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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Where can I go to check the progress of my GI Bill being processed?

A: I don’t know that there is a place where you go and check on your GI Bill processing. If you still have not heard back within 8 to 10 weeks after sending it in, then I think your best bet is to contact the VA and ask them. Their main education number is 1-888-442-4551.

Sometimes that number is extremely busy so a good alternative is to contact one of their State or Regional Offices. They are generally smaller offices and are both easier to talk to real live human being and they are also more responsive in getting answers to your questions than the Main VA office.

Another good alternative is to use the VA’s Submit A Question web-based question submission venue. You usually get an answer to your question within 48 to 72 hours. Good luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: After my current quarter, I will have 9 days left on my Chapter 30 GI Bill. Is there a way for me to exhaust those days in order to apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill for next quarter? – Matthew

A: Matthew, the safest way to exhaust those days is to register for your next quarter under Chapter 30 just as you would normally do. Once you have used up those 9 days, the VA will extend your benefits to the end of that quarter.

After that quarter, then switch and register for the following quarter under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Once your switch is approved, you won’t see the full additional 12 months, because the VA will deduct what they “loaned” you to get you to the end of the previous quarter – the quarter in which you ran out of Chapter 30 benefits. So in essence, you got the additional 12 months, however, you already used up some of it before you actually switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Make sense?

There is another way also, but that is too risky to chance. Your timing has to be exact; if you are off by one day, then you would not get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. You would get the one day of Chapter 30 benefits you have left as Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When is the New GI Bill going to start paying housing allowance for online degrees?

A: The short answer is when Congress passes a change to the Post 9/11 GI Bill that will allow it. I have never understood why it was not in the original Bill. Just because a student goes to school virtually, doesn’t mean they live virtually. Each one still has to eat and have a roof over their head, but somehow it was missed when the original Post 9/11 GI Bill was drafted by Congress.

Right now there are a couple of bills in the legislature that would change this oversight. S.3447 would pay students, with rates of pursuit greater-than-half-time, 50% of the housing allowance while H.R 950 would pay those same students a housing allowance based off of their residence zip code. While both bills are similar, each is also unique. The real challenge will be getting Congress to agree on a bill and to pass it. As of late, support for this change, and all of the Post 9/11 GI Bill fixes, seems to be waning.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I am an active duty COL with 22 years in. I signed up for Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Bill benefits way back when I was an LT. Over my career, I used 4 months of Chapter 30 benefits, leaving me a balance of 32 months. I recently filled out the on line process to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my son and completed that process. I was surprised to see that only 32 months were transferred, as I was expecting to see 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits transfer, as under the new GI Bill, I thought I met the eligibility for 36 months. Just a little confused on the transfer and how it all works for those that are still on active duty that had a good chunk of Montgomery GI Bill benefits remaining. Any help explaining would be appreciated. Thanks.

A: Well Sir, one of the rules of transferring from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is if you have unused MGIB benefits, then you only get the same number of months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement as you had left under the MGIB. So that is why only 32 months transferred over to your son being that is what you had left.

Many are under the assumption they get 36 months of entitlement for each GI Bill they qualify for and that is not true. Under the Rule of 48, the most months of entitlement one can is 48 combined months.

The way to get those extra 12 months would have been to use up all of your MGIB entitlement and then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But because you wanted to give your son the most months of entitlement, you did it the smart way and transferred what you had left on your MGIB.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband retired Sept 2009 after almost 30 years in the Air Force. All summer while on terminal leave, we contacted the VA and we were told as long as my husband was on active duty as of 1 Aug 2009, we would have no problem transferring benefits to our children. Now we are being told he would have had to transfer benefits while on active duty. Is there something in writing prior to Aug 1 2009 that stipulates this?

A:  What you were told is correct, however, they should have continued and told you he had to still be on active duty at the time he made a transfer request. That wasn’t real clear then, as the that GI Bill was just being introduced and nobody knew the rules real well.

And it still is not clear and up front in any documentation that I can find. Either they didn’t know at the time, or they were making an assumption you knew and being he was still on active duty, he was going to make his request before he retired.

The rules for transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits have always read you have to be “on active duty on or after August 1, 2009” at the time you make a transfer; once retired, you are no longer eligible to make the transfer.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently a drilling reservist and I ETS March 2011. I am still trying to receive my owed benefits to me although I fear when I ETS I will lose my Chapter 1607 eligibility. I keep reading I have to be actively drilling to receive them. If I do not receive my benefits by my ETS time, do I miss out on those owed benefits to me? Thank you.

A: Just so everyone knows, Chapter 1607 is the Reserve Education Assistance Program or REAP. It was the forerunner of the Post 9/11 GI Bill for Reservists and National Guardsmen who were mobilized to active duty after September 10, 2001 for a contingency operation.

What you are reading is true – your REAP benefits are good for only as long as you continue serving in the Selected Reserve. My question is have you considered switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

If you served at least 90 days on mobilization, you should get 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits payable at the 40% level. If you had one year of qualifying mobilized time, you would be at the 60% level. The Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits would stay with you when you get out and you would have up to 15 years from your date of discharge to use them.

