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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have recently separated from the military and would like to know if I can transfer some of my benefits to my wife. I would do this to pay off student loans that she has.

Sorry, but you can’t do that for a couple of reasons. One is now that you are out, you can’t transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to her. That has to be done while you are still active.

Two, from your question, it doesn’t sound like you understand how the GI Bill works. The VA doesn’t just send you a big chuck of money to use as you wish; your wife would have to go to school to use her transferred benefits and she would get her money over the course of 36 months, or as long as she went to school if it was less than 36 months.

The way the Post 9/11 GI Bill works, is once she is registered for school, the VA would pay her tuition and fees directly to her school. She would have get a monthly housing and book stipend.

The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is offered initially when you come into the military, in lieu of the GI Bill as you can’t have both for the same period of time. Sometimes it is also offered as an re-enlistment incentive, if you first chose the GI Bill and are past the three-year obligatory period for it. Then you could have signed up for SLRP. Even with that program, they don’t pay off your loans all at once; it is spread out over the term of your enlistment. And it would not have helped pay off your wife’s loans – just yours.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband went into the Army on June 24, 2008. When would I, being his spouse, be eligible for the transfer of the GI Bill?

A: It is going to be awhile before you will be able to use your husband’s Post 9/11 GI Bill. A servicemember has to serve at least six years on active duty (of which three years has to be after September 10, 2001) and sign up for an additional four years before the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option becomes available.

Even after he is able to transfer entitlements to you, he has to serve a minimum of ten years before you can use your transferred entitlements. So it will be another 3 ½ years before he can make a transfer and about another 6 ½ years before you will be able to use them.

Your husband becomes eligible for the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit (40% tier) with as little as 90 days of service, but he won’t get the full benefit (100%) until he has served at least three years, except for the transfer benefit. The military is using the transfer benefit option as a retention tool, so that is the reason for the time-frames – to keep servicemembers in the military.

If you did not want to wait that long before starting school, there are some other Army Education Benefit alternatives to the GI Bill available to Army spouses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an active duty Soldier with 18-years time in service. I would like to transfer my GI Bill benefits to my 23 year old or 26 year old step-son. What are the requirements to be able to do this and who do I have to see to do it?

A: First, it won’t do your 26-year old son any good because that is the upper age where unused benefits are lost. Your 23-year old, however, does have a couple of years left to use transferred benefits.

To transfer benefits, you have to have the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You did not mention which GI Bill you had, but the Montgomery GI Bill does not have a transfer option. To access the New GI Bill transfer option, you have to have at least six years of active duty and sign up for an additional four years. If you are within four years of retirement, the amount of additional time is prorated down.

To make a transfer request, go to the TEB Website and enter the number of months you want to transfer to your son. You will have to figure out how many months he will be able to use between now and his 26th birthday. Once the request is approved, he will have to fill out VA Form 22-1990e at the VONAPP website. He will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that he will need when he enrolls in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is there a procedure or point of contact at the Department of Defense to request an exception to policy on transferability? I retired prior to 1 August 2009 after 30 years on active duty. I would like to transfer my benefits to my wife or daughter. The way I understand it, right now this is not possible. But as with everything I have experienced there has been at least an avenue to make a request for an exception. Whether it is approved is another thing. But I gain nothing by not trying. I will also write my Senator to ensure as they review or contemplate changes they incorporate more flexibility into the Program.

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill is one program not having an exception–to-policy procedure. The rules Congress put in place state specifically you had to be on active duty “on or after August 1, 2009” to make a transfer. I still can’t believe they forgot the thousands of veterans having the Post 9/11 GI Bill who retired earlier than 1 August, but they did.

However, there is one recourse you can take and you eluded to it in your question – contact your House of Representatives from your area and ask for their support on bill H.R. 950. That bill will let retirees make a transfer of benefits. If passed, it will allow veterans with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, retiring between December 9, 2001 and August 1, 2009, with 20 years of service, to make a transfer.

Also, ask your Senators to support S.3447. That is another bill that will correct some issues with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If S.3447 passes, your dependents receiving your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits will get some benefit from that bill.

