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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Am I better off using the GI Bill (33) if I am medically discharged from the Army with less than 2 years on Active Duty, or should I use the Vocational Rehabilitation through the VA? My understanding is if I am medically discharged I qualify 100% for the GI Bill. Is this true?

A: It is not necessarily true that you qualify for 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits just because you were medically discharged. The discharge has to be service-connected and you had to have served for at least 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001. You meet the 30-day requirement, but I don’t know the dates you served or if your discharge was service-connected or not.

If your discharge is not service-connected, then the best you could hope for through the Chapter 33 is 24 months of benefits – one month of benefits for each month served. For an Honorable medical discharge, that includes:
• A medical condition that you had before enlisting that was not caught at MEPS.
• A physical or mental condition that would not allow you to perform your duties, but that did not result in misconduct on your part.

If neither of the above is applicable to your situation, then you might not get any Chapter 33 benefits at all. Of course, if it is service-connected then you would most likely get the full 36 months of benefits at the 100% tier.

To qualify for Voc Rehab, your disability must be rated at least at 10% and be service-connected. If you meet both requirements, then you could get up to 48 months of entitlement that must be used up within 12 years of your disability rating notice. Under Chapter 31Voc Rehab, they would pay your tuition and you could get the same living expense that Post 9/11 GI Bill users get – based on the rate of pursuit and zip code of your school. Or you could use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits without using Voc Rehab. You best bet is to talk to a VA Counselor and sort out the best plan of action for you to pursue.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How old can you be to still get the GI Bill if you’re not in school already? What is the age limit?

A: It depends if you are talking about using your own GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that were transferred benefits to you.

If you earned your own GI Bill, then there isn’t an age limit, but instead a time limit that you must use your GI Bill by or lose it. For the Montgomery GI Bill, that delimitation date is 10 years from your last date of discharge; 15 years if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you received Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits from a parent, then you can start using your benefits at age 18 or when you graduate from high school if less than 18. You must finish using your benefits by age 26 or you lose any remaining unused benefits.

As an alternative to losing benefits, your sponsor who transferred the benefits to you, could revoke what is left unused and would otherwise be lost. That person could then use the benefits or transfer them to a younger sibling of yours that has already received benefits while the sponsor was still serving.

What would not be possible is if your sponsor is out of the military and wanted to transfer benefits to a younger sibling of yours that was born after the sponsor was no longer serving.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m considering a school that has an unusual setup. Classes meet on-campus once per month for three to five days at a time. You end up with the same amount of classroom time as you would if the setup was more traditional, it’s just all lumped together at once. There is no online component to the classes. Between each monthly classroom session you are completing reading, writing and research assignments on your own. How would these classes qualify for the New GI Bill housing stipend? Would they count as on-campus classes or online classes? Thanks — Emily

A: Hmmm … interesting Emily. Before answering your question though, let’s consider what the VA classifies as classroom training. It defines it as “In-residence training for undergraduate students consists of regularly scheduled standard class sessions (at least once every two weeks). The total number of hours of classroom instruction (based on 50 minutes of instruction per hour) must equal, or be greater than, the number of credit hours awarded for the course multiplied by the number of weeks in the term.

Without knowing how many hours you meet per week when you are in class, I don’t know if you meet the total hour requirement which would be 48 for a 3-credit course per 16-week semester. The part that could trip you up is if you don’t meet the requirement to meet at least every two weeks. Not meeting this requirement could then classify it as an online class for Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowance purposes.

Or because you said you are meeting the total hour requirement, your school may have received special disposition from the VA to have it classified as a regular on-campus class for housing allowance purposes.

Your best bet is to talk to your school’s VA Certifying Official and ask that person how the class is classified from a VA perspective. The difference in housing allowance could be significant – up to 50% less if it is classified as an online class verses an in-residence class.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am inquiring about the eligibility of my daughter for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. What my requirements are and the transferability to a dependent? Thank you!

A: There are three service requirements you have to meet for you to make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits request to your daughter. You must:
• have served for at least six years
• be currently serving at the time of your request
• either have at least four years left on your enlistment when you make your request or agree to serve an additional four years if you have less time left on your enlistment.

