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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My dad is a disabled veteran and we were wondering about the benefits? I’m going to be attending the Art Institute of California – San Diego in the fall. He isn’t 100% disabled but I’m pretty sure we are still supposed to get some type of benefits from the VA. A cousin of ours is going to school on her father’s benefits and he isn’t 100% disabled either. Thank you.

A: The news is not good. In order to qualify for Chapter 35, your father has to be 100% permanently and totally disabled. So unless the VA reclassifies your father to 100%, Chapter 35 is not an option.

As far as your cousin attending school on her father’s benefits, I’m guessing she is using her father’s Post 9/11 GI Bill, which has nothing to do with him being disabled or not. He most likely met the service requirements for the transfer option while still on active duty:
• Having served for at least six years on a Title 10 order (active duty)
• Currently serving at the time of the transfer request
• Having at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of transfer.

If he transferred all of his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to her, she could go to school up to 36 months.

I’m assuming either your father did not qualify for the transfer option or did not know he had to make a transfer request prior to getting out. Once retired, it is too late.

There are a lot of other education financial aid options. A good place to start is filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. This will give you an idea of what you could qualify for as far as Pell grants and other scholarships and grants. The money is out there – you just have to dig for it. Every year, thousands of dollars of education money goes unused because students did not apply for it. Go after it!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m in the GA NG and I’m on a deployment until November. I’m finding it difficult to make a decision on what GI Bill option to utilize when I return. My wife and I will both be attending school when I return to the States. I’ll have more than 12 months of active service from this deployment, being in the Guard since February 09. From what I’m reading, it looks like I’m not eligible to choose the Post 9/11 GI Bill and transfer benefits, so I have to decide between REAP and utilizing the Post 9/11 myself. I won’t be attending online classes, and plan on 12 credit hours per semester.

A: This obviously will come as a surprise, but you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. All that is required for minimum eligibility are 90 days of Title 10 service in support of a contingency operation and most likely your deployment fills that requirement.

Eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill is built on an eligible time-served basis, so the more deployments you have, the higher a tier percentage you’ll earn. A typical one-year deployment puts you at the 60% tier, meaning the VA would pay up to 60% of your tuition at a public school or up to 60% of the maximum of $19,198.31 per year at a private school. In addition, you would get 60% of both the housing allowance and book stipend.

With one-year of qualifying service, REAP would pay you up to $988.80 per month to go to school and you have to pay your own tuition, books, etc. You would have to crunch the numbers as far as what 60% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay you in comparison to REAP to see which would be the better deal for you.

However, as far as transferring benefits to your spouse or dependents, you can only do that if you go with the Post 9/11 GI Bill as REAP does not have a transfer of benefits option. The transfer requirements for Selected Reservists are the same as for active duty:
• Having served for a minimum of six years.
• Currently serving in the Armed Forces of the United States (of which the National Guard is a part).
• Having at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request.

With you coming into the Guard in 2009, it looks like you have one more year before you meet the six-year service requirement. So once eligible, and ensuring your have at least four years left on your enlistment, go ahead and submit a transfer request through the milConnect website.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have served 10 years of active duty and before I got out I converted my GI Bill to the Post 9/11. I have only 4 months left of benefits. In the meantime, I have been a member of the Reserves (almost 4 years of drilling once a month) and I am about to reenlist as a reservist again for 4 more years. Since I am pursuing my Masters, do I qualify for MGIB SR Chapter 1606? Will I need to reenlist for 6 years?

A: Whether you are pursuing a master’s degree or not has nothing to do with your Chapter 1606 – Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve GI Bill (MGIB-SR). However one of the main requirements for MGIB-SR eligibility is a six-year enlistment.

If you are looking at getting the MGIB-SR, there are a couple of things you should know. First, because you have already used 32 of your initial 36 months of GI Bill entitlement, the most additional entitlement you can get now is an additional 12 months. Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, the maximum combined number of months is 48.

Also, the payment rate for the MGIB-SR is the worst of all the GI Bills. Right now it is paying up to $362 per month. Of course, you would also have your drill pay and Federal Tuition Assistance, but expect to have some healthy out-of-pockets costs being you are in a master’s degree program. Their tuition rates are
always considerably more expensive.