The more of us that contact our legislators about these bills, the better the chances they will pass.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I started taking classes with an online school. I want to transfer in the spring and have everything worked out; I know the forms I have to submit and the paperwork that needs to be done, but I’m wondering if the time I’ve spent at the online school will count against my classes on campus at the new school? I was told the GI Bill only covers 36 months of education benefits. So does that mean that if my degree were to take 36 months at the new school, I would have to pay for the last few months? Or does it reset with the new school?

A: No it means you get 36 months of GI Bill entitlements total. If you are on the same degree plan at your brick-and-mortar school as you were at your online school, at least some of your credits should transfer and apply to your degree plan. If you switched degree plans when you switched schools, some may not come across. Those that do not transfer were wasted GI Bill benefits.

The 36 months of GI Bill benefits is enough to get a four-year degree by going to school for four 9-month academic years. If you used up 9 months with online courses, didn’t change degree plans, and all your online credits transfer, then you should be able to finish up your four-year degree with the 27 months you have left. If some of your credits don’t transfer, then yes, you might have some out-of-pocket costs to finish getting your degree.

It is important to plan out your education, so you can get the most bang for your buck out of your GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am a dependent, using my father’s Post 9/11 GI Bill. I have finished my application, received my Certificate of Eligibility, brought it to my school, and they have informed me that they have mailed it to the VA. I am attending University of Maryland University College overseas. I signed up for my classes, and sent an application to use my VA benefits to pay for them. Is there anything else I need to do to start receiving my benefits? Or at least be done with the application process? Also, UMUC considers 2 classes (6 credits) to be a full-time student, which is what I’ve signed up for. I’ve just read that I should be taking 7+ credits to receive my housing allowance. Will I not receive it now, even though my school considers 6 credits to be full-time? Thank you for your time

A: It sounds like you have everything covered. Once your Post 9/11 GI Bill Certificate of Eligibility and your school’s Certificate of Enrollment match up at the VA, that will start your payments coming from the VA to your school and you.

If you are attending school  overseas, then the payment structure is different. The VA will pay up to $408.09 per credit to your school and you will get a fixed amount of $1,333 for a housing stipend. You should also get up to $1,000 per year book stipend.

As far as the whole credits thing and your housing allowance, I wouldn’t worry about it. According to the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, to get the housing allowance, your rate of pursuit has to be greater than half-time. Most schools consider 12 credits as full-time, so greater than half-time is seven credits (6 credits is half-time). If your school considers 6 credits full-time, then you will get your housing allowance. The greater than half-time amount is calculated off of what your  school considers full-time and not on a fixed-across-the-board number of credits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is an E5 active duty Army. He enrolled himself in college a year ago and he has started using part of his GI Bill. He tried enrolling me into the program as his spouse, but we were told by someone in the Department of Defense office that unless he has 4 years on his contract to serve as an active duty service member they will not give his spouse a portion of the GI Bill for my education.

He has been in the service since June 2002 and he re-enlisted November of 2009 for another 4 years. So his contract will expire in November of 2013. I found out in late May that I was accepted into nursing school, but obviously when my husband re-enlisted in November 2009 we didn’t know I was going back to school.

The Department of Defense personnel told my husband that unless he would sign me up the date he re-enlisted they would not be required to give a portion of his benefits to me since they use the spouse/children referral as a retention factor for enlisted members. But they would give my husband his portion of the GI Bill since he was the individual that initially invested his money into the program. I don’t know what to believe since the GI Bill website doesn’t say anything about a certain number of years being required on the service member’s contract in order to transfer benefits to their spouse or children.

A: Actually it does say that on the VA’s website in their transferability document.

But, one part I don’t understand is where you say “since he was the individual that initially invested his money into the program.” The Post 9/11 GI Bill is free, so this sounds like your husband has the Montgomery GI Bill. Or he may have had the MGIB and has since converted to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. My point is that if he still has the MGIB, he will not be able to transfer any of it to you, as that GI Bill doesn’t have a transfer option.

