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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am attending a phlebotomy training course in Fall 2010 at a community college using my father’s Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that he transferred to me. However, the courses for this semester is only 4 credits and the school’s full time status requires 12 credits. If I take two extra classes to reach over 1/2 time status, am I still eligible to receive the housing stipend? Also, I was told at least one of my classes has to be on campus at the school to receive the housing stipend, so can I still receive it if the other 2 classes are distance learning?

A: First, make sure your phlebotomy course is a VA-approved course.  Generally speaking, the Post 9/11 GI Bill covers only degree-producing programs. If this course will be credited towards a healthcare degree plan, then it probably will be covered, but to take the course as a stand-alone, it most likely would not be covered. Check with either the VA or your school’s VA Representative to be sure.

Second, yes if you take enough credits (that apply to your degree plan) to get you over the half-time mark (usually 7 credits), and at least one of your classes on on-campus, you will get the housing allowance.

As you probably know, your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance is paid at the E-5-with-dependents rate for the zip code of your school. Good luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How much more money can I pay into the Post 9/11 G.I Bill to get the addition benefits with the Post 9/11 G.I Bill Benefits?

A:  The Post 9/11 GI Bill is not something you pay into to get.  The only way to get the benefits is to put in the time on active duty. For minimum benefits, you need 90 days of active duty after September 10, 2001.  This will put you at the 40% tier.  For maximum benefits, you need at least 36 months of active duty time after the same date. If you anticipate transferring any of your education benefits to your spouse or children, then you need at least six years of active duty and agree to extend for at least four more years. You can’t transfer benefits after you are out.

However, depending on when and how long you served, you may in fact be eligible for two GI Bills.  If you paid into the Montgomery GI Bill, but have the required time after September 10, 2001, you can get a maximum combined benefit up to 48 months. The best way to do it is to exhaust your Montgomery GI Bill education benefits and then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional time.  If you did have the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you will get a portion of your Montgomery GI Bill contribution back after you exhaust your Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits.

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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My Active Duty Chapter 30 G.I. Bill benefits will be exhausted as of January 2011, but I still have two more semester’s afterward to graduate. Can I extend my benefits, or am I eligible for benefits under the Post 9/11G.I. Bill after my Chapter 30 is exhausted?

A: To answer the first part of your question, no you can’t extend your Chapter 30 benefits. However, if you qualify for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill (90-days of active duty, after September 10, 2001 for the minimum benefit, up to three years of active duty service for the full benefit), then you could be eligible for an additional 12 months of education benefits.  The way the VA’s Rule of 48 reads is, if you qualify for two G.I. Bills, your maximum combined benefit is up to 48 months.

To get the additional 12 months, exhaust your Chapter 30 benefits, such as you are now doing. Once exhausted, then switch over to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Those additional 12 months should give you what you need to finish up your schooling.

If your Chapter 30 benefits happen to run out during a semester, don’t worry, the VA will run your Chapter 30 Benefits to the end of the semester and then subtract the months you didn’t have from your 12 additional months of Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. While it sounds confusing, it really works well and from your perspective, it will be seamless.

The real question is do you qualify for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a VA Certifying Official. For the first time we have had a prospective student want to use the Army College Fund. I understand that he will have to be using the Montgomery GI Bill to be able to use these funds. When we certify him, where do we indicate that he wants to use the Army College Fund? Does he apply for that benefit himself and does the payment go to him? Thanks.

A: First, thank-you for taking care of our veterans going to your school. I disagree with you though when you say “I understand that he will have to be using the Montgomery GI Bill to be able to use these funds.” That is not necessarily true, as Post 9/11 G.I. Bill users may also have the Army College Fund.

As far as how you note it to the VA, don’t worry about it – it is the veteran’s responsibility to make that entry in Part VI Item 16 on VA Form 22-1990 when he/she applies for benefits. As far as how that gets paid, regardless if the student is using the Montgomery G.I. Bill or the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, it will come to the student.

If the student is using the MGIB, then he/she will get it as a lump sum payment; if the student is using the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, then it will come as part of the housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired from the Army (AGR) in February 2005.  I would like to share my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits with my daughter now entering college.  Did I retire too early to be eligible for this benefit?

