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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I left the military early, because I was pregnant. So, I will only receive a portion of my benefits. I do have a bachelor’s degree that I obtained with financial aid. I tried to get financial aid for an associate’s program and was told that I am not eligible, because I have a bachelor’s degree.

I am relying on my Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for my tuition. The problem is that I am not sure how this is done. I have read over it about 100 times, and it isn’t clicking. My tuition is $784 per semester where I am going.

The max for the state with my percentage that I should receive is $7500. So, does that mean they will pay it all or will they pay the percentage of the school’s tuition? And do they pay that specific amount or do they refund the over amount like financial aid does?

My little brother received around $2000 a month for school under the Montgomery GI Bill, so I am confused about all this too… Can you clarify these things for me? I consider myself pretty smart, but this whole thing is confusing me.

A: Yes, Anne, it is confusing, but let me try to clarify it for you. How the Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition works is the VA established a maximum tuition amount they would pay for each state and territory. That amount was based on each state’s most expensive public school undergraduate program. They have a separate maximum amount for eligible fees that varies also.

The maximum amount is based on per credit hour and full-time course load, which at most schools is considered 12 credits per term (quarter, semester, etc.) So lets say the VA’s maximum amount for XYZ state was $350. If you were at the 100% level, they would pay up to this amount per credit up to 12 credits per semester ($350 x 12 = $4,200). However, if your school is charging less than the maximum, the VA pays the lesser amount.

If you were at a lesser percentage than 100%, let’s say 50%, then they would only pay 50% of the $350 times 12 credits (4200 x 50% = $2,100).

When you say your tuition is $784, I’m assuming that figure is per credit. If so, multiply $784 by the number of credits you are taking. Now multiply that figure by your percentage. That is the amount the VA will pay directly to your school. The difference between what the school charges and what the VA pays is your responsibility to pay. There is no refund involved.

However, if you are not taking just online courses and you are taking at least 7 credits per term, you would also get a housing allowance and a book stipend calculated at your percentage. The housing allowance is calculated at a pay grade of E-5 with dependents for the zip code of your school. The book stipend is calculated at $41.67 per credit with a $1,000 per year maximum. Your book stipend would be your percentage times $1,000.

You can use the BAH calculator to figure the full housing allowance and then multiply the E-5 with dependents figure by your percentage. Once at the calculator, type in the zip code of your school in the Duty Zip Code field. From the Pay Grade field select E-5 from the Drop-down Menu. Click on Submit. When you get the results, use the E-5 with dependents figure as the full housing allowance figure.

If your brother was getting around $2,000 per month from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then he was most likely getting the full MGIB benefit of $1,368 per month and then he either had the Buy-Up or a kicker which added money to his monthly amount getting him to around $2,000. With your brother using the MGIB, he had to pay his own tuition, fees and related education expenses. With the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school and you get paid monthly for the housing allowance and book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an Army wife, I’m wondering if my husband can still use the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit when he transfer it to me? Is there an option to transfer all or just some of the benefits? How many months of assistance can we receive and is it for the two of us or for each of us? I wanted to take a six-month course online. Can I use the new GI Bill for that?

A: First, check with the VA to see if they will pay for you to take the course you want.  Being it is six-months, I doubt if you are getting a degree from it and the Post 9/11 GI Bill generally does not pay for non-degree programs (unless they are taught through a degree-producing school). Is that confusing enough? If not, I’ll try again!

If the VA will pay for your course, then once your husband is at the Transfer Eligibility of Benefits (TEB) website, he has the option to transfer as many, or all, of his 36 months of GI Bill benefits. If he transfer all of them, then he has none for himself to use.  If he transfers enough for you to take your course, he always has the option to go back in and give you more, so it is not a one-time thing.

Keep in mind, he has to make the transfer while he is still serving; once he is out, it is too late. But, if you go to school while he is serving, you will get only your tuition paid, and you won’t get housing allowance (because you are getting BAH) or book stipend. You wouldn’t get it anyway as online-only student do not qualify for the allowance.

If you both wait to go school after he is out, you will both get your tuition paid for. If you are both attending online, each take one class per term, applying to each of your degrees and you will both get the housing allowance and book stipend. Of course, if you  are taking resident courses, then you would both get the housing allowance and book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My wife is trying to go to nursing school in Vista CA. I have been in for six years and have 2 more left until I can reup. Can she use my GI Bill? How do we go about her getting it.

