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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m in now,  but I’m at risk of being separated for my back. Am I still eligible if I’ve only been in two years?

A: Yes, provided your discharge is fully honorable and not something else. With two years of service, you would qualify for either the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11.

It sounds like you enlisted for more than two years. If so, with the Montgomery GI Bill, you would get one month of benefit for each month served, so 24 months of benefits paid at $1,111 per month, once you start school. You have to pay all of your own tuition, fees and education-related expenses.

If you choose the Post 9/11 GI Bill, all you need for the minimum benefit is 90 days of active duty. With 24 months of service, you would be at the 36-months-at-the-80% level. The VA would pay 80% of your tuition directly to your school; you would get 80% of both the housing allowance and book stipend.

If you end up getting out with a service-connected disability, that could possibly increase your GI Bill benefits to the full 36 months, at $1,368 per month, for the Montgomery GI Bill, or up to the 100% level of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: This is my second semester in school. I did receive payment for my first semester’s books, but not for my second semester. My first semester’s books were approximately $300. When I asked my school’s VA rep about the situation, he referred me to this web site. Can someone please tell my why I have not been paid for my books? Thanks.

A: I think your VA Representative wanted you to go to the VA’s website. Unfortunately, because we are not the VA, I can only speculate that it was an error on their part for not sending you your Post 9/11 GI Bill book stipend. If you just received your housing allowance, don’t be surprised if your book stipend payment lags behind, as they might not come together on the same day. If your first one had not come through, then I would say you were not eligible to receive the books stipend, but because it did, the second,  and subsequent GI Bill book stipends, should not have been a problem.

If it doesn’t come in a week, then contact the VA. There are several ways to do that. One is calling their Education number at 1-888-442-4551. Second, use their Ask-A-Question online feature. You should get an answer within 48 hours.

Third, call one of the VA Regional Centers. They have four of them, with each one responsible for certain states. Find the one serving your state and contact them. Fourth, call your State VA Office.

Sometimes the State and Regional Office can be more responsive as they are smaller and not so bureaucratic, so I would start with your state office and work your way up the chain.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am active duty military and am wondering if i can transfer my GI Bill benefits to my wife?

A: You can, contingent on a couple of things. First, you can only transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits, so if you have the Montgomery GI Bill, you will have to switch to the Post 9/11.

But before you do that, what are her education goals? The Post 9/11 GI Bill focuses on degree-producing programs. It won’t pay for trade, technical, license, certification or other non degree-producing courses, unless those courses are taught through an “institution of higher learning”, i.e. a college or university. While the Montgomery GI Bill will pay for these types of courses, it doesn’t have a transfer option.

Second, while you will attain the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit level with three years of active duty service, you can’t exercise your benefit transfer option until you have served for at least six years and agree to serve an additional four.

The last item to keep in mind is you have to make the transfer while you are still on active duty; after you are out, it is too late (at least for now). Once your wife has her GI Bill benefits, she has 15 years to use them. If she attends school while you are still active, she will not get either the housing allowance (because you are already getting BAH) or the book stipend, however, if she waits to start school after you are out, she will get both.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m interested in attending school in Canada. How can I find a list of schools that are approved by the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: You have to use the Weams Institution Search feature. Once at the VA’s GI Bill website, with your left mouse button, click on the Find A School icon. Then click on  Search for Approved Education and Job Training Programs. Once the page loads, click on Program Types. From the drop-down menu select the type of program you are looking for. Then click on the Country button. From the drop-down menu, click on Canada. Then click on the Submit button. If you selected Institutions of Higher Learning, once your results loads, you will see there are about 157 VA-Approved Canadian schools.

If the school you want to attend is not listed, then contact your school and have them apply for foreign school approval. Once approved, you can then apply for your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and use them at your Canadian school.

Keep in mind that the VA’s maximum tuition cost for foreign schools is $408 per credit hour with the housing allowance fixed at $1,333 per month. Plus you would also get up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Our son joined the Army and left for BCT at Ft. Jackson on September 1, 2009. He completed BCT and the AIT courses but was not able to pass the PT Test to graduate from AIT due to a stress fracture. He was chaptered out and discharged on April 29, 2010. While in the Army there was a deduction out of his pay for the Post 9/11 Education money. Is he entitled to receive what was withheld from his paychecks? If so, what does he need to do to have this sum sent to him? He intends to re-enlist as soon as possible and he does want to go to school but intends to take some on-line classes while in and then possibly go to school after he gets out. Thank you.

A: If your son agreed to the $100 per month GI Bill contribution, it was for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and not the Post 9/11 GI Bill, as the Post 9/11 doesn’t have a contribution requirement. As far as your son getting any of his contribution money back, no. The only way to get any of the contribution back is to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and use up all of the education benefits. Then with the last housing allowance check, a proportional amount will be refunded. But if he doesn’t finish paying the whole $1,200, I doubt if he would get anything back.

Right now, you son does not have any GI Bill eligibility due to the fact that training time doesn’t count toward eligibility, however once he goes back in and graduates from IADT, his eligibility will start.

While on active duty, if your son wants to go to school, he should use Tuition Assistance. It doesn’t cost him anything as long as he stays at or below the $250 per credit hour tuition rate. There is a yearly cap of $4,500, but at $250 per credit, he could take 18 credits per year of college at basically no cost to himself.