A: I’m afraid you did. The way the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill transfer rule reads, you had to be on active duty either on or after 1 August, 2009 to transfer benefits. Now how can someone such as yourself, who qualifies for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill (three years of service after September 10, 2001), transfer benefits when you had already been retired for 4 1/2 years when the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill started? That whole rule just doesn’t make sense to me.

Last year a bill was introduced that, if it had passed, would have changed that – allow retired Post 9/11 G.I. Bill holders the option to transfer benefits – however, it didn’t have enough support to pass. I don’t know if it died on its own, or if riders to the bill killed it.

Write your legislators and ask they either introduce, or support, such a bill again this year. They all talk about trying to support us, well here is a chance for them to do it. (Sorry for my ranting, but this is one topic that gets me going, and I don’t have the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.)

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello to all. My question is, do I qualify for my MGIB? I received an honorable discharge after 14 months on active duty. Thanks.

A: In most cases with only 14 months of active duty, I would say no, you would not qualify for the Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB) as it takes either 2 or 3 years (depending on your enlistment contract) to qualify.

However, you may still qualify for the MGIB, if you were discharged due to a:

  • service-connected disability;
  • hardship;
  • medical condition you had before your service;
  • physical or mental condition that interfered with performance of duty and didn’t result from misconduct on your part, or;
  • reduction in force (Only certain RIFs qualify).

If you separated early due to any of the above reasons, you may eligible, but for less than the normal 36 months of benefits. You’ll earn one month of benefits for each month of active duty, so you may get 14 months of the MGIB. Check with the VA to verify what MGIB benefits, if any, you may have.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I use my new husbands GI bill to pay off my old student loans?

A: In the strict sense of the word, no, neither you nor your husband can use his G.I. Bill to directly pay off your student loans.

The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is a separate program from the G.I. Bill. If available as an enlistment option, servicemembers can sign up for it in lieu of the G.I. Bill.  When a servicemember opts for the SLRP, he/she incurs a three-year commitment and can’t get G.I. Bill for those same three years of service. In some branches, SLRP is offered as a re-enlistment option also.  Either way, SLRP is good only for eligible federally insured loans of the servicemember and not family.

As far as the G.I. Bill goes, I had said earlier that neither of you could use his G.I. Bill directly to pay off your student loans, however, if he is receiving G.I. Bill money for going to school – either the monthly MGIB benefit or the housing allowance/book stipend from the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill – if he wants to use that money to pay off your student loans, he can do so. He just can’t have the VA pay off your student loans.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does anyone know anything about the advance payment from the VA regarding the GI Bill and what steps need to be taken to avoid it from being taken from your paycheck?

A: The VA initiated the Advance Payment Program in an attempt to get veterans some money – up to $3,000 – quickly while the VA feverishly tried working down their large and expanding backlog of applications.  The backlog was due to:

  • the new Post 9/11 G.I. Bill starting on August 1, 2009;
  • everyone wanting to use the new G.I. Bill;
  • it taking three times as long to process a payment under the new bill as it did under the old bill.

And by the way, the VA was not given any new resources by Congress to handle the extra workload.

The VA made it well known the advance payment was a loan and not extra money, yet every day I read about veterans upset at the VA for taking money out of their G.I. Bill payments to pay back the advance payment.

The bottom line is you can’t avoid paying back the advance payment. What you can do though – and the VA made it very clear – is to arrange for an alternate payment plan.  If you didn’t submit your plan, then the VA began on April 1st taking $750 per month out of your Post 9/11 G.I. Bill payment and they will continue to do so until your advance payment is repaid. Those submitting an alternate plan have a lesser amount taken out, but it will take them longer to pay back their advance payment.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I did 4 years active in the Navy from 2003 to 2007 and left with an honorable discharge. I used the G.I. Bill for a stint and then got back into the National Guard, but ended up dishonorably discharged. Did I lose the remaining amount of my Navy G.I. Bill?

A: No, you did not lose the remaining amount of your G.I. Bill from when you were in the Navy.  Your two periods of service are considered separate, so your National Guard discharge does not have any effect on your Navy period of service. Whatever Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits you have left, you can still use.

Because you have over three years of service after September 10, 2001, you also qualify for the new Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Once you exhaust your Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits, switch to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and get up to an additional 12 months of education benefits. If you switch now, you will only get the same number of months as you currently have under your old G.I. Bill.  Under the VA’s Rule of 48, if you qualify for multiple G.I. Bills, you can get up to a maximum of 48 months of education benefit.