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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, My husband is a West Point Grad and has completed this May his 5-year commitment, but took a 3-year bonus bringing his time to 8 years. Will he be able to use his Post 9/11 GI bill at the 8-year mark or does he owe an additional 3 years because he took a bonus?

A: No, the bonus will not affect his qualifying time for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. He will have earned the Post 9/11 GI Bill by the time he hits his 8-year mark.

The question for you and him to think about is what does he intend to do with his Post 9/11 GI Bill once he is out? If he is a West Point graduate, he has his degree, so the options are:

  • for him to get his master’s degree;
  • for him to transfer it all to you so you can get your degree;
  • for him to transfer some and keep some so both of you can continue your education;
  • or if children are in the future, maybe save it and transfer it to he/she or them.

If he does intend to transfer some of his Post 9/11 GI bill benefits to you, keep in mind that he can’t until he has at least six years of service and extends for another four years. He already has an eight-year commitment, so another four would bring him to twelve years. If he does transfer benefits to you, you can’t start using your benefits until he has in his ten years of service, which brings me to my the next point.

If he decides to stay in the Army and you decide to go to school, you will not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance while he is still in (because he is getting paid BAH), however, once he is out and you use your Post 9/11 GI bill, you will get the housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I hit my 6-year mark in the U.S. Army on June 2010 (next month), but I only have 3 years of Active Duty because I joined as a National Guard soldier. Can I transfer my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my wife?

A: Generally, if you were a traditional Guardsman before going on active duty, your Guard time is prorated, so it doesn’t all count. For instance, you might get 48 days for your weekend drills for each year you were in the Guard, plus whatever additional days you had while on orders. So you might get two months of time for each year in the Guard. If you have a DD214, it will be listed; if not, see your unit clerk and ask. He or she can look it up for you.

If you do have six documented years, you will have to extend for an additional four years before you will be able to transfer your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your wife. If it doesn’t show you have six years yet, then you will have to wait until you do, extend and then make the transfer request.

The important thing is to make the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer before you get out.  Once you are out, it is too late (at least at this time – hopefully it will change in the future).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was approved for the Montgomery GI Bill not knowing I could have gotten the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Is it possible to switch over?

A:  It is possible, but depending on your education goals, you may not want to or you may not want to just quite yet.  Let me explain.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill only pays for degree-producing programs, so if your goal is attending a trade or technical college to learn a skill, or earn a license or certification, you will want to stay with the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) as the Post 9/11 GI Bill will not pay for non-degree courses.

The other thing to think about is if you switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now, you will get your 36 months of benefits you have under the MGIB, if you have not used any yet.  If you first exhaust your MGIB benefits and then switch over, you can get an additional 12 months of education benefits.  Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, you can get a combined benefit of 48 months, so you may not want to switch yet. Many veterans are not aware of the Rule of 48 and they miss out on the additional benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I meet the service requirements for REAP and/or the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I’m not clear if either of these programs provide benefits for students studying part time. I would like to go back to school, but will likely only take 2-3 classes per semester since I am working full time. Do I need to attend full-time to take advantage of VA Education Benefits?

A:  No you don’t need to attend classes full-time to get the benefits of REAP or the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Your benefits will be reduced on a pro-rated basis against what is considered full-time (usually 12 credits). So, if you are carrying a 7-credit load, your benefits would be reduced by 7/12th. If your term is 5 months, your benefits would be reduced 7/12th of 5 months or about 3 months. You still get the same amount of schooling out of your 36 months, it will just take you longer to use it up.

With the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you won’t get the housing allowance if your rate of pursuit is considered half-time or less.  Usually 7 credits will put you at more than a half-time rate. If you are only taking 2 or 3 classes per term, make sure they add up to at least 7 credits to get your maximum benefit.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a soldier in the active reserve. As I understand, when I reach 36 months of active reserve duty I qualify at 100% for the new GI-Benefits for education. Am I correct? Thank You

A: First, let’s clarify active reserves. If you are talking about a drilling reservist – attending drill one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer – no that does not qualify you for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  It does qualify you for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve.

If you are talking about being a full-time reservist on Title 10 orders, then yes, you would qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill after three years of service, except for the transfer option.  You need at least six years of service and agree to serve an additional four years to get that benefit of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you are Title 32, then your time does not count toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Otherwise, to get the Post 9/11 GI Bill as a drilling reservist, you need to be mobilized for three years of Title 10 active duty.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Hi, I am a disabled veteran who served after 9/11 and also opted for the traditional GI Bill when I joined. I need some help finding the best option for me for a Masters Degree. I currently live in AK and the only university that I can earn a Masters Degree in that I want is $650/credit. The Post 9/11 GI Bill will only pay $159/credit.

I would really love to do my degree online, as I work full time and have a newborn at the house. All online courses are out of state, so there is no way I could attend one class on campus. Is there a way I could enroll in the online program and take one general education class at the local university here and still get the BAH? I’m looking for the most bang for the buck, so to speak. Thank you.

You can take an on-campus course at a local school and get the BAH, but the stickler is the course you take has to directly relate to your degree plan before the VA will pay you the housing allowance. Is there a class of two that would count toward your graduate degree at a local school?