My suggestion is to first burn up the 4 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits you have left and then start using your 12 months of MGIB-SR if you choose to go that route.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I enroll in college as a Matriculated and Non-Matriculated student and still receive my Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowance?

A: The purpose of the GI Bill is to train you in a field that you can use as a career. Because of this purpose, the VA requires that you matriculate at least after two semesters of school. Basically, that gives you one academic school year to make up your mind as far as what course of instruction you want to follow for your next three years of college.

Except for some programs, the first two years of college are more general in nature anyway and this way you can use that first year to figure out what you want for a career path and select or build your degree plan accordingly without jeopardizing your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

However, by the end of the Spring semester, you should select a degree plan so you won’t have an interruption of benefits when you come back for the Fall term.

By matriculating, you are showing the VA that you have selected a career and you are ready to pursue it for your remaining college time. And know that you can change your education plan after you have matriculated – many students using the GI Bill do change their degree plan. Just fill out VA Form 22-1995 Change of Place of Training or Program.

But, if you do change, you may have to take additional classes or some of the classes you took are no longer on your degree plan and don’t count. So in the end, by changing your degree program, you could end up paying for some classes out-of-pocket. That is why making a wise choice the first time is important if you want to maximize your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits without any out-of-pocket costs.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Do I have any educational benefits to transfer to my son? Does he qualify for the Fry Scholarship? — Rosalind

A: The Fry Scholarship is basically the Post 9/11 GI Bill for children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. The way your question is worded, it sounds like you are the servicemember, so in that case, no, your son would not be eligible for the Fry Scholarship. However, if his father was a servicemember too and killed in the line of duty, then he could qualify. If eligible, he can get up to 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Under this GI Bill program, he could get his tuition paid for up to the resident level at a public school or up to $19,198.31 at a private school. In addition, he would get a monthly housing allowance and each semester get a book stipend (up to the $1,000 per year limit). Also, his benefits must be used before his 33rd birthday and he would not be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

If his father was killed on active duty, or you or he are 100% permanently disabled, then your son might also qualify for Chapter 35 benefits. While not as lucrative as the Fry Scholarship, an eligible dependent could get up to 44 months of education benefits in the way of a monthly stipend. Right now, Chapter 35 is paying up to $1,003 per month while in school and he would have to pay his own tuition and books.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like some information concerning the GI Bill. I joined the military on 21SEP06 and was discharged 18JUN09 with a General (Under Honorable conditions) If I am not eligible with this kind of discharge, what can I do to help my situation? If I am, how can I get this process started? I am just looking for the most logical course of action either way. Thank You for your time.

A: You are indeed not eligible to use any GI Bill with any discharge less than fully Honorable. However, as far as what you can do to improve your situation, there is only one thing – appeal to have your discharge upgraded to fully Honorable.

The process in itself to request an upgrade is not difficult – it can be as simple as filling out one form and submitting it, to as complex as hiring a lawyer experienced in discharge upgrades to represent you in person before the Board. Or you can also plead your case in person if you would like.

The difficult part is convincing the Board that the discharge you have is not right and that you are deserving of an upgrade. They will go in hearing your case with the mindset your discharge is correct. It is your job to convince them it is wrong.

On average 41% of the discharge upgrades processed result in an upgrade. That percentage gives you an indication what you are up against, but if you feel you have enough documentation to support your case, go for it.

If your documentation is strong enough to stand on its own, then submitting DD Form 293 with attachments is probably enough. If you feel there are things that could be better explained in person, then you may want to appear before the Board in person or if you have the money to spend on hiring a lawyer, that is the ultimate choice of upgrade representation.

It can take up to a year for the Board to hear your case and issue a finding on whether your upgrade is awarded or not, and there are no guarantees you will be successful, however it is the only avenue of appeal you have in the beginning.

If the Board does not feel your case warrants an upgrade, you can appeal their finding by filling out DD Form 149 and sending it to the Board of Military Record Corrections. If they agree with the Discharge Board, then it is the end of the road. If they disagree, they can award an upgrade.

If you are successful, then you would have 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that you could use at the 90% tier level.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is there any way to transfer GI Bill benefits to your spouse after separating from the Army? Everything I have found so far says we cannot. No one even told us before my husband got out that he would need to do transfer benefits before he separated.

