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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband was 3 months past the 10-year mark for the GI Bill and he lost it. I would like to know why a soldier who fought for his country would lose his benefits?

You know, I have never agreed with delimiting dates either, but the fact of the matter is that is what Congress wrote into the law when they created each of the GI Bills. They obviously had some intent in mind as all the GI Bill throughout the years have had delimiting dates. The Montgomery GI Bill actually had two dates, depending on when the servicemember enlisted. Before one date, it was 14 years. After that date, it was 10 years. Now the Post 9/11 GI Bill has a delimiting date of 15 years.

Because the GI Bill’s education intent is for the veteran to get an education, my speculation for delimiting dates is they are there to provide a prod, or a reason, for the veteran to use his/her GI Bill sooner, rather than later (and possibly risk losing the benefits). If used within the delimiting date period, they can get their degree and start a career.

Generally veterans lose their education benefit due to three reasons:

  • time slips away and before they know it the delimiting date has passed;
  • many veterans claim they never knew (or if they were told, don’t remember) the GI Bill as having a delimiting date;
  • many veterans are under the impression they just need to start their schooling before the delimiting date, instead of have used up their benefits before that date.

Regardless of the reason(s), I agree it sucks, however, because it was written as Congressional legislation, they are the only governing body that can change it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can my son’s dad transfer his GI Bill to him? He served 6 years and currently he is in Afghanistan as a Contractor working for a military base. My son wants to continue with the ROTC program once he finishes high school next year.

A: No he can’t for a couple of reasons. One, to transfer the Post 9/11 GI Bill to a dependent, the servicemember has to serve at least six years on active duty (which he did) and re-enlist for an additional four years, (which he did not).  The other reason is all transfer requests, must be initiated while the servicemember is on active duty, so even if your son’s father would have met the first criteria, he would not have met the second.

But, all might not be lost. There is a bill in Congress right now – S3447 – and if it passes, it will allow veterans holding the Post 9/11 GI Bill to transfer education benefits to dependents. What I don’t know at this point is how the final language will read, as far as the service requirements needed to make a transfer request. Keep watching this blog as I will post information concerning S3447 as I become aware of its progress.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently in the South Dakota National Guard and will be returning to school. I have enrolled with Colorado Technical Institute online and I was told that since my BA degree will be all online, that my state TA will not cover any of the cost of my tuition. It looks like I will not receive any kind of BAH as well. I just need to know WHAT WILL my G.I. Bill do for me?

A: I’m a little confused by the information in your question. If you are in the Guard, I’m assuming you have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) which is normally what National Guard members and Reservists have. If that is the GI Bill you are using, it doesn’t pay a housing allowance – only the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you had enough active duty time for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and that is the GI Bill you are using, it does pay a housing allowance, but not to online-only students. You would have to take at least one on-campus class applying to your degree plan per term, to qualify for the housing allowance.

As far as your state Tuition assistance (TA), it is true – it only pays if you attend a state-supported public school in South Dakota. Most of the other states do the same thing; they want to keep the money in the state.

So if you are using the MGIB-SR, it will pay you about $330 per month for 36 months to go to school (Yeah, I know it is a paltry amount, but it is what it is). You will have to pay all your own education-related expenses, such as tuition, fees, etc.

If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then it will pay your tuition and eligible fees, up to the in-state maximum for state where your online school is headquartered and you would get up to the $1,000 per year book stipend.

You would not get the housing allowance, unless you took one class per term on campus. It can be at any accredited campus close to you. Just make sure your class applies to your degree plan.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I retire on 1 Dec, 2010. I converted to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and also gave 50% of it to my wife. We both have approved certificates. In Jan of 2011, we will both be full time college students. Do we both get to draw the living stipend and the book stipend? Thanks

A: Yes, you do. You will each get your Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition and eligible fees paid for, up to the in-state VA maximum for your state, a monthly housing allowance and the book stipend for up to 18 months. Considering 9-month academic years, that should be enough for each of you to get two-year’s worth of schooling.

I can’t tell you how much the VA will pay for tuition, because it varies, depending on which state you live in, but you can look it up. Your housing allowances also varies, and while it is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents, it is also depends on the zip code of your school. On average it is about $1,000 per student, per month with the maximum amount at $2,700 per month in New York City. Yours may be more or less than the average, however, you can use the BAH calculator to figure your amount. Use your school’s zip code in the Duty Zip Code Field and select E-5 from the Pay Grade Drop-down Menu. Use the “with dependents” result.

