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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have asked several times how long it takes to process the application for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I have been told three different time lines and I’m not sure which one is right. I’ve been told 24 business days, 44 business days, and 74 business days. And this is just to process my application before I get my award letter. Which one is right and is there any way I can speed it up? I’ve been in school since august 24th and still haven’t heard anything from the VA.

A: First, I have no idea which time line is correct. Maybe all three are correct and it depends on the time of year you are talking about. I do know the VA gets overwhelmed with applications for the fall term because so many new students start school during this term. I would say the 74 days is closer to being right as it normally takes about 8 to 10 weeks (which would be 56 to 70 days) to process an application.

If you are asking if there is any way to speed it up, then obviously this is your first time in dealing with the VA. The wheels of the federal bureaucracy grind slowly, but steadily, so they are going to move at a constant, but slow pace. There is nothing you or the rest of us can do to speed up that process.

In their defense, they are understaffed, overworked and doing about the best they can with what they have to work with. Their software is outdated as it was designed to work with the Montgomery GI Bill, which makes one payment per month to each veteran student, and not with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which makes one payment to a school (tuition and fees), and two payments to a veteran student (housing allowance and book stipend) each month. So the implementation of the Post 9/11 GI Bill basically tripled their workload.  They are supposed to get a new software package this year that will speed up the processing of everything. If you have not received anything after 10 weeks, then I would start calling the VA.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is there any way a person can transfer their GI Bill to their children after the veteran has already retired? Or is there a new law that helps out retired personnel having a opportunity to transfer their GI Bill to their children?

A: Right now, there isn’t a law allowing retired veterans to make a transfer request. Of course generally speaking, the Montgomery GI Bill does not have a transfer option.  And the way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill, to make a transfer the servicemember had to be on active duty “on or after 1 August 2009”. So for those veterans, who fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option but retired before August 1, 2009, they never had an opportunity to make a transfer.

There are a couple of bills in the legislature right now that if passed, would allow veterans, with 20 years or more of service retiring between December 8, 2001 and July 31, 2009, the opportunity to make a transfer. Contact your legislators as ask for their support of S.3447/H.R. 5933 and H.R. 3577. Passage of these bills will give thousands of veterans a transfer opportunity.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I received a dishonorable discharge in 1976 from the USN. I asked to be let out of the Navy because they promised me 2 years of shore duty, if I signed on to a fast-attack submarine under new construction. Having a pregnant 17-year old wife, I was very happy to be able to be there for my wife and child for the first two years.

Long story short, 2 weeks later I was out to sea! I went to JAG office and they said you can sign for a U.D. and we’ll let you out. I was barely 18 years old and VERY naive and unwise of the world. Is there any way I can get this changed to a Honorable or General Under Honorable? Thanks.

A:  Not any more. The Board of Corrections has a 15-year statute of limitations as far as making any corrections. Plus, it would not help you from an education standpoint anyway, even if you did get your discharge changed.

You did not say how long you were in the Navy before you were discharged, but it didn’t sound like it was long enough to get the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), which is generally a minimum of two years. But even that doesn’t matter as the MGIB back then had a 14-year delimiting date, which means it expired 14 years from your date of discharge.

It sounds like you were promised one thing and got another, which I agree was not right, however, at this point 34 years later, there isn’t much that can be done to correct it.

As a word of advice to young military members, always get it in writing. Otherwise, you don’t have a leg to stand on and it ends up being your word against someone elses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband retired this year and transferred his GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Both of my boys are in college and need the money.

I filled out paper work and sent it in at the same time for both of them. The transmissions were 5 min apart. The first one I sent in has already been paid. My second child is pending.

When I called I could not get any information on why it was pending. I was told it would take 24 days. My question is can both boys get paid since each one received half of my husband’s GI Bill? They did say they did not need any more information from me. Can you explain what pending means and how long it can take?

A: Yes, as long as both boys have Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred entitlements, both can get paid. It costs the VA the same amount of money if they pay one person for 36 months or two for a combined 36 months. They just end up paying the same amount of money out sooner.

You did not say how long it was from the time you sent in the paperwork until your first son got paid, but the fact that one is paid and the other is still pending is not alarming. I think the figure of 24 days you were given is a little short. Usually it takes around 8 to 10 weeks to get the first payment started. After that, it will come around the same time each month.

Pending means the VA received your request, but they have not got around to processing it. If something was awry, they should have noticed it when they look at his file during your call. If he gets past the 10-week mark and still has not been paid, then I would start calling and asking why. Even during the fall term, when many new students start school and overwhelm the VA with applications, 10 weeks should be plenty of time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m going to get the Chapter 35 VA benefit. My question is that amount is just enough to cover tuition. Are there any stipends out there to help with books, supplies, etc.?

