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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

My husband served honorably 20 years in the Georgia Army National Guard. He was called to serve on active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom in February 2003 and served 15 months straight thru returning home April 2005. He retired with 20 years in 2006 after being honorably discharged from active duty (DD Form-214). Is he eligible for REAP, MGIB or the transferability of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to our children?

The only GI Bill that has any transfer benefits is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. While your husband does qualify for it with his OIF deployment, he won’t be able to make a transfer of benefits to his children as that has to be done while he is still in the military; after discharge, it is too late. However, he can use the 36 months of education benefits himself.

Something you should also know is there is a bill in the House right now (H.R. 3577) that if passed, it would give Armed Forces veterans retiring between December 9, 2001 and August 1, 2009 with 20 years or more of service, the option to make a transfer of benefits. The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill, servicemembers had to be on active duty “on or after August 1, 2009”. Well by that time, your husband had been out for three years. For right now, this is the only chance he will have to make a transfer as that is the only bill offering this opportunity.

Make your voice heard by contacting your Representatives and ask for their support and passage of this bill. Thousands of veterans are in this same boat – they fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill including the transfer option, but were denied a transfer-of-benefits opportunity due to the way Congress wrote the New GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Break pay is when there is a break in school less than the previous time you went to school right? Shouldn’t we be able to take summer off and still get paid because it is less time than the previous term? Normally 12 terms but summer is 8? I’m a full-time student but I feel like I should get a break just like normal students that get the summer time off.

A: You are partially correct. Break pay is authorized when the number of days of the break is less than the number of days in the previous and successive term, BUT less than 56 days. That is the part that prevents you from getting break pay; your summer break is over 56 days long.

However, break pay really won’t be an issue after August 2011 because the Post 9/11 GI Bill fix legislation, that just passed and is pay waiting for the President’s signature, eliminates break pay. Also keep in mind that depending on which GI Bill you have, break pay can also use up entitlement and all you are getting for it basically is the housing allowance. While it is nice to have the income, it isn’t a very good use of your entitlement.

Normal students (as you put it) do have the summer off from school, but most are working their tails off  trying to earn  enough money to keep them in school for another year. You at least have the GI Bill to help pay for your education – they don’t.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m curious about BAH and GI Bill. What will I receive if enrolled in college full time? The college VA Office told me I would get $333/month from GI Bill (I am in the old one I believe? Chapter 1607?) I am in the Guard, 1 year of service, no deployment. I have heard mixed statements about also receiving BAH in the amount of E5 w/dependents based on the zip code of my school? If that is correct, what paperwork, and to whom do I submit it to? Any help would be great! I want to get a degree prior to my 2013 deployment date, but sure can’t live on only $300/month.

A: Actually the amount for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606) is now $337 per month, but still less than what most people can live on. With the MGIB-SR, that is all you get and you have to pay your own tuition, fees and other education-related expenses.

Actually, you would be far better off if you waited to go to school after your deployment. With a one-year deployment, you would qualify for 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill education entitlement at the 60% level.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school (up to 60% of the in-state maximum). Monthly, you would get 60% of the housing allowance and up to $600 per year in a book stipend (60% of the $1,000 per year maximum.

This GI Bill has the housing allowance paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents based on the zip code of your school. Chapter 1606 doesn’t have anything other than the $337 per month. The housing allowance alone averages $1,000 per month across the United States with both the East and West Coasts being double that amount and the Midwest being slightly less. So you would be around 60% of that amount or $600 per month – almost twice of what the MGIB-SR would pay and your tuition and fees are 60% paid already by the VA.

To me it is a no-brainer to wait until you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But if you choose to use your MGIB-SR, then go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990. This is also the same website and form you will need for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m trying to go to truck driving school. The school says they will take the GI Bill, however, they need a contact phone number to GI Bill finance. What is the phone number? I do have form DD-214. Please respond. I also could use any other information that you would think I need. Thank you very much.

A: My first question is which GI Bill do you have? While the school may accept the GI Bill, the GI Bill you have might not pay for the course you want to take. The Post 9/11 GI Bill generally pays for degree-producing courses where the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) pays for both degree and non-degree courses. If you are trying to get your CDL, then you would most likely be better off with the MGIB. Also, not only will your MGIB pay for your course, it can reimburse you up to $2,000 for the cost of your CDL and endorsements.

As far as a number to finance, they can call the Main VA Office number at 1-888-442-4551. I’m assuming either your school does not have a VA Certifying Official or you did not contact that person; otherwise they should have known that number already.

Also, did you have your Certificate of Eligibility when you enrolled. That would have shown them which GI Bill you had and how many months of eligibility you have left. If you didn’t have it, then the school VA Certifying Official should have been able to certify you on the spot off of your DD-214. Something just doesn’t feel right about this whole process or the school isn’t used to working with veterans using the GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How long does it take to receive your allowances after the VA receives the enrollment verification from the school for each class under the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: It depends on the VA’s workload. During the fall term, it can take 8 to 10 weeks to process a Post 9/11 GI Bill application. This is the term when new GI Bill students usually start, so with new students and returning students, the VA typically gets overwhelmed with work.  In the later terms, it shouldn’t take as long as they tend to get caught up by the end of the previous term.

Also know, that you will always be a month behind in getting paid from the VA. Because of the lag time in processing and always being a month behind, I recommend students have enough funds to get them through for one semester without relying on money from the VA. Far too often, I see students starting on a shoestring betting they will get money from the VA when they need it and when they don’t, all of a sudden they are in a financial bind with detracts them from their schoolwork. Pretty soon, their GPA does down the drain and they either fail or drop out.

