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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Army from Feb 99 – Aug 03 (some stop loss there) and I used the GI Bill to finish my associate’s degree from 07 to 08. Now I would like to finish my bachelors and possibly masters at a local state university (Montclair State University in New Jersey). Do I still qualify for benefits and how much longer would I have if I still do? Also, I work full-time so I would be looking to do this at night. How many credits would I need to take at once, figuring a 3-credit course is around $1,000?

A: I’m not following the last part of your question “How many credits would I need to take at once, figuring a 3-credit course is around $1,000?” To take in order to do what?

If you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), it is good for 10 years from your date of discharge, so it will be expiring in 2013. If you used 18 months to get your associate’s degree, then you should have about another 18 months left.

Right now the MGIB is paying $1,421 per month to go to school and you have to pay all your own education-related expenses, such as tuition, fees, books, supplies, etc.

With 23 months of service after September 10, 2001, you also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 70% level. The VA would pay up to 70% of your tuition and fees and you would get 70% of the housing allowance authorized for the zip code of your school (provided you are taking enough credits to be a greater-than-half-time student). You would also get up to $700 per year is a book stipend (70% of the $1,000 per year maximum).

If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with months of benefit left on your MGIB, you get the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill months of benefit as you had before you switched, however, if you first exhaust your MGIB, and then switch, you could get an additional 12 months of benefit. Also note, once you exhaust your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back. You also would have up to 15 years from your date of discharge to finish using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I entered the Army in 1974 and served 30 consecutive years. I was active during 9/11, deployed to Iraq in 2003 and retired in 2004. Are there any of my education benefits that I have not used that can be transferred to a dependent?

A: I can’t tell from your question what GI Bill benefits you have used, but being you are retired, there isn’t any benefits that can be transferred. You do qualify for 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement, but to make a transfer, you had to be on active duty on or after August 1, 2009 and by that time you had already been retired for 5 years.

There is a bill in Congress right now that, if passed, it would allow 20+ year retirees like you, retiring between December 9, 2001 and August 1, 2009 the opportunity to make a transfer to a spouse or dependent child. Contact your legislators and ask for their support and passage of H.R.3577.

Thousands of veterans are in the same boat as you – fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, including transfer rights, but retiring before the “magic” date of August 1, 2009.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Do you have an update yet to the Post 9/11 GI Bill Fix legislation Bill?

A: Yes I do. The latest I’m hearing is support is waning for the bill due to the costs associated with it. If you remember, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee, introduced the Senate version (S.3447) and the bill has 26 co-sponsors as of date.

Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) introduced an identical bill in the House (H.R.5933) and it has 121 co-sponsors including Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the House veterans committee.

The issue is while these bills are both popular politically (as you can well imagine), the big hurdle is paying the additional costs generated by the proposed changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Because this is an entitlement program, lawmakers (at least in theory) can only pay for GI Bill enhancement costs by either reducing other mandatory spending programs or raising taxes – of which both are not popular.

Typically lawmakers have ignored the “pay-as-you-go” rule many times in the past, including approving the Post 9/11 GI Bill to begin with, however, now with worries over the budget deficit rising and the president’s debt commission reporting its findings and recommendations in December, Congress is very hesitant to pass this without the funding to support it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I joined the Army in July 1999 and got out in 2006 with an honorable discharge. I want to know if it possible to transfer part of my GI Bill to my wife?

A: No, for two reasons. One is you are now retired. According to the way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the servicemember had to be “on active duty on or after August 1, 2009” to make a transfer request. So that excluded all those retirees, who qualify for the transfer option, but retired on or before July 31, 2009.

Two, is to access the transfer request option, you had to be on active duty for six years and extend for an additional four years. You probably had the six years in, but being you did not extend and are no longer on active duty, you are not authorized the transfer option.

