits, you should have around 32 months left of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, if you choose to switch.

Just know the Post 9/11 GI Bill also has a delimiting date – 15 years from your date of discharge – so be sure and use your benefits instead of losing them. Also note that if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI bill now, once you have used up all your New GI Bill benefits, you will get a portion of your $1,200 MGIB contribution back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I will be chaptered out the Army for weight. If I get a General Under Honorable Conditions discharge, do I get to keep my GI Bill?

A: Yes you do get to keep your GI Bill, however, you will not be able to use it if you have a less than fully Honorable discharge. There is a recourse though if you think (and can prove) your discharge status is incorrect.

If you are within 15 years of your discharge date (and obviously you are), then you can appeal your discharge status to the Army Board of Corrections. You start the process by submitting DD Form 249. There isn’t any guarantee they will change your discharge to an Honorable status, but at least it is an avenue of appeal. It can take up to six months to get a decision back. I wish you the best of luck.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am about to complete a bachelor’s in criminal justice, which has been paid for entirely by tuition assistance. I would like to pursue a second bachelor’s in computer science while on active duty, since I will more than likely be staying in until retirement. I have been told that neither the MGIB nor Post 9/11 will pay for a second degree in a field unrelated to the first. Is this true? What are my options?

A: If your first degree in criminal justice was paid for entirely by Tuition Assistance (TA), then the VA will most likely let you use your GI Bill benefits to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science. TA is funded by your service branch and not by the VA, so in essence the VA is not paying for a second degree; only your first degree of using the GI Bill.

If your first bachelor’s degree was paid for by the VA, then yes, they generally frown upon paying for a second degree at the same degree level in an unrelated career field.

The intent of the GI Bill is to train servicemembers and veterans in a career, so they would rather pay for a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the same field rather than two bachelor’s degrees in unrelated fields. Make sense?

So the reality is go ahead and use either the MBIG or Post 9/11 GI Bill to pursue your degree in criminal science.