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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How long must you be in the Army before you can use your GI Bill? If you are chaptered from the Army because of No Family Care plan, are you still eligible for the GI Bill?

A: It depends on if you are talking about the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill. With the Montgomery GI Bill, you are eligible to start using it after two years of active duty service. With less than three years of service you would get 24 months paid at $1,111 when you decide to start school. With three years or more of active duty, the amount raises to $1,368 per month for 36 months.

With the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you become eligible for the minimum 40% benefit with as little as 90 days of active duty. To receive the full benefit (100%) requires at least three years of active duty. The VA pays your tuition and eligible fees up to your percentage of the established maximum amount for the state where your school is located. You get that same percentage of the monthly housing allowance, calculated on the zip code of your school at the E-5-with-dependents rate. You would also get your same percentage of the $1,000 per year book stipend.

As far as being chaptered out, it depends on how they characterize your discharge. If it is any less than fully honorable, you will not get to use your GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was wondering how I go about switching from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill? Do I just tell the VA when I enroll?

A: Yes, you are telling them just that when you submit your GI Bill application, VA Form 22-1990 and check block 9F in Part II. You can apply either online, using the VONAPP Website, or download the form, fill it out and send it in using the instructions written on the form. When your application is approved, you will get a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need to bring with you when you enroll in school.

But before you switch, did you know you can get an additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, if you first exhaust your Montgomery GI Bill benefits and then switch? Many veterans are not aware of this fact. Under the Rule of 48, if you are eligible for two GI Bills, your combined maximum benefit cannot exceed 48 months.

Also, know what your education goals are before switching to the Post 9//11 GI Bill, because the Post 9/11 generally doesn’t cover non-degree programs, such as trade, technical, licenses or certifications, unless they are taught at or through a degree-producing school.

It pays to do your homework first before switching, because the switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is irrevocable.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi there. I have contacted someone a while ago at the VA about my GI Bill. He stated he could not find anything about my benefits. This concerns me of course because I have paid into it. I am going to get ready to deploy for a year, and am trying to see about transferring it to my wife so she can go to college while I am away, but like I said, the guy before said he could not find anything. I need to know who I need to get a hold of and how so I can get all this straightened out please.

A: We have a couple of different issues to discuss. First, if you paid into the GI Bill, then you have the Montgomery GI Bill which does not have a transfer option. So that GI Bill won’t do your wife any good. However, if you want to prove you paid into the MGIB, send to the VA copies of your LESs showing the $100 per month payroll deduction, however, if you don’t plan on using the MGIB yourself, it is a mute point to prove you paid into it.

If you have six years of active duty after September 10, 2001, and sign up for an additional four years, you would qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which does have a benefit transfer option and doesn’t require a monetary contribution. You could transfer up to 36 months of benefits to your wife before you deploy. Then you wouldn’t even need to worry about the MGIB.

The only way the MGIB would even come into play is if you used all of your MGIB months of benefit and qualified for the Post 9/11 GI bill. Then you could get up to another 12 months of benefits. After using up those 12 months, you would get a portion of your $1,200 back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I left active duty in 1999 and have remained a selected reservist to the present. I used 24 months of MGIB benefits 1999-2001. My remaining 12 months of the MGIB are expired right? But do I have 12 or 24 months of reserve GI bill benefits available? I am scheduled to start an executive MBA program July 8th and have applied via VONAPP but not heard anything yet. Thank you.

A: The way I read the regulation under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two GI Bills, you get a maximum combined benefit of 48 months. You had the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB-AD) and now you have the MGIB-SR, so you have two GI Bills. That should entitle you to the 48 months. You used 34 months of your MGIB-AD and your remaining 12 months expired in 2009 – 10 years from your date of discharge. So, I’m thinking you only have 12 months left of MGIB-SR benefits left, which won’t pay you much – right now it is $333 per month.

Do you have any additional active duty Title 10 time for the time you have been in the Reserves? If so, you may have enough time to qualify for the minimum benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It wouldn’t give you any additional months of benefits, but it would pay a lot more.

At least a portion of your tuition and fees would be paid by the VA directly to your school. You would get a portion of the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

It is rare today that Reservists and National Guardsman don’t have at least one or two deployments that would count toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My daughter was recently turned down for the Post-9/11 GI Bill because she isn’t 18 and doesn’t have a secondary school diploma yet. She will graduate at 17 years of age in June 2010 and is accepted to start college in August/Sep 2010. When can or should she reapply? I am concerned that if we must wait until the end of June, the VA will not process the tuition paperwork and start tuition payments for the fall 2010 term. Your thoughts?

A: Because she will still be 17 when she graduates, she should apply as soon as she has her diploma. There are two important blocks on VA Form 22-1990e Post-9/11 GI Bill application that determines whether or not a dependent with transferred benefits gets approved or not:

  • Block 3 – Applicant’s Date of Birth
  • Block 8b – Diploma, Yes or No

If her date of birth calculates out to she is 18, she should get approved. If she is not 18, but checks the “Yes” box in Block 8b, she may get approved, but because she didn’t meet either requirement, she was disapproved.