A: It depends on when you got out. If you got out before August 1, 2009, then you are out of luck, however if your discharge date was on the August 1st date or later, you have an avenue of appeal. There was a lot of erroneous information during and immediately after the Post 9/11 GI Bill implementation and many servicemembers in fact did not know they had to transfer benefits to family members and spouses before they got out.

The Army Discharge Review Board is evaluating claims send in and have approved many of them, letting the servicemembers make a one-time transfer of benefits if they can document they were not aware of the transfer-before-getting-out requirement. You can start the process by submitting DD Form 293 to the Army Discharge Review Board at:

Army Review Boards Agency
Support Division, St. Louis
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5200

Most of the blocks on the form are self-explanatory, however there are instructions at the end of the form on how to complete the blocks that require some explaining.

It can take up to a year to hear back with a decision, but it can be worthwhile waiting. All you are out is some time if your request is not approved.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a new airman with a BA. I want to use my GI Bill benefits for a master’s degree. I am not sure when I would start using the benefits. I know I have 36 months to decide whether to stay with MGIB or Post 9/11. What would your advice be on which one to stay with?

A: One of the big considerations to keep in mind is the difference in how entitlement use is calculated if you plan to also use Tuition Top-Up (a combination of Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill). How Top-Up works is your service branch pays your whole tuition bill and then subtracts out what Tuition Assistance can’t pay. That amount is then billed to the VA and they in turn deduct an amount of entitlement from your remaining balance.

If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), they deduct one month of entitlement for each $1,648 they have to pay back to your service branch. So if the VA pays back $4,944 ($1,648 * 3), then they deduct 3 months of entitlement. However, if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they deduct a whole semester’s worth of entitlement (usually four months) regardless of how much or how little they have to pay. So if you use the MGIB with Top-Up, your GI Bill benefits will last longer than if you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you are not using TA or Top-Up, know that you would not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance while on active duty, but you would get your tuition paid and get the book stipend. If using the MGIB, you get the full monthly amount, but have to buy your own books and pay your own tuition.

Generally speaking, if you are still on active duty, you are better off staying with the MGIB. The other thing to note is that after you get done using up your 36 months of MGIB, you can switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of entitlement.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am planning on transferring my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my wife, but I am still on active duty. Will she receive the housing allowance if I am still serving or should I retire first? I guess my question is, who is entitled to the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance?

A: If you are still serving when she starts using her transferred benefits, then no she will not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, however, she would still get her tuition paid up to the resident rate and receive the book stipend.

And you need to transfer your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to her while you are still serving; once retired and it is too late. She has 15 years from your date of discharge to use her transferred benefits. Before making a transfer request, be sure you have served at least six years on Title 10 orders (active duty), are still serving and have at least four years left to serve (or agree to serve) at the time you make your request.

Whether she uses her transferred benefits while you are still serving or not depends on how quick she wants to get her degree. Because the housing allowance averages $1,200 per month across the United States, it is worthy to put some thought in how to use her benefits.

If you have a lot of years yet to serve, she might be better off forgoing the housing allowance and using her benefits now rather than later. If you have four years or so left and don’t plan on staying in, then she may be able to wait until you are out, so that she can maximize the entitlement you gave to her.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am planning on taking Healthcare Management course at one school and Healthcare Information Technology at another school. One leads to a master’s degree and the other a certificate. Although the Healthcare IT program doesn’t directly give credit towards my master’s degree, they are obviously much related coursework working towards a common goal that I want to achieve. Do you know if the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay for both programs in my case? Thank you for any information you can provide.

A: Your Post 9/11 GI Bill may pay for both programs. Your task will be to convince how getting your IT certificate will benefit you in a Healthcare Management position (which should be pretty easy to document).

I couldn’t ascertain from your question if you plan to take both courses concurrently or consecutively. If you are going to take classes at two schools at the same time, it could be a problem if your IT classes do not credit towards your management healthcare degree. The VA will only pay for classes on one degree plan at a time, so you’ll most likely have to take your IT classes after getting your master’s degree.

If your IT classes would credit toward your degree plan, then you would have had to get permission from your school that will be issuing your degree (your primary school) to take classes at another school (your secondary school). Your primary school would send a letter to your secondary school informing them of the classes you would take from them. Once finished with those classes, your secondary school would send the credits to your primary school and they would post the credits to your degree plan.