Depending on what your son wants to do with his education, it may be more financially beneficial for him to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The Post 9/11 GI Bill focuses on paying for degree-producing courses, but generally won’t pay for non-degree training programs, such as trade, technical, license or certification courses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a reservist, so I would like to know if military school days (technical school, annual training, etc.) count towards your active duty days for the new GI Bill. Also, would it be more beneficial for a reservist like me to stick with the old GI Bill due to the fact that I would only receive approximately 50% of the new one? Thank you for your time and service!

A: As far as your first question, training and AT days don’t count toward your eligibility for the GI Bill. A good way to think about it is generally only Title 10 type of duty counts. The type of duty is on every order.

Your second question is a tough one to answer due the number of variables, so here goes.

First, keep in mind that it may not be necessarily about the money, in-as-much as the type of training you plan to take. The Post 9/11 GI Bill will not pay for technical, trade, license, certification, or other non-degree producing programs. If this is the type of training you plan to take, then stick with the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).

However, if you do plan on taking a degree-producing course, then money can enter into it as far as which GI Bill pays more. Right now, if you use the MGIB, the VA will pay you up to $1,368 per month to go to school and you have to pay all your education-related expenses.

If you take that same training under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your school 50% of the tuition and fees, and you get 50% of both the housing allowance and book stipend. Because each state has a different rate, I can’t tell you what the VA will pay, but you can go to the VA’s tuition page and look up the rate for the state where your school is located.

The same applies to the housing allowance, as it is driven by the zip code of your school. Using the BAH calculator, enter the zip code of your school in the Duty Zip Code field and choose E-5 from the Drop-down Menu under Pay Grade. You would get 50% of the E-5 with dependents amount.  For the book stipend, you would max out at $500 per year (50% of the $1,000 cap).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m the local rep for the Border Patrol OJT program. I can’t find any OJT info on your new site. Where did it go? The person I just talked to said the best way an agent can get an answer is to use the ask a question section. But that’s not you, right? I would really like more info about the OJT program so I can answer questions better.

A: No, that is not us, but I can answer your question. The website the person you talked to was referring to the VA’s Submit a Question Website. I went to that website and there one post referring to the OJT program as far as how entitlements are charged for those in the program. Also, the pay structure is different for OJT students.  The VA shows a student gets a GI Bill monthly pay of:

  • $1,026 for the first six months of training;
  • $752.40 for the second six months;
  • $478.80 for the remaining months of the program.

As far as where the OJT information went, when the VA re-arranged everything, it ended up being listed as a pamphlet under Education Resources – the third one down from the top. Here is another OJT fact sheet that talks about the:

  • Program;
  • Wages;
  • and the training facility.

For a veteran that likes working with his/her hands, an apprenticeship/OJT program, paid for by the Montgomery GI Bill, can lead to a great career.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was discharged back in 1999 with a general discharge under honorable conditions. I was told that I lost my GI Bill benefits when I was discharged. Can you tell me if that is so. And if not, how can I receive my benefits?

A:  What you were told is correct. Anything other than a fully honorable discharge and you can’t use your GI Bill. If you feel an injustice was done, you can appeal your discharge to the Board of Corrections.

Your discharge is less than 15 years old, which is one of the main requirements. You can start the process by submitting DD Form 0293, Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces of the United States, to your branch of service corrections board. Each branch is listed below:

Expect the process to take at least six months or more. If you are successful in getting your discharge changed to honorable, then you can apply for your GI Bill benefits.

Submit VA Form 22-1990 and a copy of the Board results, either by using the VA’s VONAPP Website or by downloading the form and sending it in using the instructions on the form.

The delimiting date on the Montgomery GI Bill is 10 years, so if you would have been able to use your benefits, they would have expired in 2009. However, if you get your discharge changed to honorable, the VA should give you enough time to use your benefits – it should be ten years, since you never had an opportunity to use them in the first place.

Once your application is approved, you get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need to enroll in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 3 months and 19 days of the old GI bill available to me, however my semester is 5 months long. Will I be able to switch over fairly easily to the new GI Bill or will the semester finish out on the old one and start a new one on the new GI Bill?

A: Yes, it will be very easy for you to switch from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. First let your MGIB benefits of 3 months and 19 days run its course.  Then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill by submitting VA Form 22-1990, either online through VONAPP or download the form and send it in according to the instructions on the form.

You should then get an additional 12 months of education benefit. The change should be fairly seamless.

How your semester will work is the VA will “loan” you the months and days you need to finish out your semester. Then they will reduce your 12 months of additional benefit by the amount they loaned you, so you will actually end up with less than 12 months left at the end of the semester.

When you start your new semester, you will notice some changes. The VA will pay your tuition and fees up to the prescribed maximum amount for your school’s state. You will get a housing allowance paid at the E-5-with-dependents rate for the zip code of your school.  You will also get up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently taking a class that is a year-long and it extends over the summer. The payment for the class was made on a previous semester. Since I am taking a class over the summer, do I still get my housing allowance during the summer, or do I have to wait for the fall? Any information would be helpful, having that money dropped over the summer will changes plans for the fall, thank-you for your time.

A: To qualify for a Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance in general, a couple of things have to happen. One, your rate of pursuit has to be greater than half-time. Two, if you are taking your classes online, you have to attend at least one on-campus class. If you are doing both of these things, your housing allowance should continue.

Also, there is the topic of break pay. You didn’t say if you had a break between the Spring and Summer semester or the Summer and Fall semester, however I suspect you do. If you do, typically, if the break is shorter than the term before or after it, or the break is less than 56 days, your housing allowance should continue, which in your case, that sounds like the case. Based on these VA “rules”, your housing allowance should keep coming.