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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am in the Air National Guard under the Montgomery GI Bill. My question is, if I attend my current university part-time and another university part-time at the same time equaling full-time status, will I receive my full benefits? If so, what do I need to do? Thank you.

A: You might indeed! How it works when attending two different schools is one school has to be designated as your degree-issuing school; this one is called your primary school. Your other school is your secondary school.

You have to discuss the classes you would like to take at your secondary school with your primary school. Once in agreement, your primary school sends your secondary school a letter informing them of the classes you will take from them. Once you have finished those classes, then your secondary school sends over a transcript of your credits and your primary school applies them to your degree plan.

Credits are cumulative meaning being you are taking credits from two schools, they are added together for a total. As long as your total credits add up to the minimum number of credits your primary school considers to be full-time, you would get the maximum amount.

Regardless of which GI Bill you use, the VA will only approve one degree plan at a time, so by doing it the way I’ve laid out above, you can get credits from both schools applied to one degree plan.

Keep in mind that if you take classes not on your degree plan, that would subtract from your total number of credits and you would most likely not be considered full-time, which means you would get a lesser amount monthly from your MGIB.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband retired from the Air Force in 1997 after 20 years; we’re a blended family. I have 3 children with my first husband and he has 3 children with his first wife, and we have one daughter together. We’ve been married 15 years, can my children use his GI Bill to help pay for college? If so, who do I contact? My daughter is going to school in Alabama and we live in Ohio. My other daughter is going to school in Ohio can she use his GI Bill to help pay for school.

A: To answer your first question, no your children can’t use your husband’s GI Bill. Why? Because back in 1997 when he got out of the military, he would have had the Montgomery GI Bill. That particular GI Bill did not (and still does not) have a transfer-to-dependents benefit option.

The only GI Bill having this option is the Post 9/11 GI Bill which he does not meet the requirements (serving on a Title 10 order for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001).

If your husband would have been eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, having served for at least 6 years or more after September 10, 2001, be currently serving and had at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of his transfer request, then he could have made a transfer of entitlement to your daughters if they were listed in DEERS as his dependents, meaning he would have had to legally adopt them first.

The other thing to know would have been how the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays tuition; it only pays up to the resident rate, meaning your daughter going to school in Ohio would have had her tuition at a public school paid in full, or up to $19,198.31 per year if she attended a private school.

Your other daughter going to school in Alabama would have had a tuition difference between what her school charged and what her GI Bill would have paid. If her school was a Yellow Ribbon School, then most, if not all, of the difference would have been paid.

But since your husband does not qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, let alone the transfer option, this is just useless information for you, but maybe someone else can get some value out of it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a veteran currently using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I was wondering how do I set up the monthly housing allowance? I got 100% coverage but I think I just don’t understand how it all works. Any information would be great.

A: If you have filled out all the information on your VA Form 22-1990, then the VA has everything they need from you to make a Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance payment. If you gave them Direct Deposit (DD) information, then that is where they are sending your monthly housing allowance via electronic file transfer and once per semester your book stipend.

If you left the DD fields blank, then they send your checks to the address on your form. Have you moved or changed bank accounts since you sent in your form? If so, that is most likely why you are not getting the money due to you; the VA doesn’t know your current account info or where you live.

This is most likely the case if the VA is paying your tuition, but you are not getting the other payments due to you. Update your account/address so you can start getting your housing allowance and book stipend money due to you.

If the VA is not paying your tuition, then there is another reason. Did you give a copy of your Certificate of Eligibility to your school when you registered so they know you are a GI Bill student? If so, then ask your school VA Certifying Official if s/he sent in a Certificate of Enrollment on your behalf after you enrolled. That form starts the payment process.

So it is either a bank account, address, Certificate of Eligibility or Certificate of Enrollment issue that is holding up your payments.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a child of a veteran and am attending college for free due to the GI Bill. My dad told me that I can go to college for free only in South Carolina. Is that true? Does the bill only pertain to children attending in-state (their own state) schooling? And also, should I be receiving a check as well?