If he does have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, I would recommend that he go to the TEB website and try to make a transfer to you. If he is eligible, he will be able to enter the number of months in your record he wants to give to you. If your record is “grayed out”, or it won’t let him edit it, then you know he is not eligible to make a transfer. In that case, he would have to wait until his re-enlistment window opens.

The part I’m not believing is that he would have had to make a transfer on the exact day he re-enlisted.  While technically the DOD representative is correct, as that is the only day your husband actually had a full four years on his extension, I still think the system will allow him to make a transfer if he tries it. Oh, one other thing – you have to be current in DEERS as the TEB website uses the DEERS database as part of the transfer process. I imagine you are already anyway.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband was in the Army Reserves from 1986 until around 1992. He never used his GI Bill at that time. Recently, he returned to the National Guard, so he now falls under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. As a National Guard Member, (assuming he has the proper time in service and enlistment commitment) is he able to transfer his benefits to our child going to college next year?

A: Actually, he probably still has the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves, until he actually switches over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Transferring benefits to dependents for Guard members is a two-step process. First you have to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and then you have to meet the service requirement.

To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, he needs to have at least 91 days of qualifying active duty time after September 10, 2001 (which usually means deployed for a contingency operation) to get the minimum benefit of 40%. To get the full benefit of 100% requires 3 years or more of qualifying service.

For the service requirement part, he needs at least six years of Armed Forces time and has to sign up for an additional four years, unless he is within four years of retiring and then the amount of extra time will be pro-rated down.

Once he accumulates enough time to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and meets the service requirement, he will need to go to the TEB website and request a transfer. Your child will have to be listed as his dependent in DEERS for him to make a transfer request, which he/she probably already is listed.

Once the transfer is approved, then your child has to go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. Once the VA Form 22-1990e is approved, then you will get back a Certificate of Eligibility, which your child will need when registering for school.

Once your child’s Certificate of Eligibility and the school’s Certificate of Enrollment match up at the VA, that will trigger the start of the payment process.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is currently serving in the Air Force Reserves and has been for close to ten years now. He completed college quite some time ago so, he would like to transfer his GI Bill to me so I can use it at a local college here in Idaho. What is the process and will he be required to make any further commitments with the military for doing so?

A: Reserve and National Guard members have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), which is only good as long as they remain in the Reserves and it does not have a transfer option. To get the transfer option, your husband would have to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

To qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your husband would have to have served at least 91 days of qualifying active duty service, after September 10, 2001 (usually meaning deployed for a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan) and served at least six years in the Armed Forces (Reserve, Guard or active) and sign up for an additional four years. So until he meets these qualifications, he doesn’t have the transfer option available to make a transfer to you.

Once he meets the Post 9/11 GI Bill qualifying time and service requirement, he can make the transfer by going to go to the TEB Website and entering in your record how many months he wants to give to you. You will have to be listed in DEERS for him to make a transfer, which you probably already are.

Once the request is approved, then you will have to fill out VA Form 22-1990e. You can do that at the VONAPP Website. You will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when you register for school. End of the process. Now wasn’t that easy?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does it matter where you go to school? I am currently enrolled in our local community college and will be starting a Sonography program in the spring. My husband has already done the TEB part (waiting on approval) and I am concerned that we will transfer all of this just to find out that it is not accepted at my school.

A:  Generally speaking, most accredited community colleges are on the VA-approved list of schools, however, some schools are approved only for the Montgomery GI Bill and not the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which is the one you have by the transfer benefits you received from your husband.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is meant for courses that produce some type of degree at the end of the program, anywhere from a two-year associate’s degree all the way up to a doctorate’s degrees. If your Sonography program is degree-producing, then you should be covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If it is a license or certification program, then it may not.

I say may not, because some non-degree producing courses are covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill, if they are taught at a school that also teaches degree-producing courses. Confused yet?

You can look up the name of your school and see if it is on the VA’s school list. If it is, then click on the PROGRAMS link and see where your course is listed. If it is listed in the Institution of Higher Learning (IHL) list, then it is covered. If it is listed in the Non-Degree list, it might not be covered and you would have to contact the VA to be sure.

I have run into this situation before and the course was not covered because it was listed on the Non-Degree side instead of the IHL side, even though the school does award degrees.