If you meet all three requirements, then you could make a transfer request from the milConnect website. If you have never used any of your GI Bill benefits, you have up to 36 months that you could transfer to her. You can go from as little as one month up to all 36 or the number of remaining unused months you have left (if you have used some of your entitlement before).

Once your request is approved, by looking for a status change to “Transfer Approved” at the website where you made your transfer request, your daughter can go to the eBenefits website and request her Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by submitting VA Form 22-1990e.

She will need to hand in a copy of her COE at the time she registers for school so they know she is a GI Bill student. The reason? Because her school will have to send in a Certificate of Enrollment to the VA. That form (along with her COE) starts the payment process to both her school and to her.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in 2000 with a $40,000 college fund in my contract. I also contributed $1,200 towards the Montgomery GI Bill and paid a $600 to Tuition Top-Up to receive additional benefits. I have used approximately 10 months of the Montgomery GI Bill (in the past). I am looking to start back to college soon and am wondering if I should convert to the Post 9/11. I think it is the best bet for me but am not sure. What are the benefits from my original enlisted $40,000 college fund because I can’t find info on that anywhere. Thanks.

A: Actually your $40,000 college fund is somewhat misleading in that the $40,000 figure includes the money you would get from both your college fund and Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). The way it was usually presented, many military members thought it was $40,000 additional dollars on top of what they would get from their GI Bill.

So considering the MGIB paid $650 per month in 2000 when you enlisted, 36 months of that GI Bill would have been worth $23,400. That would have made your College Fund worth about $19,400 ($40,000 – $23,400) or about $538 per month ($19,400/36 months). Your Top-Up fund would pay you about $13.80 per month ($5,400/36 months).

So if you went to school today under the MGIB, you would get about $2,200 per month. Out of that money, you would have to pay tuition, fees, books, etc.

If you convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition up to the resident rate at a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school. Monthly you would get a housing allowance that averages around $1,300 per month or up to $714.50 per month if you take all of your classes online.

I can’t tell you exactly what you would get for your housing allowance as it depends on the zip code of your school, the number of credits you take, and as you can see, if you attend classes on campus or online. You could figure it out though by using the “E-5 with Dependents” figure from the BAH Calculator.

Once per semester, you would also get a book stipend worth $41.67 per credit. There is a $1,000 per year limit, but it’s enough for a couple of 12-credit classes per semester and would give you up to $500 per semester for two semesters per year.

Being Tuition Top-Up can’t be used with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would lose that money if you converted, but don’t let that be your final determining factor. You should have enough information now so you can work it both ways and see which GI Bill would serve you the best to use up your remaining 26 months of your GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I qualified for the Vietnam Era GI Bill and used it all to obtain a degree and come back in the Navy as an officer in 1991. I am planning to retire in 2014 and would like to obtain an MBA or MPH (I am also considering training to become a professional golfer). I am just wanting to confirm my eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

A: While you would have full eligibility to the Post 9/11 GI Bill from a tier level perspective, the amount of entitlement you can use would be limited. To establish minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, you have to serve for at least 90-days after September 10, 2001 on a Title 10 order. Three years of service after that date gets you to the 100% tier level.

So just what does that mean? The tier level refers to the percentage of the full amount of money you would get in the housing allowance and the book stipend. At 100%, you would get the full housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking paid at the E-5 with dependents pay grade. For the book stipend, you would get the full $41.67 per credit (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

It also tells the VA what percentage of your tuition they are obligated to pay. At a public school it would be all of your tuition at the resident rate; at a private school it would be up to $19,198.31 per year.

The bad news is under the Rule of 48, you can only get a maximum of 48 months of combined entitlement if you are eligible for two or more GI Bills. So as far as how many months of entitlement you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it would be only 12 months, assuming you used up 36 months under your Vietnam Era GI Bill, bringing your total up to 48. However, 12 more months of entitlement would at least pay for half of your MBA which is better than nothing.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, My husband has been in the Army for 12 years. Last Fall I attended a University and was denied his GI benefits because he did not have 4 years remaining on his contract. I ended up having to take out loans out because I was relying on the GI Bill. Now, in my last few months of my Spring Semester, he is re-enlisting to fulfill his 20 years in service which will allow me to use the benefits. Question is, can I back track the GI Bill to cover my Fall Semester? I am told this semester will be covered because it is still in session but I am unsure about Fall. The school is confused too. Thanks!