A: What your Dad is telling you is somewhat true in that the Post 9/11 GI Bill only pays tuition at a public school up to the resident rate. So if you went to a school out-of-state, you might have to pay the difference between what your GI Bill pays and what your school charges in non-resident tuition.

I say “might” because if you are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program (100% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible and it sounds like you are if it’s paying your way now), and your school has a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA, your school could waive up to half of that tuition difference and the VA would pay an equal amount, leaving you left with nothing to pay. However, if you attend a non-Yellow Ribbon school, then you would have to pay the difference.

The GI Bill is a federal program, so it pays regardless of which state your school is in; just make sure your school is VA-approved.

Your last question raises a red-flag though. Yes, you should be receiving two payments: one each month you are in school in the form of a housing allowance and another one each semester as a book stipend.

Depending on the zip code of your school, you should be getting around $1,400 per month – that is the amount for schools in the Charleston zip code. Yours should be close to that amount.

The book stipend runs $41.67 per credit per semester. However there is a $1,000 annual cap, but it is enough for a couple of 12-credit semester per academic year.

The real question is where is this money going. The VA is either sending a check to the address on your VA Form 22-1990e or depositing it into the Direct Deposit account based on the information on the same form. Whose information is on your form?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired 2005 with Montgomery GI Bill and have not used any of my benefits. When I retired I was told I had 10 years to use my benefits. They are set to expire next August. Was there an extension to 15 years? Can I still convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and give to my daughter who is 33? Thank you!

A: There has not been a change to the Montgomery GI Bill delimitation date – it is still 10 years from your last date of discharge. However, the Post 9/11 GI Bill does have a 15-year delimitation date, which is where you probably heard about the extension to 15 years.

As far as converting to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and giving it to your daughter, the answers are yes and no. Yes you can convert from the Montgomery GI Bill to the New GI Bill, and being you do not have enough time left to use up your 36 months of entitlement before your delimitation date, I encourage you to do so. It would give you an additional 5 years to use your GI Bill.

But you can’t give it to your daughter for a couple or reasons:
- Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, you have to be currently serving at the time of your transfer request.
- She is over 23 years old and would not be an eligible recipient.

The only way you would be eligible to make a transfer request (providing she was age 23 or less) would be if you went back into the military, have served for at least six years after September 10, 2001 and agree to serve for an additional four years or have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request.

Your best bet now is to convert and get the additional time to use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. It would be a shame to just let them expire.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi Ron, my husband is active duty with 15 years of service. He is an officer in the USPHS, which offers the option to transfer GI Bill benefits to dependents. Our 23 year old daughter is our dependent and a full-time, unmarried college student. In the VA website, it states that dependents must be at least 18, but not yet 23 to be eligible for the transfer. However, elsewhere on the site, it says up to age 26. Can you please clarify if a dependent who has already turned 23 is eligible to begin receiving transferred benefits? Thanks!

A: The difference between the age requirements has to do with her being DEERS eligible. According to the rules, she can stay in DEERS as your dependent until age 23. The exact wording is “Children who are full-time students at an accredited institution of higher learning leading to an associate’s degree or higher, may remain DEERS eligible until age 23.”

So because she has already turned 23, she is no longer an eligible dependent in DEERS and therefore can’t be a recipient of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The age 26 has to do with using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that had been transferred to her before she turned 23. Once she turns 26, she is no longer able to use any remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that she still may have had.

I can see how it could be confusing because these two pieces of information are found in very different places. One age refers to eligibility to receive transferred benefits where the other age is the maximum age in which a person having transferred benefits can use them or lose any remaining unused benefits. The option to losing them of course is for the sponsor to revoke benefits before they are lost.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I am currently using the Post 9/11 for the spring and fall semesters, can I use the Hazelwood Act for summer classes if I wanted to save my post 9/11 for full semesters?

A: Most likely not. And why would you want to save your Post 9/11 GI Bill for “full semesters”? Usually schools divide up their summer semesters into 2 summer sessions each around two months long. They also reduce their full-time rate of pursuit to half of what a full semester is meaning if their full semester credit floor is 12, each summer session is 6 credits and still considered full-time.

