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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was active duty in the Marine Corps from 1994-1998 and enlisted in the Guard immediately after getting out. Did my ten year window to use my Montgomery GI Bill start after getting off of active duty or will it start after I retire from the guard?

A: No, your clock started on the day you were discharged from the Marine Corps for your Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD), so that GI Bill expired sometime in 2008. However, you have another GI Bill – the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) – that you have while in the Guard, however, that one will end 10 years from your date of eligibility, if you stay in the Guard, or upon your discharge from the Guard. The MGIB-SR currently pays $337 per month to go to school, but also check with your unit to see what education benefits your state may provide. Most states offer some type of financial assistance for their National Guard members’ education.

If you deployed on Title 10 orders after September 10, 2001 for at least 91 days in support of a contingency operation (such as Iraq or Afghanistan), then you also qualify for at least partial benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. A typical one-year deployment would get you to the 60% level, meaning the VA would pay your tuition up to 60% of the in-state maximum and you would get 60% of both the housing allowance and book stipend.  If you have been deployed, it is something to ask about.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been trying to contact the Buffalo NY VA Regional Office for a long while. I finally got through at the end of my 2008 program, when I started my GI Bill program. It was a long haul.

I got my package for payment. On my package, the VA only wants to pay the last 2 months of my schooling and not the previous month. For the second program I took, they are willing to pay all of it. What shall I do? I live in Canada and every time I call the VA, I get a message on the answering machine and then it hangs up. I can call the 800 number, but it does not accept call from out of country. Please give me some advice.

A: Probably the best solution is to write to the Buffalo Office at 130 South Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY  14202. That way not only can you explain your issue, but you could include any documentation that you would like them to see.

Just so you know, the VA only back-pays for courses taken up to one-year back from the date of the GI Bill application. If the month the VA would not pay was back beyond the one-year mark from when you submitted, then that is probably the reason why they would not pay for that month. If they paid for the other two months of the term, but not the first one, that would be a logical reason why. In that case, there really isn’t much you can do about it as that is their policy. If the month they would not pay was within the one-year mark, then I can’t even venture a guess why they did not pay. In that case, you would have to contact them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I have a son who just got a DUI and is looking to be kicked out of the Navy SEALS and the Navy. He will get a recommended discharged, but not a dishonorable. Will he still be able to get his GI Bill for school? He has been in training for 2 years now. Thank you.

A: If he receives anything other a fully honorable discharge, he loses his GI Bill. You did not indicate which GI Bill he has, but if he has the Montgomery GI Bill and doesn’t finish his commitment, he is throwing away 36 months of entitlements at $1,421 per month or about $51,000.

If he has the Post 9/11 GI Bill, he is losing 36 months of benefits worth up to $90,000. If he has both GI Bills, then total amount he is losing is 48 months of entitlements worth in excess of $80,000.

He does have one recourse to change his discharge to honorable. If he thinks he was wronged, then he can file an appeal to have his discharge changed to honorable by submitting DD Form 293 to the Board of Corrections. It can take up to six months to get a decision back and there are not any guarantees they will change his discharge rating, but it is a chance.

He may end up learning a lesson the hard way; in fact, the cost of paying for the DUI itself may be the least expensive part of the lesson learned.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I use the Post 911 GI Bill to pay for either my or my wife’s student loans?

A: Yes and no – let me explain. Because the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) and the GI Bill are two completely separate programs, you can not directly have student loans repaid from your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlements. As a matter-of-fact, you can’t get both the GI Bill and SLRP for the same three-year period of service; it is one or the other.

However, if you are going to school and collecting on your Post 9/11 GI Bill, there is nothing to prevent you from using your GI Bill money to pay on either your or your wife’s student loans. Under the GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and eligible fees up to the in-state maximums. You get paid the housing allowance and book stipend.

Those two payments alone can amount to, on average, $13,000 per year, so if you don’t need that money to live on or pay for books, that could make a good dent in a student loan. If you are on either the East or West Coast, that yearly amount would more than double as the housing allowance is so much more on both the coasts. If you are somewhere in the Midwest, then the annual amount would be slightly less.

The bottom line is you have to go to school to get the money, but you can use the money for whatever you want.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 3+ years of deployments under my belt and have 10 years in the Army Reserves. I have used my TA up and my Selected Reserve Chapters 1606/1607 GI Bill Benefits. Do I get to use the new Post 9/11 GI Bill and how does my husband who served 20 years ago in the Army and Navy learn if he could receive the GI Bill?

A: If your deployments were all Title 10 active duty in support of contingency operations (and after September 10, 2001, then you also qualify at the 100% level for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, under the Rule of 48, you are limited to a combined maximum of 48 months of GI Bill benefits. So if you have used up 36 months under Chapters 1606/1607, you could get an additional 12 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

For those additional 12 months, either you could use them or you could transfer them to your husband as the GI Bill benefits he had (if he had any at all) would have expired 10 years from his date of discharge. If you choose to make a transfer to him, go to the TEB website and enter in the number of months you would like to transfer to him. Once approved, he can go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, he will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that he will need when enrolling in school.