However, you can still use your benefits yourself as you have up to 15 years from your date of discharge to use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: After applying for Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefits, my daughter, who is in the AF Reserve, received a letter from the VA stating that she had been awarded benefits at the 60% level. On that basis, she enrolled in school and signed an apartment lease. Several months later, after the school and the VA got done processing her claim, the VA has now paid her at only the 50% level. A VA claim officer said they recently issued a Letter of Eligibility, which we have yet to receive, citing the 50% level. She intends to file a Notice of Disagreement, based on their initial letter. In your experience, what do you think the odds are of success in her favor?–She doesn’t understand how they count active duty days for Reservists, and was relying on them to do it correctly the first time. Unfortunately, the difference in benefits makes it very difficult for her to devote her full time to school without getting some part-time income.

A: The difference between the 60 and 50% level of the Post 9/11 GI Bill can come down to one day, so I can see how that would happen. The way the rules read is “at least 6 months, but less than 12 months” for the 50% level and “at least 12 months but less than 18 months” for the 60% level, so if she is right on the break of 12 months, I can see how their initial calculation may have been wrong.

She can file a Notice of Disagreement and it may force the VA to relook at their calculations, but I would  not put a lot of hope in getting bumped up to the 60% level again.

For Reservists, it comes down to how many days she was on Title 10 orders for a contingency operation (such as Iraq or Afghanistan). No other types of orders count, so she should be able to go back through her orders and/or DD-214 and do a calculation to see how many days she comes up with. The VA uses 30-day months as their standard for calculations.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If my son gets married before or while using my Post 9/11 GI Bill, will that disqualify him? Thank you.

A: No it won’t. The fact that he gets married will not have any effect on his Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits. The only things that can affect his GI Bill benefits is you and his age.

As the GI Bill holder, your control your entitlements, so you retain the right to revoke, transfer and reallocate as you wish, even after you are discharged from the military. The only thing you can’t do is transfer benefits to someone not already having your transferred benefits.

For example, let’s say you have two children, one you transferred benefits to while you were on active duty and one you did not. Once you are discharged, you can’t transfer benefits to the child not already having transferred benefits.

That is why servicemembers still on active duty will often transfer a month or two of benefits to each dependent. Then once retired, they can reallocate their benefits however they like because each dependent already has at least some benefits.

As far as age, your son has to use his transferred benefits by age 26 or he loses them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is active duty Air Force. Last fall, he completed the paperwork (we thought) to apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and he transferred a portion of his remaining benefits to me. I was able to complete my degree and all of my courses have been paid for. However, none of his requests for Top-Up this year have been paid. He attends classes online and the cost is greater than his TA Benefits, so he uses Top-Up for the difference. Now he is being told that he has to reapply for himself for benefits under the new program. (supposedly he never filled out an application for himself, form 22-1990) First, how can he have transferred benefits to me, under the Post 9/11 program, if he never completed an application for those benefits to begin with? Second, how will his top-up benefits affect his remaining months of eligibility? His education office told him that every Top Up form he submits, takes a full month of eligibility from him, no matter what the actual payment (typically just under $700).

A: I can see how he would have to apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill even though he transferred benefits to you. When he made his transfer request to you, he did it through the Transfer of Entitlement Benefits (TEB) website.  To switch and use his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for himself, he has to go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990 as you suggested in your question. I’m not with the VA, but based on my previous government career, I doubt if the two websites (and databases) are connected or inter-relational.

As far as the Top-Up program, it is my understanding that his service branch pays for his tuition costs and what TA does not cover, they bill the VA. The VA pays his service branch the difference and then converts the amount they paid into months of entitlement and deducts that number of months from his unused months of benefits. Using a combination of TA and Top-Up is a good way to maximize his GI Bill entitlement as they end up getting used at a slower rate and TA is free money as a benefit of his service, so why not use it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am trying to find out if I am able to use my GI Bill/college fund. I went active duty Army in 1987- 1990 I was activated for Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. I was honorably discharged. Then in 2004-2007 I went in to the Ohio Army National Guard and helped with Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, I was honorably discharged. Where would I find out if I am still able to use these benefits or am I past the time frame to use them? Thanks!