Therefore, you could attend a summer session, get the same monthly housing allowance each month of the summer session as you would get during each month of full semesters and only use up only two months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement during the summer session.

When you apply for the Hazelwood Act, you also have to include a letter from the VA that states how much Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement you have left to use. If your Federal education benefits exceed what you have left under the Hazelwood Act, your application most likely would not be approved.

Therefore, the easiest and best bet is to use up all of your Post 9/11 GI Bill first and then switch over and start using your 150 hours of Hazelwood Act benefits. It will be a lot less painful doing it that way.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can my wife and I use the MGIB/Post 9/11 GI Bill at the same time? Or if I still have money left to my GI Bill after I finish my degree can she use it? Because I’m planning to study in a foreign school where the tuition fee is cheaper, what are the requirements to study in a foreign school? Can I only take the minimum units per semester? Is the VA going to pay for my tuition and BAH until I finish my degree? Thanks!

A: If you are not a dual member couple, then no. If she does not have her own GI Bill, there is no way you could still have both GI Bills. If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to relinquish your MGIB benefits, so there is nothing left to use. If you first use up your MGIB benefits and then switch, you would get an additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Once you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill and meet the service requirements for transfer, you could then make a transfer of benefits to her. It is possible that both of you could use the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the same time, but not the MGIB and Post 9/11 GI Bill, which is how I took your question to be worded.

An the beauty of it is that if you both go to school once you are out, both of you can get your tuition and fees paid, and receive two housing allowances and book stipends for as long as you are in school and still have unused remaining benefits left to use.

However if she does have her own Post 9/11 GI Bill and you the MGIB, then yes, you both could use your individual GI Bills at the same time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I know if I have the Post 9/11 GI Bill instead of MGIB? I’m still on active duty and my LES shows that I have the MGIB. I’m just a little bit confused because my SGT told me that I should have the Post 9/11 because I joined after Sept 11, 2001 but my LES shows that I have MGIB. Thanks!

A: Both your SGT and your LES could be correct. If you signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and paid in your $1,200 contribution fee (do you remember them deducting $100 per month for the first 12 months you were in?), then you have the MGIB. It can provide you with 36 months of education benefits after you get out at the current rate of $1,648. This amount changes each October.

You could also have the Post 9/11 GI Bill. As your SGT said, being you enlisted after September 11, 2001 you are eligible for this GI Bill. One of the differences between the New GI Bill and your MGIB is that this one is free just by you serving your country.

It pays differently in that there is not a fixed amount it pays each month. First, the VA would pay for your tuition and fees directly to your school. Second, you could get a book stipend once per semester that pays up to $41.67 per credit. There is however a $1,000 per year cap on this feature.

If you go to school once you are no longer serving, then you also could get the housing allowance which is based on the zip code of your school, the number of credits you take and your tier percentage. By serving for at least three years, you would be at the top – 100%.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently using my Montgomery GI Bill and benefits will end in January 2015. I’ll be about a month shy about a month shy of getting another 12 months of benefits totaling 48 months since I do have some Post 9/11 time. I am a Police Officer and was involved in a very bad on-duty injury and was out of work for about 6-7 months. I have documentation from my doctors and pictures that I submitted to the VA. They sent me a letter saying they will look into it and decide just before my time expires. Is this normal? Do they give extensions based on medical reasons like this?

A: Yes they do. The VA will generally consider Montgomery GI Bill extensions in three situations:
• Detained by a foreign power
• Recalled back to active duty
• Not being able to attend classes due to a disability, job relocation, or being a primary caregiver.

You would fit in that last category. If they do approve your extension, what normally happens is you’ll get an extension for the same amount of time that you were unable to attend classes. In your case, the 6 to 7 months.

An extension would give you enough time to use up your remaining MGIB benefits and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits as you referenced in your question.

Medical disabilities are difficult to document, but it sounds like in your case, you should have adequate documentation. Also don’t overlook lab reports. The more documentation you can provide the better.

If you do get denied, try to determine why they disapproved your extension, and provide the documentation that was missing. You can do that in letter format in the form of a Notice of Disagreement. Just explain why you are disagreeing with their decision and provide the additional documentation to support your request.