The VA is down to about 8 weeks for processing GI Bill applications, so if she sends in her application now (do it through the VONAPP Website as it is faster), she should get approval and her Post-9/11 GI Bill Certificate of Eligibility before her school starts in late August or in September.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I signed up Montgomery GI Bill at MEPS before I left for boot camp, and they got $100 every month away directly from my pay check. I was honorably discharged from regular Army a month ago. I know that I am not eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill as I only served 8 months, but can I switch my MGIB to Post 9/11 GI Bill? And how?

A: Because you don’t qualify for the MGIB, there isn’t anything to switch from, however, it sounds like you may qualify at least for the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. It really will depend on if you have the required 90-days of active duty after you got out of IADT (Basic and AIT). Training time does not count toward GI Bill eligibility.

If you meet minimum eligibility, then you would be at the 40% level, meaning the VA would pay up to 40% of the maximum tuition and fees amount established for the state where your school is located. You would get 40% of both the housing allowance and book stipend.

To see if you qualify, submit VA Form 22-1990 either online through the VONAPP website or download the form, fill it out, attached the supporting documentation and mail it to the address on the form. If you qualify, you will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when you enroll in school. If you don’t qualify, you will get back a disapproved status and then you will know for sure you did not have the required time to meet the minimum eligibility criteria.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My daughter is a survivor of a deceased active duty Army veteran. She has been approved to use DEA benefits for college. She wants to go to an out of state school. Can she use these benefits at any college or university?

A: I’m going to say yes, but with a qualifier. The school has to be on the VA-approved schools list. This is for both the VA’s and your daughter’s protection; schools on the list are guaranteed to be accredited.

The VA knows their money went to a valid source and your daughter received a degree worth something. Because the DEA is a federal program, she can use it anywhere in the United States and even at VA-approved foreign schools.

Under the DEA program, she gets 45 months of education benefit that she must use up by age 26 or lose. Right now, she can get $925 per month (2009 rate) to go to school full-time. That amount is adjusted every year on October 1st,so it will most likely change in the fall.

Have your daughter take her Certificate of Eligibility with her when she registers for school. Once registered, her school will send in VA Form 22-1999 Certificate of Enrollment to get her DEA benefits started.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have VA approval to transfer my Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to my daughter. Somewhere, I noted that the VA has a max benefit rate of around $4,000 per year/term? We live in New York and the VA Web site seems to indicate she can get $1,010 per credit hour or $12,697 per term. I see this as meaning a full-time student can get $30,300 per year for 30 credit hours or $25,394 for the 2 terms. Is this correct? Not counting the BHA and book stipends which are separate.

A: Actually it is, but keep in mind these are Post-9/11 GI Bill maximums for New York–some schools may charge less than the $1,010 per credit hour amount and then, the VA only pays the actual amount charged. But at $1,010 per credit hour, and taking 12 credits per term, that is $12,120 per term the VA pays directly to the school.

As far as the $12,697, that too is a maximum amount per term for eligible fees. In reality, your daughter’s fees should be much less. The maximum fees amount takes into consideration expensive courses, such as flight school, nursing and engineering, all of which are more expensive. Less expensive courses come in well below the limit.

As you noted, your daughter also receives a Post-9/11 GI Bill housing allowance paid at the E-5-with-dependents rate, which can run as high as $2,800 per month in New York City, and a book stipend up to $1,000 per year. So all in all, your years of service, after September 10, 2001, are paying off rather well for your daughter’s education.


Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How much will the Army or military programs pay for my wife to go to college?

A: It really depends on which programs we talk about. If you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the transfer option, you can transfer your remaining education benefits to her. To qualify, you must:

  • served at least six years on active duty, with at least the last three years after September 10, 2001;
  • agree to serve an additional four years;
  • still be on active duty.

If you are close to retirement, the additional required time may be less.

Once the transfer is approved, and your wife has her Post 9/11 GI Bill Certificate of Eligibility, she can go to school. The VA will pay her tuition and eligible fees directly to her school, up to the in-state maximum for the state where her school is located.

If you are discharged at the time she is in school, she will get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend. Those two items can run as high as $25,000 per academic year. If you are still on active duty when she goes to school, then she won’t get either, because you are getting paid BAH.

Another good program, although it is currently on hold to new students due to an operational review, is the MyCAA program. This program pays a military spouse up to $6,000 to go to school in one of the portable career fields of:

  • teacher
  • nurse
  • medical biller
  • medical coder
  • accountant
  • graphic designer
  • writer/editor
  • photographer
  • Web developer
  • small or home business owner.

Because the MyCAA program is not taking new students now, they have a list of alternate funding resourcesfor military spouses. The list includes financial aid in the form of various scholarships and grants.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I sign up for the GI Bill now, if I didn’t when I first enlisted?

A: It depends on which GI Bill you are referring to. If, it is the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you are not eligible. You had to sign up for the MGIB when you first enlisted and made the $1,200 contribution, via payroll deduction during that first year. However, if it is the Post-9/11 GI Bill you are talking about, then you are eligible as long as you have the qualifying period of service.

To meet the minimum eligibility, you need at least 90-days of active duty, after September 10, 2001. Full eligibility requires at least three years of service after the same date. Thirty days or more of service, with a service-connected disability, also establishes eligibility.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill has a 36-month tiered-payment system. With minimum eligibility, you are at the 40% tier, while maximum eligibility gets you to the 100% level. The VA pays your tuition and fees directly to your school based on your percentage level. You, in turn, get a monthly housing allowance and books stipend calculated at your tier percentage.