If you choose to use your benefits, you would send in VA Form 22-1990 instead of the 22-1990e. You would not have to go through the transfer process as you already own the benefit.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a veteran with 100% eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, preparing to attend a grad school that has the Yellow Ribbon Program. I’m employed by a DoD agency that provides tuition assistance to civilian employees up to $5,120/year. Can I accept tuition assistance from my agency without any offset from my GI Bill or Yellow Ribbon? Thank you for your assistance!

A: The VA only pays actual costs, so yes you would have an effect on how much you would get paid from your GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program. As a matter-of-fact, Question 22 of VA Form 22-1990 (GI Bill Application Form) asks”


This would be the same rationale as servicemembers who use the Tuition Top-Up program to pay for costs not covered by Tuition Assistance (TA). Because TA pays most of the costs, the amount paid by Top-Up (which comes out of the servicemember’s GI Bill) uses up GI Bill entitlement at a much slower rate.

If you are paying grad school tuition, it won’t take long to use up the $5,120 provided by your employer. Then you could switch over and use your GI Bill entitlements/Yellow Ribbon Program to pay for the rest of the academic year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My father served a 4-year term back in 1980 to 1984 and never went to college after serving. I want to know if he can transfer his GI Bill to me and if so how can he do that.

A: No, he can’t for two reasons. One, his GI Bill from back then would have expired at least by 1994, so it has been expired for over 16 years. Second, the GI Bill from back then didn’t have any transfer option where he could have transferred education benefits to you. If he had the Montgomery GI Bill or switched to it, some of the service branches offered an option where the servicemember could buy a spousal transfer option as part of a reenlistment option, but the option was never offered down to dependent children.

The only GI Bill currently having a dependent-transfer option is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. To transfer benefits holders of that GI Bill have to have served at least six years on active duty and agree to serve an additional four years. Once that requirement is met, then the servicemember (while still on active duty) can go to the TEB website and enter in the number of months he/she wishes to transfer.

To start using those months, the recipient has to submit VA Form 22-1990e using the VONAPP website. In return, the recipient gets back a Certificate of Eligibility which he/she will need when enrolling in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I need to get a phone number where I can talk to someone about my GI Bill benefits as soon as possible. Please, this is the third time I have tried to get an answer. Thank you.

A: Getting in contact with the VA by phone to ask a GI Bill related question is most times not an easy task. Sometimes when I call, I get right through, but most times I don’t even get the opportunity to go on hold – it just asks me to call back at a later time.

However, there are a few other ways to contact the VA that do work well. If you want to call the main VA number, you can dial 1-888-442-4551; good luck. If you want to talk to a real person, sometimes calling one of the VA’s State or Regional Offices will work better. These offices usually have less of a work load, so they are more responsive by nature.

As another way that works really well, ask the VA a question using their Submit a Question web-based inquiry website.  While their website says you will get a response within 48 hours, I’ve found the time-frame for replies to either the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill to be closer t0 within 72 hours.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I have a question. My father is in his late 70’s. He is a veteran. He has been out of the military for many years. My wife and I have never been in the military. Is my son eligible for and of his grandfather’s benefits? My father never used any of them. Thank you.

A: No, I’m sorry, but your son is not eligible for any of his grandfather’s GI Bill educational benefits for four reasons. One, back when your father was in the military, the GI Bill from his era never had a dependent transfer option.

Two, all the GI Bills have a shelf life. The one your father would have had from the Korean War era (I’m guessing) would have long expired. The GI Bills of today – the Montgomery and Post 9/11 – have expiration dates of 10 years and 15 years respectively, so your father’s GI Bill was even before these.

Three, none of the GI Bills were eligible for grandsons to use. The Post 9/11 GI Bill (which is the only GI Bill having a dependent transfer option) covers sons, but not grandsons. The only way a grandson could be covered would be if the grandfather would have legally adopted him (but then he would have been considered a son.)

Four, because the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the only GI Bill having dependent transfer benefits, eve if the grandfather had adopted his grandson, he would have had to transfer benefits on or after 1 August 2009 while he was still on active duty as benefits can’t be transferred once the servicemember is out. Your son’s grandfather would have long been retired by that time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I need to know what I am eligible for as far as general and educational benefits.

A: With limited information in your question, I’ll have to answer in general terms. First, I can’t comment as far as what you are eligible for in GI Bill general benefits as I’m only well-versed in educational benefits.

To know what you are eligible for as far as educational benefits, lets look at the two common GI Bills – the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you remember signing-up for and paying the $1,200 contribution while you were on active duty, then you may still be eligible for up to 36 months of MGIB benefits. This GI Bill does have a delimiting date of 10 years from your date of discharge, so if you are still inside that time-frame, you still could have some benefits left to use.

If you served for at least 90-days after September 10, 2001 and it has been less than 15 years from your date of discharge (which obviously it still is), then you could qualify for 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. It is possible you could qualify for both GI Bills, however, you would be limited to a combined maximum benefit of 48 months between both GI Bills. I hope this helps.