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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served 8 years in the Marine Corps and released honorably in 1998. I have recently re-enlisted in the TN National Guard. Am I re-eligible for my unused portion of the Montgomery GI Bill?

A: Yes you are – with a caveat. As you know, your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) expired 10 years from your date of discharge or in 2008. However, by enlisting and serving for at least 90 days in a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States (which the National Guard is part of) you reset your delimitation date, meaning your new date will be 10 years from whenever you get out.

Also, you may have a couple of other GI Bill opportunities – the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you enlisted for at least six years, then you should get the MGIB-SR. While not as dynamic as the MGIB-AD that you currently have, it is an opportunity for another 12 months of education benefits. The downside is it only pays around $362 per month. But when you combine it with Federal Tuition Assistance and your drill pay, it adds up.

Also if you deploy on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Afghanistan, you could pick up some eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. A typical one-year deployment would put you at the 60% tier.

Just remember under the Rule of 48 the most number of months of entitlement, regardless of how many GI Bills you have, is 48.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a few questions about the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I served in the Army National Guard for six years from 2002 until 2008. My understanding at the time was that my GI Bill benefits ended upon separation from service so I never gave a second thought about using GI Bill benefits when I finally decided to attend college. Well, fast forward to August of 2013 when I attend my first semester of college. I paid for everything out of pocket and did the same for spring semester of 2014. After several months in class I learned from another classmate about this thing called the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I immediately went to talk to my VA representative at my college and submitted my application online for approval. I have 21 months of active duty due to deployments not including my basic or AIT training, which puts me at the 70% range for benefits. Here are my questions: 1) Will the VA pay back pay for the fall 2013 semester and the spring 2014 semester which I’m currently enrolled? 2) If they do will they back pay include MHA and the book stipend?. 3) If the MHA and book stipend are included how will the amount be determined exactly? I know I should qualify for 70% for tuition and fees. In the Fall of 2013 I was enrolled for 10 credit hours. 10/12=83% which is rounded down to 80%. The current rate for my location is $1212.00. Do I get only 70% of that rate or 80% of that rate based on my credit hours? Thank you for taking the time to look this over.

A: To answer your first question, yes most likely. The VA can go back up to one year and retroactively pay benefits. The key is that you had to be eligible for the GI Bill benefits during the period for which you are claiming (which you are). Your best bet is to talk to a VA Representative in the Regional Office responsible for your state to see what they need for proof to get a claim started.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill has three different ways it pays:
• Tuition at the resident rate
• The housing allowance
• The book stipend

You should get all three of these sent to you (or Direct Deposited depending on how you set up your receipt of payments) as your reimbursement because these are the payments you (housing allowance and book stipend) and your school (tuition) would have received has you been using the program at the time.

If you qualify for 70% of tuition and fees, that is also the percentage you’ll get in housing allowance and book stipend as that tier percentage carries across the whole gambit.

Referencing your 10-credit example, you would get 70% of the 80% figure or about $679 per month in housing allowance and $292 in book stipend money ($41.67 per credit X 10 credits X 0.7 tier percentage) for the semester.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I presently am qualified for 60% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill which I have transferred to my children. I am about to start an AGR (Title 32) position on active duty that will ultimately qualify for 100%. My questions are: 1. Must I separate service at the end of the 3 year period to obtain these benefits? 2. Does the “window” of 36 months’ worth of benefits start over for my dependents once I reached another tier? Any help or direction will help. Thank you.

A: To answer your first question, no you do not have to get out to qualify for the increased percentage. As you work up through the tier percentages, you would have to update the VA so they can keep your current authorized tier percentage accurate and thus the payments accurate if your children are using their Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits at the time.

Of course, if they will not go to school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill for at least two years, at which time you’ll be at the 100% tier anyway, then you would only have to updated it once (by sending in copies of your AGR orders) at the end of your first 3-year tour. Also, once you are at the 100% tier, your children would also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program if the school they choose is part of the program.

I’m not sure what you mean by asking “Does the window of 36 months’ worth of benefits start over for my dependents once I reached another tier?” If you mean your children have been using their transferred benefits and have less than 36 months total left, do they start over with 36 months again, then the answer is no. You only initially had 36 months to split up between them; that is all they can get from you as you would at that point have nothing left to transfer.

However if you mean does the window of time they have to use their transferred benefits start over again, the answer is no again. Children have to use up their transferred benefits by age 26. Any unused benefits at that time are either lost or can be revoked by you and taken back. I hope this helps.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Thank you in advance for taking the time to review and answer my question. I already have my B.A. and would like to pursue my M.S., but I’m worried about the cost of tuition. The out of state tuition rate for the school I want to attend is $9,408 per semester ($784 per credit X 12 credits). The current rate for the MGIB is $1,648 for 2014. If I only receive this money while I am enrolled in school, there is no way I’d be able to fully pay for grad school. So, as long as I’m enrolled in a Grad program, will I receive the $1,648 per month? Last, if I decide to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, will I automatically be considered a resident of the state and not have to pay non-resident tuition fees? As I understand it, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay all in-state tuition fees, but if I’m not a resident of the state, will I be charged by the University as being non-resident? If so, the GI Bill would cover the in-state resident tuition and I would have to come up with the rest of the cash to cover the non-resident tuition. Am I understanding this correctly? Again, I thank you for looking into my question.