I do want to caution you as the Post 9/11 GI Bill generally only pays for degree-producing courses. If you are thinking of taking a trade, technical, license or certification, then you should stick with REAP and use as much of it as you can starting now.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Am I correct in understanding that if I desire to transfer my benefits to my kids and have not already transferred to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and if I retire in 2012, that I am unable to qualify? If the intent was to provide exceptions to the 4-year pay back for those of us retiring with over 20 years of service, I’m not sure why people like me are left out. Can you expand on why the one-time exemptions were written with these restrictions? Is there a waiver available?

A: I’m not sure I fully understand your question, especially the part about a “one-time exemptions” and being “left out”, but here are the rules for transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlements to a spouse or dependent. To access the transfer option, you of course have to be still serving on active duty.

Next you had to have served for at least six years of which at least three of those years have been after September 10, 2001. The reason being is you have to first qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and two you have to be at the 100% benefit level before you can make a transfer request.

Then if you are four years or more from retirement, you have to reenlist for four years. If you are less than four years from retirement, the additional time required is prorated down to a lesser amount. You will most likely have to reenlist for the amount of time you need to bring you to the 20-year mark, which if you are retiring in 2012, it would be 2 years.

Here is the exact language from the regulation:

“Is (or becomes) retirement eligible during the period from August 1, 2009, through August 1, 2013. A service member is considered to be retirement eligible if he or she has completed 20 years of active duty or 20 qualifying years of reserve service.

• For those individuals eligible for retirement on August 1, 2009, no additional service is required.

• For those individuals who have an approved retirement date after August 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2010, no additional service is required.

• For those individuals eligible for retirement after August 1, 2009, and before August 1, 2010, 1 year of additional service after approval of transfer is required.

• For those individuals eligible for retirement on or after August 1, 2010, and before August 1, 2011, 2 years of additional service after approval of transfer are required.

• For those individuals eligible for retirement on or after August 1, 2011, and before August 1, 2012, 3 years of additional service after approval of transfer required.”

Keep in mind this was written on August 1, 2009 and we are now a year later, so the additional time required will be a year less that what is stated.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, My father is an active duty Marine. I am his daughter currently enrolled to get my associate’s degree. My question is whether I can qualify for the GI Bill or any kind of benefits under the GI Bill? If so, how can I sign up to receive the benefits?

A: While you will not qualify for the GI Bill yourself, your father most likely qualifies for the new Post 9/11 GI Bill and he may even be eligible to transfer benefits to you.

To access the transfer option, your father would have to serve at least six years on active duty, with at least three years after September 10, 2001. Then he has to re-enlist for at least four years. If he meets these two requirements, then he can go to the TEB website and transfer months of entitlement to you.

Once the transfer is approved, which can take up to 8 weeks, you would go to the VONAPP Website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return you would get back a Certificate of Eligibility which you will need when enrolling in school to use your GI Bill transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: While on active duty Air Force stationed in Germany, I reenlisted for another 4 years. After 4 years and 5 months of my 2nd term, I got myself in a little trouble and requested a discharge in lieu of court-martial. I was given an Under Other Than Honorable Conditions, which is an Administrative Discharge. (I know, it sounds terrible) My DD-Form 214 doesn’t show much information regarding my first enlistment, which was honorable. Am I allowed honorable benefits for that time?

A: Yes your first four-year term, with the honorable discharge, qualifies you to use your GI Bill. Because your DD-214 doesn’t’ show your first term as having an honorable discharge, you should send in a copy of your Honorable Discharge Certificate to the VA to validate your first term as honorable. Many servicemembers miss that entry when reviewing their DD-214 before getting out and while it requires some additional work, it isn’t that big a deal to set the record straight.

If you paid into the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) during your first term, then you will have 36 months of entitlement that you can use for either degree or non degree-producing programs. Under the MGIB, you get $1,426 per month and you have to pay all your own education expenses.

If you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA will pay your tuition and fees directly to your school (up to the in-state maximum) and you will get a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I am thinking about attending Concorde Career Institute to get my associate’s degree in nursing. I am not sure if this is a VA-approved school, and really wanted to use my VA benefits to cover tuition. Would my VA benefits cover this? My husband is active duty and I am receiving the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Thanks!

A: I looked the school up (actually there are four listed all in the state of FL) and it appears as though they are VA-approved. None of them have any VA approval information listed, but all of them, except the Miramar location, are listed as Yellow Ribbon Schools, so that tells me they are VA-approved for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  Also three out of the four have a listing for an AS in nursing. The Orlando location was the only one that didn’t list nursing.

When you say “my VA benefits” are you talking your own GI Bill or benefits transferred from your husband? I ask because it will make a difference if you get the housing allowance or not. If you have your own GI Bill, you will get the housing allowance, however, if you are using transferred benefits, you won’t, as long as you husband is on active duty.