A: While the VA can go back up to one year and pay back benefits, you had to have the benefits during the period of time you are claiming, meaning you did not have any transferred benefits yet to use back in the Fall semester. Therefore you could not claim back pay for that period of time.

And I wouldn’t bet all of this semester will be covered either … here again, to claim benefits going back to the beginning of the semester, you would be trying to claim benefits for a period of time when you did not yet have entitlement from his Post 9/11 GI Bill.

However, you could send in a claim for the period of time from when your entitlement was approved up to the end of the semester.

Also know that because he is still serving, you would not get the housing allowance due to the fact that your husband is drawing BAH on you already. To get the housing allowance would be double-dipping which is against the law.

You would get your tuition paid up to the resident level at a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school and get the book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap). Depending where you are stationed, some states give military spouses the resident rate whether you are a resident of that state or not. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have received different answers from VA reps at schools, on base and over the phone to the following question: If I qualify for both the MGIB and the Post 9/11 GI Bills, can I use only 12 months of the Montgomery and then use ALL 36 of my Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: No you could not, if they are the only GI Bills you have. Under the Rule of 48, the maximum number of combined months of entitlement is capped at 48, if you are eligible for two or more GI Bills. But that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed 48 months of benefits.

For example, when you convert from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you’ll get the same entitlement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). So if you had used up 12 months of your MGIB, then you would only get 24 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not your full 36 months.

However, if you had used up all 36 months of your MGIB and then converted, you would get the additional 12 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill for a total of 48.

If you had a third GI Bill (yes, many servicemembers have three GI Bills) you could convert all 36 months of that third GI Bill over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and once you have exhausted that entitlement, finish up by using 12 months of your MGIB, for a total of 48 months. But that is the only scenario I can think of where you could use up both 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and 12 months of your MGIB. Make sense?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I want to enroll in a for-profit institution that offers grants for military members. Will accepting the grants impact my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits?

A: It could; it depends on if their grants are dedicated toward paying tuition or not. Many people don’t know that the VA is the last payer when it comes to multiple forms of financial aid.

If your grant is “fenced” money that can only be used for tuition, then there will be less or even none left for the VA to pay. However, they still charge you the same entitlement regardless of how little or how much they have to pay. For a semester, they would likely deduct four months of entitlement.

With that said, you’ll still get the same amount in Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and book stipend regardless of what the VA pays toward your tuition. Housing allowance is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. It is paid at the E-5 with Dependents pay grade. The book stipend calculates at $41.67 per credit per semester; there is a $1,000 per year cap on it, but it is usually enough for a couple of semesters per year.

So if your grant has to be applied toward tuition, in my opinion it is not the best use of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. However, if your grant is given to you to spend as you wish, then it is just extra money in your pocket as that scenario would not have any effect on what the VA Pays toward tuition.

So it comes down to the type of grant as far as if it affects your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits or not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have the GI Bill Kicker, and am going to start using my benefits for an apprenticeship I am in. Does the kicker still apply? I know I need to send in the documentation (though they should have it, I’ve sent it in to them for a letter of eligibility before this, just never used it).

A: It depends on what you are calling “the GI Bill Kicker” and which GI Bill you are using. If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill and paid up to $600 into the Buy-Up program, then you can’t use that “kicker “, but you can with the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If you paid the maximum into the Buy-Up program, then you could increase your $1,648 monthly MGIB payment by an additional $150 per month.

Some service branches refer to their College Fund as a GI Bill Kicker. If that is what you have, then you can use it with either GI Bill. And then there is the true GI Bill Kicker – the one you received when you first enlisted into either a critical MOS or critical unit. That too can be used with either GI Bill.

Even though you sent in your Kicker documentation once already, send it in again when you submit your VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. That way they’ll have it right there with your request and won’t have to go hunting for it though your records. Making it as easy as you can for them would most likely will speed up your Certificate of Eligibility.

Also, don’t forget to hand in a copy of your certificate when you register for classes. That way, your school will know you are a GI Bill student, send in a Certificate of Enrollment to the VA on your behalf, and get the payment process started.