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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is a veteran and I am interested in going back to school to get my LPN and use the DEA (chapter 35) assistance program. I have not been able to find any specific information on this program. I know it can pay up to $925.00 a month, but I’m not sure what it covers, etc. Do you have any information to explain the program a little better? Also, what are some other options I might have to help pay for additional expenses? Thank you very much for you time.

A: I don’t know how much you know about the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program (DEA), so I noted the eligibility requirements. As a spouse of a veteran, your sponsor must be:

  • a veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability;
  • a veteran who died from any cause while such service-connected disability was in existence;
  • a service member missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force;
  • a service member forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.

I couldn’t tell from your question is your husband is deceased or disabled. If he is not, then you most likely do not qualify for the DEA program.

If you do qualify, though, you can get up to 45 months of education benefit that you can use for:

  • degree programs;
  • certificate and licensing programs;
  • apprenticeship/on-the-job training;
  • correspondence courses.

If you think you might qualify, apply online or download VA Form 22-5490, fill it out and submit it according to the instructions on the form.

If approved for the DEA program, you have 10 years from either your approval date, or from the date of your husband’s death, to use your benefit.  You are correct in saying you can get up to $925 per month to go to school.  Out of that amount, you have to pay all of your own education expenses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I want to go to an overseas school in Hong Kong, China at the University Hong Kong for a B.A. specialized degree. Will the Post 9/11 GI Bill cover this degree, if its still a 4-year degree? Also is the overseas BAH for Hong Kong still offered too for E-5?

A: From the standpoint that you are going to take a degree-producing course, yes the Post 9/11 GI Bill will cover that.  Usually the difficult part with a foreign school is getting them approved by the VA, however, in checking the list of VA-approved schools, the University of Hong Kong is already approved. Their tuition rate is listed as $408.09 per credit hour with a total fees per term amount (which includes tuition) of $10,502.97. Your VA Rep there is Vivian Chow.

For tuition, the VA will pay the average amount from all the VA-approved public schools here in the United States. That may or may not cover all of your tuition.  I took the liberty to average the listed maximum tuition amounts all the states and territories and it came out exactly at $408.09. If looks like they have that figured out!

As far as your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance (BAH), students attending foreign schools get a fixed amount of $1,333 per month (2009 rate). That amount usually changes annually, so watch for a change. You will also get paid up to $1,000 per year in a book and supplies stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been out of the Army almost 7 months and it has been hard trying to keep a steady job. Is it too late to apply for my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and how do I go about doing that?

A: No, it is not too late to apply for your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.  You can either apply online or download the form, fill it out and snail mail it in according to the instructions on the form.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is different from other GI Bills in that the VA pays your school directly for your tuition and eligible fees up to the in-state public school, undergraduate program maximum for that state. Monthly, you get a housing allowance paid at the E-5-with-dependents rate for the zip code of your school. You also get paid up to $1,000 per year in a books and supplies stipend.

By qualifying for the Post 9/11 GI bill, you get 36 months of education benefits that you have to use within 15 years of your discharge.  Any unused education benefits after that time are lost.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was wondering about the VA essentially submitting payments to schools late. If I was to enroll, and by the first day of school the VA has not paid the school, will I still be able to attend? Essentially what would happen and would I be held responsible for anything? Thanks.

A: Ultimately, you are responsible for what the VA does not pay. As far as what would happen, well that varies from school to school.

Most schools would let you attend, if they know you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If they have experience with the VA, they know about when to expect their money and how to communicate with the VA if it is late. However, you may run into a few schools where they will make you pay your tuition and fees up-front and then they will re-imburse you back once they receive their payment from the VA.

It really depends on how military-friendly your school is and how much experience they have had with the VA (and if that experience was good or bad). But in the end, it is your responsibility.

As part of your Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits, you will get paid a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 per year book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When my dad transfers his benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to me, will the GI Bill pay for my housing? I live in California and plan on going to college in Nevada. Will housing still be available for me to use? How long does it take to get approved for BAH?

A: If you are going to school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you will get a housing allowance, unless you are:

  • taking less than 7 credits per term;
  • taking only online classes.

The housing allowance is paid at the E-5-with-dependents rate for the zip code of your school. Because your housing allowance is based on your school’s zip code, where you live, verses where you go to school, really doesn’t matter.

If you know the zip code of your school, you can calculate how much you will receive.  In the Duty Zip Code field enter the zip code of your school.  From the Pay Grade drop-down menu, select E-5. Click on the Submit button.

What will make a difference where you live verses where you go to school is on your tuition; you may get charged out-state tuition, unless California and Nevada have reciprocity agreements. If you are charged out-state tuition, then the VA will only pay up to the in-state maximum public school, undergraduate program maximum amount set for Nevada. You will have to pay the difference, unless your school is a Yellow Ribbon school.  In that case, your school can pay up to half of the amount not covered and the VA will pay an equal amount. This should leave you with very little, if any, left to pay. As far as how long it takes to get approved, figure about 8 to 10 weeks from the time you submit your Post 9/11 GI Bill paperwork.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: What is Student Loan Repayment Program?