One other thing you might want to check out is the Post 9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon program. If your school is a Yellow Ribbon School, they can pay up to 50% of your tuition costs not covered by the GI Bill.  The VA will pay an equal amount leaving you with a greatly reduced bill, if any, left to pay. Check to see if your school is a Yellow Ribbon School; some schools include online graduate programs in their Yellow Ribbon agreement, while others do not. It is a way of getting the most use out of your GI Bill benefits. No matter where you go, graduate tuition is high.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

I am curious as a mom. My son enlisted and has only been in a year. He intends to get married this summer. He wants to offer his GI Bill to his new wife.  Is he eligible to do this?

Not for awhile, and depending on which GI Bill he has, maybe not at all.  Let me explain.

When soldiers enlist, they are given the option to sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If your son signed up for the MGIB, it does not have a transfer option, so he would not be able to transfer any benefits to his new wife with that GI Bill.

If your son switches to the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, it does have a transfer option, but he can’t use the option until he has served six years on active duty and agrees to serve an additional four years.  Also, before switching and transferring benefits to his wife, keep in mind the new Post 9/11 GI Bill is only good for degree-producing programs. Trade schools, certifications and licensing programs are not covered.

Also be aware, if your son’s wife goes to school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill while your son is on active duty, she will not get the housing allowance (because they are already getting paid BAH). If she goes to school after he is out, she will get the housing allowance.  She has 15 years from his discharge date to use her benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Break pay is when there is a break in school less than the previous time you went to school right? Shouldn’t we be able to take summer off and still get paid because it is less time than the previous term? Normally 12 weeks, but summer is 8? I’m a full-time student, but I feel like I should get a break just like normal students that get the summer time off.

A: No, that is not quite the correct definition of a “break” or “interval”.  According to the VA’s website, they will not pay break pay if:

  • the break is MORE than 56 days;
  • the terms either BEFORE or AFTER are shorter than the break;
  • the student changes schools and the break is MORE than 30 days;
  • the student changes schools and programs;
  • training time prior to the break is less than 1/2 time (rate of pursuit is less than 50%);
  • the student is on active duty;
  • the school does not operate on term, quarter, or semester basis;
  • enrollment in non-standard terms is not consecutive.

VA also doesn’t pay break pay if:

  • you specifically state that you don’t want payment for the break. You must make the request BEFORE VA actually authorizes payment for the break;
  • your entitlement will run out during the break;
  • you withdraw from all courses or discontinue training during the term preceding the break.

You indicated in your question that your summer break was 8 weeks, which is two months or 60+ days. Any way you slice it, it is still over the 56-day limit for break pay.

Also, keep in mind break pay is not free. It eats up your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and you are not getting any college credits for the time you lose. You are better off getting a job over the summer and not use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits just for the break pay, even it is was authorized.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m curious about BAH and the GI Bill. What will I receive if enrolled in college full time? The college VA Office told me I would get $333/month from GI Bill (I am in the old one i believe? 1607?) I am in the Guard, 1 year of service, no deployment. I have heard mixed statements about also receiving BAH in the amount of E5 w/dependents based on the zip code of my school? If that is correct, what paperwork, and to whom do i submit it to? Any help would be great! I want to get a degree prior to my 2013 deployment date, but sure can’t live on only $300/month.

A: I understand your concern about living on $300 per month, but that is the amount you would get to go to school under the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). Just so we are all using the same terminology, the MGIB-SR is Chapter 1606; Chapter 1607 is the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP), which is for Guard and Reserve personnel who have deployed for at least two years.

What you heard about receiving BAH applies only to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which is for active duty personnel serving at least 90-days for the minimum benefit and 36 months or more for the full benefit. The MGIB-SR does not have a BAH or housing allowance feature.

Also, don’t overlook the Guard’s Tuition Assistance program. You can get up to $250 per credit with a $4,500 annual cap, which is enough for about 18 credits per year and don’t forget to add in your monthly Guard pay.

While all this still might not add up to be enough to live on each month, it may allow you to work only part-time instead of full-time. That way you could take more classes per term and get your degree before you deploy in 2013. Hang in there – it took me seven years to get my four-year degree by going to school nights and weekends.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m looking to join the Army Reserve and go to Spokane Community College in Washington State at the same time. Will the Reserve help pay for tuition, books, and room and board? I plan on taking Fire Science and Fire Protection there. Thanks.

A: If you join the Army Reserve, once you get through IADT (Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training), and you remain in good standing within your drilling unit, you will be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) GI Bill.

As long as you remain a member in good standing of the Reserve (no more than four unexcused absences), you have 10 years to use your 36 months of education benefits. Yes, the MGIB-SR will pay you a monthly amount to go to school and you can use your money however you wish, i.e. room and board, tuition, books, etc.  Right now, you would get $333 per month to go to school.  This amount is adjusted annually in October. You will also have your monthly Reserve pay to help pay for education expenses also. Just remember once your are discharged from the Reserves, you lose your Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves education benefits.

Once you are in the Reserves, also look into using their Tuition Assistance program. It pays up to $250 per credit with an annual cap of $4,500, which is enough for at least 18 credits per year.