Good luck and keep in mind you have to use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits within 15 years from your discharge date.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served 4.5 years of active duty after September 11. I separated with an honorable discharge and was awarded 36 months of Chapter 30. I used 29 months of Chapter 30 and I converted the remaining 7 months to Chapter 33.

Of the 7 months of Chapter 33 I had, I used up 3 months of Chapter 33, which leaves me with 4 months left from the initial 36 months of Chapter 30 that I had from my active duty service.

I now joined the reserves and learned that my time served, while on active duty, also counts for the Post 9/11 GI Bill as a reservist. I also learned that I can have up to 48 months of VA Educational Benefits. So far, I have used 32 months of VA Educational benefits. 29 months with Chapter 30 and 3 with Chapter 33. Do I have 16 months of Post 9/11 benefits left? (4 months from the converted Chapter 30 and another 12 from joining the reserves and having 36 months of active duty time served)

A: O.K., first, the fact that you joined the reserves has nothing to do with any of this. Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, the most you can get are 48 months of combined education benefits. You had Chapter 30 – the Montgomery GI Bill – and you qualify for the Chapter 33 – the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

But to get the additional 12 months of benefits, you would have had to first exhaust your Chapter 30 benefits and then switch to Chapter 33. Because you switched with 7 months of remaining Chapter 30 benefits, you screwed yourself out of the additional 12 months.

So, the short answer is you only have 4 months of Chapter 33 benefits left. Is it fair? I don’t think so, but then I don’t make up the rules either.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill cover a degree in business management, entrepreneurship and accounting? Or does it matter which college you want to attend for the Post 9/11 GI Bill to cover?

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill is meant to pay for degree-producing courses, so if you are talking about at least an associates’ degree in the above topics, then yes, your GI Bill will pay. If you are talking about anything less, such as a certification or diploma, then maybe, as long as those courses are being taught at a school that teaches degree-producing courses.

As far as if it matters which school you attend, yes and no. Choose a school that is on the VA’s list of schools. That way, you can be assured it is accredited and VA-approved. So from that aspect, yes it does matter – stick to the schools on the list. If you do, then no, it really doesn’t matter, unless the school you choose is a private school.

The VA’s maximum tuition and fees amount is based on a state’s most expensive public school undergraduate program. If you attend a private school, your tuition and fees will probably exceed what the VA will pay. You would have to pay the difference unless your private school is a Yellow Ribbon school. Then it can pay up to half of the difference and the VA would pay an equal amount, leaving you with little left to pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have the GI Bill and $52,000 worth of student loans. Can the GI Bill be used to pay this off. They are excess from classes that I took while on active duty and I used the TA for. What TA did not, I had to get a student loan for the rest.

A: I get this question a lot, but the answer is no it can’t. The GI Bill does not have a provision to pay off student loans. My question is if you were on active duty at the time, and assuming you had the GI Bill when you were going to school, why didn’t you use the Tuition Top-Up Program to help cover some of the costs Tuition Assistance didn’t cover?

The way it works is, if you are using Tuition Assistance and Top-Up, your service branch pays your whole tuition and then bills the VA for the amount TA doesn’t cover. The VA pays that amount to your service branch and, in turn, converts the dollar amount they paid into months and days of entitlement. Then they deduct that amount of time from your GI Bill.  It is a great way to extend your GI Bill benefits and it would have significantly reduced your student loan amount.

Now granted, if you were not eligible for your GI Bill at the time, then it would not have done you any good. I bring it up though, as many servicemembers are not aware of the Tuition Top-Up program and what it can do for them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My son was discharged from the Air Force because he failed out of Para Rescue. It was too physically demanding. Apparently, the Air Force is very full right now, so they are discharging rather than re-classing. He received a 2C – Involuntary separation with honorable. He was only in for 3 months 23 days and successfully completed basic training .

He is re-enlisting in the Army because none of the other branches will accept his discharge code. Also, the Army recruiter says he is now not qualified for the GI Bill. Is that correct? What can we do about it? Also, he started out as an E3 because of ROTC in high school. Does the Army have to honor that? They are trying to get away with giving him as little as possible.

