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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can federal prison inmates, with an Honorable Discharge from the US military, still receive the Montgomery GI Bill? If yes, what is the process to start receiving it? And how much will it be?

A:  Currently the Montgomery GI Bill pays $1,368 per month for servicemembers putting in three years of more of active duty service. If you had less than three years, then the amount is $1,111 per month. As an inmate, you would receive less an an inmate.

To start your benefits, you would have to submit VA Form 22-1990 either through the VONAPP website or download the form and send it in according to the instructions.

When you say “still receive the Montgomery GI Bill”, I’m assuming you had signed up for it while you were on active duty and had the $1,200 contribution taken out? If so, then yes, you could use your GI Bill as an inmate in a federal prison.

However if you, or the veteran whom you received benefits from, is a “fugitive felon”, then your are not eligible to use your GI Bill.  A person is considered a fugitive felon if he or she has an outstanding warrant for a felony, or has violated a condition of probation or parole for committing a felony.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Indiana National Guard, but  I’ve been out for 5 years now. I served in Bosnia from March 2004 until Nov 2004. Can I still receive the GI Bill or some other educational assistance? If so, can I use it to take a course to get my CDL and how do I go about claiming the benefits?

A:  If your order for Bosnia was Title 10 and it was considered a Contingency Operation, then yes you should qualify for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 50% level. That means the VA would pay up to 50% of the in-state maximum for your tuition and eligible fees. You would get 50% of the housing allowance which is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents for the zip code of your school.  You would also get up to $500 per year in a book stipend (50% of the $1,000 per year maximum). That is the good news.

The bad news is your CDL course would most likely not be covered under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The Post 9/11 GI Bill was designed to pay for degree-producing courses and not for trade, technical, licenses or certifications. The only way your CDL course could possibly be covered is if it was taught at a school that also graduates students with at least an associate’s degree or higher.

If you do find such a school, you can apply for benefits by submitting VA Form 22-1990 either online at the VONPP website or download the form and send it in following the instructions on the form.

There are other forms of financial aid available including:

  • grants
  • scholarships;
  • work-study programs
  • and of course, loans.

Your best course of action right now contacting your school’s financial aid department and see what they can do for you.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I revoked my GI Bill transfer to my kids — why do I still have an active duty service commitment on my records? I signed up online to transfer my benefits to my kids. I understood I could revoke or modify the transfer at any time, and if I did not serve the additional 4 years I could not transfer the benefits. I later revoked the transfer online, but I am being told I can’t get out of the Air Force until Jan 2014. Is that right?

Yes it is right. When you extended for four years, to have the privilege of exercising the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit transfer option, you signed a contract committing to serve those four years – a binding contract by both parties. The Air Force upheld its portion by opening up the transfer option process to you.

The fact that you transferred, and then later rescinded those benefits, has nothing to do with whether those benefits were used or not. You contracted for the option to transfer, not the option to transfer and use. All the Air Force had to do was set up the transfer option so you could use it, which they did. Even if you had never requested a transfer, you still have the four-year obligation for them setting up the transfer option for you to use.

It sounds like you had a change-of-heart after extending for the four years and now you were going to try to get out of it by rescinding the transferred benefits. This may have been a hard way to learn, but a contract is something that should not be entered into lightly as they are binding by both parties, regardless if it for reenlisting, buying a car or buying a house.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Why does the Post 9/11 GI Bill only cover reimbursement of only one certification exam? Why won’t it cover technical boot-camps, even if they are MGIB certified? Ex. Cisco, Microsoft, etc boot-camps.

A:  The main reason is the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules are different than the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If they were the same, then we wouldn’t need both programs.

The MGIB is more liberal as far as which training programs it will pay for. It covers degree-producing programs along with non-degree producing training programs, such as:

  • trade;
  • technical;
  • license;
  • certifications.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill focuses just on degree-producing programs, however, it will reimburse students up to $2,000 for one certification, but it does not pay for the training leading up to the certification. The MGIB pays for multiple certification tests, re-testing and the training leading up to the certification.

Trying to compare the MGIB and Post 9/11 GI Bill is like trying to compare apples to oranges. Both GI Bills are intended to cover different programs at different rates and with  a different set of rules for each Bill.

If you wanted to get a four-year degree in Computer Science, then the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay for the whole course, but it does not do well with piece-meal courses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My question is regarding the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It has been transferred to me as a dependent and all paperwork was finalized with the VA back in August 2009. However, I chose to wait until Fall 2010 to begin using my benefits since I was at a cheap school and already had payments taken care of.

I have turned in everything to my school and they have processed tuition payment for the Fall term already. While setting things up for this coming semester (Fall 2010), my school’s VA office asked if I would like to be reimbursed for Summer classes tuition and BAH, meaning it would put my start date in May 2010. I agreed and now I am a little confused on BAH payments. Will I be paid now for May-June-July 2010 since I was in class and if so, when do those payments begin? Also, how does that work? Are 3 separate direct deposits going to go into my account, and then in September will I receive August’s BAH payment? I am sorry if this is confusing I tried to simplify it as much as possible. Thank you for any help.

A: Typically a payment is triggered when your school’s Certificate of Enrollment matches up with your VA Form 22-1990e for your Post 9/11 GI Bill. I don’t know what will happen as your application talks about starting the Fall term, but your Certificate of Enrollment shows you started the Summer Term. Hopefully, the VA and your school were talking and got everything straightened out, or maybe it will turn into a mess. Anomalies to the VA process usually take more time to get paid since they require more time to get corrected .