Start school with the funds you need to get you through the first semester and then use the money you get from the VA to replace those funds. There are ways to get it (legally).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’ve applied for and been accepted for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Next semester can I apply for the Montgomery GI Bill instead? Also, I received an automatic deposit into my bank account this week for approximately $145. Do you know if that was for books or housing allowance? Thank you.

A: No, you can’t switch to the Montgomery GI Bill. What many veterans fail to realize is switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is irrevocable – once you switch, you can’t switch back. That is why it is so vitally important to know the limitations of the Post 9/11 GI Bill before switching. Because the New GI Bill is the newest, latest and greatest GI Bill, many think that is the one to have. However, failing to do their homework, they find out after they have switched, that the Post 9/11 GI Bill will not pay for their trade, technical, license or certification course. Or that it will not pay housing allowance to online-only students. In both these cases, the veterans would have been better off staying with the MGIB.

If you didn’t have the MGIB to start with, and you didn’t make your $1,200 contribution, then you wouldn’t be authorized the MGIB anyway.

As far as the $145, I don’t know what it would be for. The book stipend is paid at $41.67 per credit, so it doesn’t seem like it would be that. It could be for housing allowance if your term started only a couple of days before the end of the month, but usually they tack those couple of days onto the next months housing allowance. At the end of the term, you will get a detailed payment listing showing the amount you were paid and what it was for.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi! I was wondering what the website is to check the status of the TEB process and if I can go ahead and file for a certificate or do I have to wait for approval. Last but not least, is there a website or a phone number where someone can help me find a good school to get my BA please.

A:  I’m assuming you were the intended recipient of Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits, otherwise you would know to go to the same website to check TEB benefits as you did when you made the transfer. If you are the recipient, you will have to have your sponsor check on the transfer status.

Once the Status changes from Pending Review to Approved, you can go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22—1990e. That will get you your Certificate of Eligibility that you need when you enroll in school. It can take 8 to 10 weeks from the time the transfer request was made to get approved, so don’t get impatient if it hasn’t been at least that long.

As far as looking for a school, you will want to pick a school that is GI Bill approved. You can go to the VA’s Find a School search engine and look by state or country for schools already approved. As far as recommending a school, I’m not at liberty to do so. Most are good and some are known for specializing in a discipline, such as teaching, more than other schools that are more generalized in what they teach.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My brother is a proud vet of the Iraq freedom war. He got out of the military in 2004. He went to his first school and upon receiving his GI Bill was put down as a chapter 30, he enlisted in 2000. He then left school and worked for a couple of years. He then went to a new school, school of the arts where he was told that he would get money and he would not have to pay the school a cent. The school made an error and thought he was a Chapter 33. Though he kept telling them he was getting bills, they told him do not worry it is taken care of. He just found out that because he is a Chapter 30, he owes the school $16,000. He is devastated. I know that I have read that you do not retroactively pay back money owed, but this is NOT his fault. Something has to be done to remedy this. He has the money and is willing to switch to a Chapter 33, but he is not going to pay $16,000. I am also a vet and hope that we can figure out a solution.

A: The VA can normally retroactively pay GI Bill benefits up to one-year back. Your brother needs to contact the VA, explain what happened and see if he can switch to Chapter 33 and get his school paid before it drags out any longer. If some of what he owes is back over a year, he will most likely get stuck paying for that part of it.

I would also suggest he sees his school’s VA Certifying Official and enlist that persons help. I hope that was not the person that told him not to worry in the first place.

Sometimes the smaller Regional or even the State VA Offices are more responsive to deal with being they cover a smaller area and generally have less of a workload than the main VA office.

If the VA ends up not retroactively paying, or what your brother owes is over a year old, then your brother has little option but to switch to Chapter 33 anyway, so he doesn’t get further in debt, and end up paying what he owes to the school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I switch from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: Switching is easy, but I want to caution you first that once you switch, you can’t switch back, so I want you to be aware of the Post 9/11 GI Bill limitations before you switch. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is generally only good for degree-producing programs. So if you plan to take a trade, technical, license or certification course, you would be better off to keep the Montgomery GI Bill.

If your non-degree course is taught at a school also teaching degree programs, then your course MAY be covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you would want to check with the VA to be sure before you switch. If you plan to take a degree program, but you want to do it all online, the MGIB may be a better GI Bill to use as the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay the housing allowance to those taking all online courses. Of course the way around it is to take at least one class per term that pertains to your degree plan at a local college and then you are authorized the housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been in the military 19 years and would like to transfer my Post 9/11 benefits to my son. How do I go about doing this?

A: First, go to the TEB website and if you are authorized to make a transfer request, then you will be able to access or “edit” your son’s record. If you can get into his record, then just enter the number of unused Post 9/11 GI Bill months of entitlement you want to give to him. If you can’t enter his record or it is “grayed” out, then you will most likely have to reenlist first to get your enlistment time to 20 years or his record is not current in DEERS. Once the reenlistment action is complete, or his DEERS record is current, then you should be able to make a transfer request.

Once you make a request, the status screen will change to Pending Review. Keep checking back at the TEB website and watch for the status to change to Approved.  Once approved, then your son can go to the VONAPP website and submit VA form 22-1990e. He will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that he will need when he enrolls in school as a GI Bill user. That’s it!