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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’ve got kind of a tricky one for you. My question is if I take one 3-credit in-house class and one 3-credit distance class per semester along with one 3-credit year long distance class (total of 7.5 per Sem.), all within the same university, how will this work with BAH and class payments? Will the year long course cause my total of tuition paying days to be used up during the summer while I receive no BAH? Hope this isn’t too confusing. I just want to be as economical as possible with my benefit while working full time. Thanks for what you do here.

A:  My question is do all the classes apply toward your degree plan? The VA will not pay classes that do not apply and reduce the number of credits you need to graduate.

To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, you have to take at least one on-campus class and enough credits per term so that you stay at or above the greater-than-half-time mark. If your school considers 12 credits to be full-time, then you have to take at least seven credits to qualify. The housing allowance is not prorated, so regardless of how many credits you are taking, as long as you are above what your school considers to be half-time, you will get the same amount of housing allowance.

As far as your summer class, yes, you will be using up your days of entitlement and only getting your tuition and fees paid for in return (and book stipend unless you have already used up your $1,000 per year by that time). Because your class is online, and less credits than what is considered greater-than-half-time, you would not be authorized the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I started my military service after 9/11 and was medically retired in June of 2008. From what I understand I am eligible for the new Post 9/11 GI Bill. I would like to transfer my benefits to my wife, but because this change did not take effect until 2009, I did not have the opportunity to transfer the benefits to her while I was enlisted. Is she still eligible for the transfer?

A: There are a couple of issues that will prevent you from making a transfer to your wife. First, you are not eligible to access the transfer option as you did not meet the service requirement of having at least 20 years of service at time you retired. Second, even if you did meet the service requirement, you can’t make a transfer request once you are retired. It has to be done while still on active duty. And lastly, you retired before the Post 9/11 GI Bill came into effect on August 1, 2009.

However, you do qualify for the 36 months of minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits if you have at least 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001 (which you obviously do). If you have three years after the same September date, then you qualify at the 100% level. You might as well use your GI Bill benefits yourself, because you will not be able to transfer any to your wife and no use them going to waste.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am in the last semester for my Chapter 31 GI Bill benefits. I need to switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. When should I start the process, with December being my last month for Chapter 31 benefits?

A: Switching GI Bills can be tricky. If you switch before exhausting your current GI Bill, then you could end up with the same unused entitlement under your new GI Bill as you had with your previous one. The key is to fully exhaust your current Chapter 31 entitlements and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA will see that you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and they will “loan” you the months and days you need to get you to the end of your term. Then once in your new term, you would get paid under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Although you are authorized the additional 12 months of benefits, it may not look like that is what you got when you see your additional months. The VA will deduct the months and days they “loaned” you when you ran out of Chapter 31 benefits. So, you actually got the 12 additional months – you just already used some of it up.

So to answer your question, switch once you are sure your Chapter 31 benefits have been used up.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband paid into the GI Bill the full time he was in the Army. My question is if he was kicked out of the Army with a General under other than honorable discharge, can he still use it? He was in the Army from 2002 until 2005.

A: First, your husband did not pay into the GI Bill for the entire time he was in the Army. Once he signed up for the GI Bill, the Army deducted $100 per month for the first 12 months he was in. At that point he had paid in the required $1,200 contribution for the Montgomery GI Bill. If he has the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which would fit into the time frame you referenced in your question, then no contribution was required at all.

Because he has General discharge, then no, he can not use his GI Bill benefits. If he thinks his discharge was in error or inaccurate, he can appeal it for up to 15 years from his date of discharge.

To start an appeal, he would have to fill out DD Form 293 and submit it to the Board of Corrections. There is no guarantee they will change his discharge to honorable, and it can take up to six months to get a decision back, but it may be worth a try.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently enrolled at Curry College for my master’s degree, but I’m taking an EMT course at Bridgewater State College. Does the GI Bill cover this course and if so how do I get reimbursed for the class?

A: To a large extent, it depends on which GI Bill you are using. The Montgomery GI Bill does cover the type of course you want to take, but is the EMT class part of your masters’ program? Generally the GI Bill is used to train you into some type of career. If you are taking an additional course not related to your education goal, you will want to check with the VA for their approval as I’m not so sure they will pay for this course.

If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your EMT course could be covered from the standpoint that non-degree courses can be covered by the New GI Bill, if they are taught at a school also teaching degree-producing courses.

If your EMT course is part of your master’s degree program, then the best way to do it is for Curry to be your “parent” college and Bridgewater your “secondary” school. The EMT credits you earn at Bridgewater would then transfer to Curry and those would be applied to your degree plan. That way everything ties together. Again, if your EMT course is a standalone course, you will have to check with the VA to see if they approve paying for it or not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I separated from the Navy 11 years ago. I have always heard the GI Bill expires after ten years. I haven’t used any of it yet – am I still eligible?