A: The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is an enlistment incentive option (and sometimes offered at re-enlistment) where the Army will repay up to $65,000 of your student loans in return for a three-year enlistment. It is repaid at the rate of 33.3% of your original loan(s) or $1,500, whichever is greater, per year of service. Be aware you can not get SLRP and the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill for the same period of service. If you sign up for SLRP, then you will not start your GI Bill period of eligibility until those three years have elapsed. So, for a six-year enlistment, you could get both SLRP and the GI Bill.

SLRP only repays eligible federally-insured loans such as:

  • Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS);
  • Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS);
  • Stafford Loans;
  • Perkins Loans;
  • William D. Ford Loans;
  • Consolidated Education Loans.

If you have these loans, they do not qualify for SLRP:

  • Private Loans;
  • Equity Loans;
  • State Funded Loans;
  • Institution Loans;
  • Consolidated Loans for someone else, such as a brother or sister.

The Army Reserves and National Guard also have their own SLRP. The Reserves repays up to $40,000 in student loans, payable at the rate of 15% of the original loan or $1,500 (whichever is greater) per year of service, in return for a six-year enlistment. The National Guard’s program repays up to $20,000 in student loans, at the rate of 15% of your original loan or $500 per year, whichever is greater, not to exceed $3,000 per year, in return for a six-year obligation.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello I am currently receiving benefits from the Montgomery GI bill but my delimiting date is 7/24/10 and I’m currently going to school. Will they stop paying me after that date because, I was under the impression that I had 10 years to apply and I still have a year and a half to go?

A: Your delimiting date is 10 years from the date of your discharge. Any Montgomery GI Bill benefits you have left at that time, you will lose.

The way the regulation reads is you have 10 years to use your benefits, not begin using your benefits, so wherever you got the information that you had 10 years to apply was erroneous.  I’m continually amazed at how much “bad” information is out there concerning the Montgomery GI Bill and all Bills in general.

The VA does issue delimiting date extensions if one of the three following conditions apply to you:

  • served at least 90 days of active duty since the discharge on record;
  • were prevented from going to school by injuries or health problems or;
  • were detained by a foreign government or power.

These three reasons are generally the only ones the VA uses to approve an extension.  If any of them do apply to you, contact the VA immediately. They will instruct you as to the paperwork they need to justify the extension.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’ve been reviewing the website and I’m looking to get out of the military due to pregnancy towards the end of this year (due date 4 Nov). My question is that I believe that the pregnancy is a general discharge, but with 4 years of service in, am i still eligible to use my G.I. bill if I choose to get out?

A: In the old days, a pregnancy “general” discharge was almost assured, however that has all changed.  Now, you can request a discharge for pregnancy, but it is up to your commander if he or she will approve it and also what type of characterization he or she will give you.

If you are a single or married to a military member and do not have a viable family care plan, you most likely will get discharged, but under general conditions. That would eliminate you from getting the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

However, if you have a solid family care plan, and have done everything within your control to keep it up-to-date, your commander may discharge you with an honorable discharge or he/she may decide to keep you in. With an honorable discharge, you would get full Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

When making these types of decisions, your commander will look at what is best for both you and the military. My point is for you to know that your:

  • discharge isn’t automatic;
  • discharge isn’t necessarily a “general”.

This decision is in the hands of your commander.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and I am denied, can I still use my Montgomery GI Bill? If not where is the stipulation saying that I have then lost all my education benefits that I paid into for my education?

A: If you already have the Montgomery GI Bill, nobody will (or can) take that away from you. You can get paid up to $1,321 per month to go to school for up to 36 months. However, if you also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you can also get up to an additional 12 months of education benefits.

Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two GI Bills, you can get a combined benefit of 48 months.  The trick is to first exhaust your Montgomery GI Bill and then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Once you are under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA will pay your tuition and fees directly to your school, and you will get paid a monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

Your housing allowance is calculated on the E-5-with-dependents rate for the zip code of your school. Your books stipend is up to $1,000 per year calculated at $41.67 per credit up to 24 credits per year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: OK, so I served on active duty from Jan. 2004 to Jan. 2008 and separated with a honorable discharge. Six months later, I joined the National Guard. I have already applied through the VA, got an acceptance letter and will be starting school in Sep. If I were to receive anything other than an honorable discharge from the National Guard, how would that affect my Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: No, even if you get a bad discharge from the National Guard, it will not affect your Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility from an earlier active duty term that you had with an honorable discharge.

You do have a couple of other education options that you might want to explore. You are most likely eligible to use the National Guard’s Tuition Assistance program to help you go to school.  And every state has a variety of education benefits available to their Guard members.  It doesn’t hurt to know all your options before deciding on which one to use.

Most Guardsmen have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve, but since you already have made your selection for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you will have to stay with that one, which is a much better Bill anyway.