A: You may be past the time frame to use your benefits. From your active duty with the Army, you would have had the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) if you had signed up for it and made the $1,200 contribution. Unfortunately, that GI Bill has a 10-year shelf life, so depending on when you were discharge from the Army, it may or may not be expired. The 10-year countdown starts on the date of your discharge. If you are still within the 10-year mark, then you have 36 months of education entitlements. If you are past the 10-year mark, then your 36 months have expired and you have nothing.

As far as your National Guard time, you had the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) only for the time while you were in the National Guard. Once you are out, your MGIB-SR benefits expired. Right now, your Hurricane Katrina service does not count toward the GI Bill because it was not Title 10 ordered service. There is a legislative bill in Congress that would count this time for GI Bill purposes, but it would have to pass first and right now that is not too likely.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have some questions concerning my GI Bill. I want to know which one will provide the most benefits, but I have several issues that make the situation confusing. I enlisted in the National Guard in 2003, served in Iraq from December 2005 – June 2006. Currently, I am in the Utah National Guard working under long term ADOS orders, and have been for the past three years. I’m wondering, does my ADOS time count towards eligibility? Can I draw housing stipend too? Can I give some benefit to my wife? I’m planning on doing American Military University. Please help!

A: O.K., let’s address one issue at a time. From your National Guard service in 2003 you most likely had the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). That GI Bill was good only as long as you were in the Guard. Once discharged, the education benefits associated with it expired.

With that said, your 6-month deployment to Iraq, while you were in the Guard, earned you 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits payable at the 50% level, if you were on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation for the whole time. If you were on any other type of order, the time doesn’t count.

As far as your ADOS order, I doubt if it is a Title 10 order; most likely it is from Title 32, which at this point in time it does not count toward GI Bill eligibility. If it is a Title 10 order, then your three years of ADOS would get you to the 100% level for the New GI Bill.

You best bet will be the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 50% level. Yes, you can transfer any or all of your education entitlements to your wife; just know it will pay her at the same percentage as it would you, if you were going to school – 50%.

If you choose to go to school using the New GI Bill, then the VA would pay your tuition and fees up to 50% of the in-state maximum and you would get 50% of the housing allowance and 50% of the book stipend.

If you are taking online-only classes through AMU, then you would not get the housing allowance as that feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is not authorized for online-only students.  Everything would be the same for your wife, if she uses her transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband recently returned from an extended deployment in Iraq. I’ve been told I qualify for education assistance. That the courses, books, etc. would be paid for and I could also receive extra funding for incidentals. Is this true? If so, how do I begin the procedure? Thanks!

A:  It could be true if your husband transfers some of his Post 9/11 GI Bill to you. Otherwise, I’m not aware of any special program for spouses of servicemembers having deployed to Iraq. If your husband is active duty, then you would have more educational opportunities available to you, but you would have had these whether he was deployed or not.

If your husband is a Reservist or National Guardsman (which from the way your question is worded I think he is), he can transfer up to 36 months of his Post 9/11 GI Bill education entitlement to you.

Once you are attending school, then the VA would pay the same percentage of your costs as they would if he was going to school. A typical one-year deployment would get him to the 60% tier, so the VA would pay 60% of your tuition and fees and you would get 60% of a housing allowance and book stipend. If his time on a Title 10 order for a contingency operation was less than 12 months, then he would be at the 50% tier.

If your husband is full-time active duty, then he would need six years of active duty and re-enlist for an additional four years before he could make a transfer request. Also, if you used your entitlement to go to school while he is on active duty, you would not get the housing allowance, however, you would if you waited to go to school until after he was discharged. You have 15 years from the date of the transfer approval to use your transferred benefits.

If you do get transferred benefits, go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. You will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when enrolling in school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.