A:  I’m sorry, your GI Bill has expired. If you got out 11 years ago you would have had the Montgomery GI Bill. That particular GI Bill has a 10-year delimiting date as you noted in your question. The 10-year clock starts on your date of discharge. If you would have had the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you would had an additional 5 years to use your education benefits as that GI Bill has a 15-year delimiting date.

There are three instances when the VA will consider delimiting date extension:

  • if you were detained by a foreign power (must provide evidence of detainment);
  • recalled back to active duty (which would extend your delimiting date by the length of your tour);
  • prevented from going to school by a long-term illness or temporary disability (requires extensive doctor, hospital and lab documentation).

If none of the three apply, then your chances of getting an extension are slim to nil.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When will I receive notification to pay back the Chapter 35 payments made to my daughter, since she dropped out mid-way through the semester? Will I be able to make monthly payments on this?

A:  I don’t know that you will receive notification as the contact information for her Chapter 35 benefits is most likely in her name. Be sure she keeps you informed of any correspondence she has with the VA.

If you are required to pay back the Chapter 35 money she received, then the notification will come from the VA Debt Management Center in St. Paul, MN. Yes you will be able to set-up a payment plan and pay back the money in installments according to an approved plan you will have to work out with the VA.

Depending on why your daughter had to drop out, you may not have to pay back anything or at least a lesser amount. The VA usually allows a one-time drop up to six credits without the user incurring a financial obligation to pay it back. If the reason your daughter had to drop was not within her control (mitigating circumstances) then she most likely won’t have to pay anything back. If her reason was non-mitigating, then she will incur some type of financial responsibility. Mitigating means her reason for dropping was something out of her control that prevented her from attending class to the point she had to drop or fail.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m using Chapter 33 for my education. My first few semesters went fine with my BAH payments. For my fall 2010 semester, I enrolled in 6 credit hrs worth of classes. The VA stopped paying me and said I had to be over 1/2 time to receive it. So I enrolled in a 1 credit class to be over. That was Oct 5th when I changed it and still nothing over a month later, so it’s up to 2, going on 3, months now. They say it’s processing but the average wait time they said was 17 days. So I would like to know what’s going on and nobody has been giving me a direct answer.

A:  Well first of all, I think 17 days is a little too aggressive a time frame to approve a change to your Post 9/11 GI Bill application. I would say it will be closer to 8 to 10 weeks, a point at which you are fastly approaching already. Second, anything that deviates from Standard Operating Procedure usually takes longer as it is normally set off to the side to be processed “by hand”.

I think you went wrong when you decided to take just six credits. If you knew your rate of pursuit had to be greater-than-half-time to get the housing allowance, why would you jeopardize it by taking a lesser amount?

If you didn’t know about the greater-than-half-time rule, then you probably didn’t do your homework when researching the Post 9/11 GI Bill to know what benefits you qualify for and the qualification standard to get those benefits.

You have a great resource at your school called a VA Certifying Official. They are normally a great wealth of information if regards to the different GI Bills. Use this person in the future to decrease your chances of future GI Bill payment issues.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: To whom it may concern.  I’ve been out of the Marine Corps on an honorable discharge since August of 2005. I never used my GI Bill while on reserve duty during those 7 years. I served 2 tours in Iraq, between 2003 and 2005. I want a career change, and I’m interested in taking a commercial driver’s license course. Am I still eligible for the GI Bill? And is a CDL course applicable under the GI Bill? How do I get starting in getting this benefit? Thank you for your time and effort in this matter.

A: Your Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) expired when you got out of the Marine Corps Reserve. However, with your 2 tours in Iraq, you qualify for partial payment under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The way the New GI Bill works is you get to a percentage tier depending on how much active duty time you had after September 10, 2001 on Title 10 orders for a contingency operation such as Iraq. If your 2 tours were each one-year in duration, then you would have 36 months of entitlement at the 80% tier for your 24 months of qualifying service.

As far as taking a CDL course, you would have to find a course that is taught at an institution of higher learning (IHL) or in other words, a school that also teaches degree-producing programs. Then your CDL training should be covered. Also the Post 9/11 GI Bill can reimburse you one-time up to $2,000 for your CDL test/endorsements.

To apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when you enroll in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently enrolled full-time as a civilian using my GI Bill, the original, not Post 9/11. My question regards dropping classes. I am going to have to drop a class during the semester. What financial responsibilities will I have in regards to moneys already awarded to me throughout this semester? Will I have to pay back the awarded money before enrollment into next semester? Or is there a way that I can deduct that time off of my remaining benefits? Thanks.

A: If you have not dropped a class before, after your school’s official drop period, the VA will allow you to drop up to six credits one-time of which you will not have to pay the VA back for the class.  They consider that one drop as having mitigating circumstances and therefore no payback is required.

If you have dropped a class before and used up your one free drop, then depending on why you had to drop a class this time, you may very well indeed have some financial responsibilities to repay the VA. If you incur a debt to the VA, you will have to either pay back what you owe them or set up an approved payment plan before they will pay you future GI Bill benefits.

If you end up incurring a financial obligation for the class, the VA will require money to repay the debt. They can’t take the financial debt off of your unused entitlements.