A: The Recruiter is correct in saying that your son is now not qualified for the GI Bill, but he should have worded it differently, such as not qualified now or not qualified at this time, because your son never met the eligibility requirement for the GI Bill. You see training time does not count toward GI Bill eligibility and it sounds like the time your son served was all training time.

For the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), he would have had to sign up for it, make the $1,200 contribution ($100 per month for 12 months through payroll deduction) and serve on active duty for three years to get the MGIB benefit (36 months at $1,368 per month).

For the Post 9/11 GI Bill, he doesn’t have to pay anything for it, but to meet the minimum eligibility benefit (36 months at 40%) requires at least 90-days of active duty service; the full benefit (36 months at 100%) requires three years. All these eligibility time requirements start once he reaches his first permanent duty station.

As far as his E3 pay grade, no the Army does not have to bring him in at that grade. With his reenlistment code, they are probably wary and will most likely start him out at a lower grade.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the military enlisted from 1980 to 1983 and served 6 years IRR. Then I went back as an Army Officer from 1991-1997, got out under the early separation program. I was in the IRR until July 2001 when I terminated my commission. I also was married to a military retired E-8 for 23 years. He died in 2005 from lung cancer. I cared for him, worked during this time, and was unable to go to school. After he died, I also got very sick and was on strong medication, so I was unable to work and subsequently had two major surgeries; again physically unable to use my benefits.

Now I am somewhat better, still not working and considered permanently partially disabled. My final determination has not been made since I am still undergoing therapy. My Montgomery GI Bill benefits expired in 2007. Since I was unable to use my benefits because of these circumstances beyond my control, can I apply for some type of extension? I can get my Doctor to write a letter to verify these statements.

A: I doubt if you can get a Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) n extension for the time you were caring for your husband, but you should qualify for an extension when you were disabled. Here is what the VA says in situation such as yours: “Extensions of the 10-Year Eligibility Period – We can extend your 10-year period by the amount of time you were prevented from training during that period because of a disability or . . ..”

To request an extension, send the VA a letter requesting your extension based on the fact you experienced an illness or disability preventing you from attending school. You will also have to include the following information in your request:

  • type of disability or illness you’re claiming;
  • the exact beginning and ending dates (mm-dd-yyyy) of the period during which you couldn’t go to school or attend training because of your disability;
  • the reason(s) you were unable to begin or continue a training program;
  • the type of each job you held during the period of your disability;
  • the name and address of each employer, and the beginning and ending dates and the weekly hours of each job.

Also, it is very important for the doctor treating you to prepare a statement with the following information:

  • his or her diagnosis and treatment;
  • how long you’ve had the disability or illness;
  • the exact beginning and ending dates (mm-dd-yyyy) of the period during which your disability prevented you from training or going to school.

Also send them any other medical evidence you have, such as hospital reports or laboratory test results relating to your condition. In other words, make it hard for them to not extend your GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I have a question regarding the change of course load due to pregnancy. I am a full time student taking 3 classes each term. I am pregnant and I will be delivering my baby in November.

My intention is to enroll only in one or two classes next winter term in order to deliver and being able to take care for my newborn, and then resume as a full time student in January 2011.

I was wondering if the new GI Bill can cover the payment of my classes in a case like that, even if I was a part-time student for one-term. Unfortunately my school doesn’t offer any maternity leave, so either I withdraw or I enroll in only 1 or 2 classes. In case is not possible to change the course load to part-time for a trimester, what can I do to halt the payments for a temporary period of time, until I will go back to school full time in January? Thank you very much in advance.

A: My advice is to withdraw for the term during which you will have your baby and here is why. One of the rules of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is your rate of pursuit must be greater than half-time each term, if you want to get the housing allowance. Even if you take two classes, assuming each class is 3 credits, you’ll be at half-time, but not greater than half-time, so you wouldn’t get the housing allowance.

And here is the other reason – new babies are a lot of work. You will be amazed how much time, one baby requires for the first few months. I would hate to see you take a couple of classes, and then not have the time to devote to them and either get a bad grade or fail. I would suggest taking online classes for that term, but you won’t get the housing allowance either as it doesn’t apply to online-only students. Take the term off, enjoy the birthing experience and continue your schooling after the new year.

To halt your Post 9/11 GI Bill payments, just don’t enroll for the term you plan to take off. But, I would also contact the VA and let them know what you are doing.