A: Starting on 1 October, 2010, the Chapter 35 rate goes to $936 per month. You should have gotten 45 months of entitlement when you were approved for the program. Unfortunately, there isn’t a book stipend with it. That only comes with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

There are other sources of funding, such as grants, scholarships and vouchers, that provide money to use as you wish, which you could use for books and supplies. It takes some searching to find them, but they are out there.

Also, some schools have work/study programs where you can earn money in the form of credit and then buy books using credits from your account. And then there is always the old standby of getting a part-time job. It would only take a few hours per week to generate enough income to buy the books and supplies you need for each term.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have received a letter saying I was approved and have been in school for a couple months now. I have yet to receive any payment.

A: Was your letter a Certificate of Eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and a result of you submitting VA Form 22-1990 through the VONAPP website?

If so, did you give a copy of your certificate to your school when you enrolled? If you did, then your school should have sent in a Certificate of Enrollment to the VA with your certificate. Once the VA matches up both certificates, that will trigger the payment process.

Assuming all that happened as it should, you should get a payment any time now as it usually takes between 8 and 10 weeks to get your first payment. You are on the leading edge of that time-frame right now, if you have been in school for two months now. I

f you don’t get it within a couple of weeks, see your VA Certifying Official at your school and ask if a Certificate of Enrollment was sent in and when. That person should also help you find out where you payment is held up and why.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I applied to transfer my GI Bill to my spouse. The request was rejected. I am told to contact my Service Representative…who is that? I am Navy AD

A: Your Service Representative are the folks in your Base Education Office.

The rules to make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer are you have to:

  • serve at least six years on active duty;
  • sign-up for an additional four years before you can make a successful transfer of benefits.

So my guess is either you did not have the required six years of service (of which three years has to be after September 10, 2001), or you do not have at least four years left on your current enlistment, or you are trying to transfer the Montgomery GI Bill, which does not have a transfer option. Also, make sure your wife is listed correctly in DEERS as that is the database of record the transfer process uses.

If you see your Base Education folks, they can figure out why your request was denied.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: have been enlisted in the Army National Guard since January of 2007. I have been overseas, but not to Iraq or Afghanistan. I am now receiving a medical discharge. I don’t need my GI Bill so my question is can my wife use it instead after I receive my discharge?

A:  It really depends if the type of order you were on for your overseas tour will qualify you for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves does not have a transfer option, so you need a Title 10 order for at least 91 days in support of a contingency operation to qualify for Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility as an ARNG member.

Your wife could use your GI Bill after you are discharged, provided you make a transfer of benefits request before you are discharged. After you are out, it is too late.

Also, if you do transfer benefits to her, she would get paid at the same Post 9/11 GI Bill percentage that you have, which for a one-year qualifying tour would put you at the 60% tier.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a reservist who served one tour overseas. Can my husband use my MGIB for online schooling? If so can we both use it at the same time?

A: No your husband can’t use your Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserves (MGIB- SR) for any schooling, as that GI Bill doesn’t have a benefit transfer option. However, with an overseas active duty Title 10 tour (I’m assuming one-year), you could transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and make a transfer of benefits to your husband.

Just note that his schooling would be paid at the same percentage that you have for your Post 9/11 GI Bill, which for one year of active duty would be 60%. Also note that to get the housing allowance, he would need to take at least one class per term on-campus. Otherwise he is not eligible for that part of the benefit.

As far as both of you going to school at the same time, yes you can – and for as long as both of you have benefits. It doesn’t cost the VA any additional money, because you only have 36 months of benefits. Whether one person uses up the 36 months or two people use a total of 36 months, it ends up costing them the same.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband has already transferred his GI Bill benefits to me. I have enrolled in school and I’m in the beginning of the fall semester. We are now filing for divorce. He has told me he is going to wait to revoke the benefits, but I don’t think he will. If the divorce gets finalized and/or he revokes the benefits in the middle of this semester, will I have to pay back the money even though tuition for this semester has already been paid for me?

A: Your divorce won’t affect your Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits. Even if your husband revokes your benefits, most likely you would not have to pay anything back, but that decision will be made by the VA.

I say that because the VA’s policy for students who run out of benefits mid-semester is they will continue paying to get the students to the end of a term, instead of cutting them off mid-way through a term. If your husband revokes benefits, then you would in fact run out. It sounds like you are aware that as the sponsor, he retains the right to revoke and reallocate benefits as he chooses while he is still active and even after he is retired.

One thing I’m hearing from spouses getting divorced, is that some are writing into their divorce decrees that they keep their Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits.  If divorced, you will need a way to support yourself, so those education benefits are vital to your post-divorce success. Ask your lawyer about it and see if that is feasible.