Your first check will take more time than your follow-on checks. If you do end up getting paid for the Summer term, then you should get your first check 8-10 weeks after the VA gets your Certificate of Enrollment from your school, so if your class started in May, you should have received a check in mid-July for May and June. You then should have received a check in early August for your July payment. Your August check should come in September. From that point on, you will always be a month behind in getting paid.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your school directly for your tuition and fees. You get a housing allowance and book stipend either as a check or Direct Deposit, depending on how you set up payments in your VA Form 22-1990e. If you school charges more than what the VA pays, then you will have to pay the difference of if your school has a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA , you could use that program to help pay the difference.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My ex-husband has a 60% service disability.  Our daughter is planning to attend a California community college this fall and we need to know if she is eligible for housing and book allowances.  If so, how do we apply for these benefits.

Unless your ex-husband transferred benefits to her while he was still on active duty, she won’t be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, she may be eligible for tuition and fees waiver as part of the California State Veterans Benefits, if she is a resident of CA.

The CA Veterans Affairs Website says “The dependent child, spouse or unmarried surviving spouses of a service connected disabled or deceased veteran may be entitled to tuition and fee waiver benefits at any campus of the California State University system, University of California or a California Community College.

To be eligible, students must:

  • Have a parent who is a disabled veteran (0% or more disabled) or;
  • Have a spouse who is service-connected (S/C) deceased or rated 100% S/C disabled;
  • Be a child earning less than $11,161 per year (student’s income, not parents’).
    Note: there is no income limit for a spouse or children of S/C deceased or 100% S/C veterans.
  • Attend a California Community College, California State University, or a University of California school.
  • Provide proof of the student’s relationship to the veteran such as a copy of a birth or marriage certificate.”

If she meets these requirements, then have her apply for benefits at any CA. County Veterans Service Office.

For her to be eligible under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program (DEA), your ex-husband would have to be 100% permanently disabled.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Do I still qualify for the old MGIB if I only used if for two years?  I ask because, I’m wondering if having to stop your college training to raise a family being a single father would be a justifiable reason for the gov’t to allow a vet to reapply, even if it has been over fourteen years since I’ve been in school.  If so, who do I contact and if not can my children use what was left?

No, your MGIB would have expired either fourteen or ten years ago, depending on when you enlisted.  Raising a family as a single parent probably would not qualify you for an extension of your Montgomery GI Bill benefits. The VA usually will only extend a delimiting date in three  situations:

  • having an illness or temporary disability that prevented you from attending school (which requires supporting medical documentation);
  • detained by a foreign power;
  • called back to active duty.

Other than these three, most other reasons will not be approved.

Because the MGIB doesn’t have a dependent transfer option, you can’t transfer it to your children, and even if it did, because your Montgomery GI Bill is expired, there is nothing left to transfer. Sorry.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill to my Step-Daughter?

A: The short answer is it depends. The long answer is without more information, I can’t give you a definite yes or no, but I can layout the rules and let you make your decision.

First, to access the transfer option, you have to serve at least six years on active duty and agree to serve an additional four years. The Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option was meant to be used as a retention tool, so once you are at the six-year mark, they use this incentive to encourage you to stay in the military on active duty.

Second, if you meet the above service requirement, you have to make the transfer request while you are still on active duty. Once you are retired, it is too late (at least for now). There is a bill in Congress – S3447, that would change that, if it passes.

Third, the dependent you are transferring to has to still be listed as your dependent in DEERS, so if your step-daughter is no longer listed because she is either over the maximum age limit in DEERS or already married, then you would not be able to transfer benefits to her either.

So, as you can see, there are several variables. Walk down through them and apply them against your personal situation. Soon you will see if you can make a Post 9/11 GI Bill education transfer request to your step-daughter or not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: A fellow soldier told me that my GI Bill will pay me when I went to the police academy. I graduated December 18, 2009 from the Arkansas Police Academy in Camden, AR; is it too late to file for it?

A: Your GI Bill may pay, depending on which GI Bill you have. Your school is listed as a VA-Approved school, but it is listed as a non-degree school. That means the Montgomery GI Bill would pay for your schooling there. Because the Post 9/11 G I Bill is focused on degree-producing training programs, it would not. So, determining which GI Bill you have is the first step.

The second step is the GI Bill will pay for schooling taken one-year back. Because it is August already, time is running out. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill, then submit VA Form 22-1990 either online at VONAPP or download the form, fill it out, attach the required supporting documentation and send it in. If you have your documentation in electronic form (or you can scan it in), submitting online will get the VA wheels in motion quicker.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an E-5 on active duty. I will be leaving the Army in 4 months, with 4-years time in service, and two deployments. At this point I am considering going into the reserves. Will this affect my GI Bill benefits payout? Will I be entitled to 100% payout, with E-5 BAH? Thank You.

A: No, enlisting in the reserves will not impact on your active duty GI Bill at all. As you probably know, with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your school directly for your tuition and eligible fees up to the established in-state maximum for the state where your school is located.

If you are taking enough credits per term (normally 7, if your school considers 12 as full-time), so your rate of pursuit is over half-time and you are taking at least one on-campus class per term that applies toward your degree plan, then you will get the housing allowance. As you noted, it is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents calculated on the zip code of your school. You will also get a book stipend, which can be up to $1,000 per year, paid at $41.67 per credit.