A: You are in somewhat of a Catch-22 right now, however, you may have an option. You have the six years in, but you need to extend for four more years before you are allowed to transfer any of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your wife. However, you can’t extend for two more years. At this point the only thing you can do is extend at the earliest time you become eligible. The Army does have some reenlistment options open and they frequently change without notice, so you may want to watch this page to see if you qualify for something that would let you extend early.

Once you extend for the four years you need, then go to the TEB website and transfer the number of months of GI Bill education benefit to your wife. Keep coming back to see when the status changes from Pending to Approved and the approval date.

Once that happens, your wife can go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, she will get a Certificate of Eligibility, which she will need when she enrolls in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If a student had been taking classes at a half time-plus rate (7 credits) and at some point of his academic career, was coming up on a semester whereby he only had 3.5 months worth of benefits left to tackle a 5-month semester, how would the benefits be distributed? Would the BAH just run out or would all benefits somehow become exhausted halfway through (even though the tuition has already been paid for via the G.I. Bill)? Thank you again for your time and knowledge. Your work is greatly appreciated.

A: If you exhaust your benefits mid-way through a semester, the VA’s policy is to run you though the end of that semester, so your housing allowance should be for the whole semester.  If you were using the Montgomery GI Bill, and qualified for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA would “loan” you the time you needed, in months and days, to finish that term and then they would deduct that same amount from your Post 9/11 GI Bill additional months. Being you are already using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, consider it a “gift”.

There is one instance when the VA will quit paying mid-term – if you hit your delimiting date. By law they can not extend you past that date. Even if you have benefits left when you hit your 15-year mark, they quit paying and you lose any remaining unused benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am looking to study abroad in England during the spring of 2011. I am currently signed up for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill under my current university. My question is, can I study abroad using my benefits? If so, how do I ensure I receive my benefits for the program? Thank you for your help.

A: Yes, you can use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to study at a school in England.  The first step, however, is ensuring  your school has foreign-school approval by the VA. To check if your school is approved, use the VA’s school locator and click on the Country button.  From the drop-down menu click on England, then click on the Submit button.

If your school is not listed, then they will have to apply for VA approval before you will be able to use your GI Bill at that school. Also, here is a fact sheet for you to read.

Post 9/11 GI Bill payment rates are handled differently for students attending foreign schools. The VA will pay, directly to your school, up to $408.09 per credit hour and $10,502.97 in eligible fees per term.  Twelve credits per term is considered full-time. You will get a fixed amount of $1,333 per month in a housing allowance, plus up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend.

To change your benefits from one school to another, resubmit VA Form 22-1990e with you new school information.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is it possible for me to qualify for the new GI Bill, even if I made the mistake of not buying into the original GI bill in basic training?

A: Yes, most definitely, and you don’t have to make the $1,200 contribution as you would have with the Montgomery (MGIB) GI Bill. To get the full Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit, at the 100% level, you needed to serve at least three years on active duty, after September 10, 2001. The minimum benefit of 40% only requires 90 days of service after the same date.  Active duty service times between 90 days and three years fall into various percentage groups in between 40% and 100%.

Whether you are at the minimum of 40%, the maximum of 100%, or somewhere in between, you will still get 36 months of education benefit. The difference is the percentage of what the VA pays your school for tuition and what they pay you for a housing allowance and book stipend.

If you are interested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer benefit, then you will have to serve at least six years and agree to serve an additional four years. Then you can transfer any amount of unused education benefits to your spouse or dependent children.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was awarded the 12-month extension using the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Now I’m applying for a certification program that takes 11 months, but I only have 3 months of benefits remaining on the Post 9/11 program.

I was approved for the program by the VA, I received a letter in the mail stating so. My question is will I receive benefits for the entire 11 months for the certification program, even though I only have 3 months of benefits remaining? I was told by a VA rep once that the GI Bill will continue to pay benefits up until your graduation date. Is this statement true or accurate?

A: No, that statement is neither true or accurate. If your benefits run out in the middle of a term, they will keep paying you up to the end of that term. Then you have exhausted your benefits and they will stop paying.

If you had been going under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), and were eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it is handled somewhat differently. Then, if you exhaust your MGIB mid-term, the VA will “loan” you the number of months and days you need to finish the term, and then deduct this amount from the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. But because you already switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your benefits will just end at the end of the term.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am very confused on a lot of this education stuff, but here it goes. If possible please be patient and explain very thoroughly, PLEASE. I am a retired Navy Veteran. I retired on August 1st 2004. I have a daughter who is 25 years old, who has been going to a Grossmont Community College. She has been paying for this by herself and working full time. She has recently applied and has been excepted to San Diego State University (SDSU). I would like to know, and if possible explained to me in fairly good detail, if I am eligible for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. If I am, then may I transfer it to my daughter and if I can transfer it to her, will she be able to use it at SDSU. Also, are there any other choices I have being a retired Navy Vet. in helping her with college education.

A: One of two things will happen when I’m done. Either you will be more confused or you’ll know alittle more about this stuff than you did.

To be eligible for minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits (40%), you need 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001. With your discharge in August 2004, you’re short a little over a month of being eligible for the full (100%) benefit which requires three years of active duty service after the same date.

To transfer benefits to your daughter, you would have to be at the 100% level, however, even if you were eligible to transfer benefits, you would had to make the transfer while you were still on active duty.  For at least right now, you can’t transfer benefits once you are discharged.

If you would have been eligible to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your daughter, yes she would have been able to use them at SDSU as it is a VA-approved school.

As far as other sources of financial aid for college, don’t overlook the service organizations, such as the American Legion and VFW. Most of these organizations have their own scholarship programs. Also check into the college itself; many either have a scholarship, work/study program or both to help students with expenses. Finally you can always apply for a Pell Grant or Stafford Loan.

The point to keep in mind is that thousands of college students go to school each year and most don’t have the GI Bill, so there are ways to fund education (and yes, it might come down to taking out student loans). The point is if there is a will, there is a way. A college education will pay for itself many times over during the course of a career, so it is worth every penny spent.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired on 1 Feb 09. I completed my BSBA, but I want to teach. In order to do that, I need a Teaching License from an approved university. I’m working with TTT and have an approved university that the state of Colorado excepts. Looks like the total cost will be $4,355 over the 9-month program. Question is … while I’m going for a Teaching License (on-line with University of Western Florida), am I eligible for my monthly full-rate GI Bill benefits, and if so, what would that be? Thanks!

A: I have a couple of concerns. First, with you completing your degree, do you have 9-months of GI Bill benefits left? Assuming you do, then my answer is it depends on which GI Bill you are referring to.  With the Montgomery GI Bill, you would get $1,368 per month and you have to pay all your own expenses, including tuition, fees and other education-related expenses.

If you are talking about the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it usually doesn’t pay for licenses or certifications, but there are some exceptions. If you could get the Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for your tuition, you wouldn’t get the monthly housing allowance, because you are taking only online classes. The way around that is to take at least one class per term at a campus near you. Just make sure your resident class counts toward your teaching certificate.

My other concern is the University of Western Florida is not listed as a VA-approved school. Now while that is not the end of the world, because they could become VA-approved, it begs asking the question are they a nationally recognized accredited school? With all the scams currently out there, be sure to check out their accreditation. If they are hesitant about producing evidence, find another school.

I did find a University of Phoenix – Western Florida Campus listing. Is that it? If so, they are a good school and VA-approved.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I transferred my benefits to my kids, age 1 yr and 3 yrs. I signed a service commitment for 4 years when I transferred the benefits. I revoked the benefits transfer, but I am told I still have a commitment. How can this be? I have not used any benefits at all. I can’t believe this is what the Bill intended?

A: When you exercised your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit transfer option, by transferring benefits to your two dependent children, you had to already have served at least six years and agree to sign up for an additional four years. Nowhere does it say if you didn’t use and revoke the transferred benefits that you would be relieved of your commitment. That commitment is a contract executed in good faith by both parties.

The government upheld their part of the contract by letting you transfer benefits. Frankly, I don’t understand why you would make a transfer to a 1and 3 year old and then revoke it.

With dependents that age, most servicemembers will make a minimum transfer of a month or two per child while they are still active. Then once discharged, they can make a transfer of more months to each child already having a benefit of at least one month.  The point of doing that – you can’t make any GI Bill transfers to individuals not already having benefits after you are out.

It doesn’t sound like you thought this through very well before doing it and now you are stuck with another four years.