A: Yes, the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) would pay you as long as you are enrolled in a grad school program and have unused remaining entitlement left on your GI Bill. In other words, if you have exhausted all of your entitlement, but are still enrolled in grad school, your MGIB payment would stop at the end of the semester that you ran out of entitlement. I just wanted to clarify what you had said about getting paid as long as you were enrolled in a grad school program; you have to have entitlement left when you start that semester.

Under the MGIB, you would get about $6,592 per semester, so yes you would have a shortfall of about $2,816 per semester.

As far as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, yes it does pay up to the resident rate, but that does not mean you would get charged the resident rate as a non-resident (at least not yet – more on that in a moment). You would still have a shortfall between your school’s out-of-state tuition rate and what the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay. I can’t tell you what that shortfall would be because I don’t know which school you plan to attend.

However, under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there is also a feature called the Yellow Ribbon Program where if your school has an YRP agreement with the VA, they can pay up to half of the difference in tuition and the VA would pay an equal amount. The caveat is “up to half” meaning your school could have a lesser percentage in their agreement. Then there would be a small amount left for you to pay after the VA paid their share.

Back to the non-resident/resident tuition issue. Some states already charge veterans the in-state rate regardless of their residency. Check with your school to see what their policy is right now. More states and schools will be going to this policy as Congress is looking at passing a bill that if a school does not give veterans the in-state rate, they would not be a VA-approved school and therefore could not accept GI Bill students.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I want to know about the housing allowance? I have 1 year left in the Army and when I get out I want get in college. How does that work?

A: Because you referenced “housing allowance” in your questions, know that we are talking about the Post 9/11 GI Bill. None of the other GI Bills pay out a housing allowance.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance is based on:
• The zip code of your school.
• The number of credits you take in a semester.
• Your tier percentage.

Zip Code
While the housing allowance calculation is based on BAH tables – the same tables that determines your BAH while on active duty – that is where the similarity stops. BAH is paid twice a month; the housing allowance once a month and always in arrears. The VA is always a month behind in paying out housing allowance. BAH is paid based on the zip code of your residence; the housing allowance as we said is based on the zip code of your school. BAH is paid according to your rank and whether you have dependents or not; the housing allowance is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents, regardless of your actual pay grade or dependent status.

Number of credits
To qualify for any housing allowance at all, you have to take at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. A while back, as long as you took that minimum of 51% you got the full housing allowance, but that changed with GI Bill 2.0. Now you get a percentage of the full amount if you are less than full-time. For example if you are taking 7 credits and your school considers 12 full-time, you would get 7/12ths of the E-5 with dependents amount authorized for the zip code of your school.

Also, your housing allowance amount is different if you take all your classes online. Then it isn’t based on the zip code of your school, but on a fixed amount up to $714.50 if full-time; the same pro-rated ratio applies if you are less than full-time.

Tier Percentage
Your tier percentage also factors into the final amount you get. For example if you are a National Guard soldier who served a one-year tour in Iraq, your tier percentage is 60%. That tier percentage would then be multiplied to amount derived from the calculation of the E-5 with dependents amount and number of credits calculation.

Finally, the housing allowance is usually paid around the same time each month after you first initially start receiving it and it is not paid during semester breaks. That was another change due to GI Bill 2.0.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I receive any Federal loans such as PERKINS, etc. or a PELL GRANT, or any other financial aid while using my Post 9/11 GI Bill? If so, what do I need to know? Would this be legal?

A: Yes it is legal to use any of these financial aid programs in conjunction with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Just be aware that the VA is the last payer when multiple forms of financial aid are involved, so the ones that are dedicated to pay tuition will reduce the amount of tuition the VA has to pay. And you do not get the difference. In my estimate, you are not maximizing your GI Bill by supplementing it, but in the end you are getting the same amount of your schooling paid for.

If your financial aid is not tuition “fenced” money, then you can use the additional money for anything you want and the VA would still pay the full amount of what they would otherwise pay.

Regardless, you would still get the housing allowance and book stipend. The housing allowance is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. The book stipend is calculated based on $41.67 per credit per semester. For a 12-credit course, it runs about $500 per semester, but with the $1,000 per year cap, you can only get a couple semester of book stipend per academic year.

A good place to start with your financial aid would be to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. Then you’ll know what you could qualify for as far as financial aid for school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’m in the process of applying for GI Bill benefits but don’t know whether to choose Montgomery or Post 9/11. I don’t even know if I’m eligible for the MGIB. I commissioned in 2005 and am still on active duty. Would I have needed to pay into a program at the beginning of my career to be eligible for the MGIB, or is that an additional program? I’m enrolled in a master’s course and am using TA benefits to cover part of the tuition and I would like to use the GI Bill to cover the remainder of the tuition costs. Can that be done using either the MGIB or the Post 9/11 GI Bill? I am also hoping to take a 737 type rating course and earn my Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license using the GI Bill. Can the MGIB be used for this certification or is that only under the Post 9/11 GI Bill? If I start now under the MGIB, and find later that I need to be under the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules to pay for the type rating and ATP certification, can I switch? Do I have to exhaust all funding (36 months) for the MGIB first? There’s a lot of confusing information out there. Anything you can help clarify would be very much appreciated.

A: To get the Montgomery GI Bill, yes you would have had to pay the $1,200 contribution fee when you first enlisted. But you do have the full 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% tier just for serving your country for over three years.

The program you are referring to – to cover the remainder of your tuition costs that TA won’t pay – is called Tuition Top-Up. By using this program, your service branch pays your full tuition amount and then bills the VA for the amount TA will not pay. If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill, then they convert the amount they paid your service branch into $1,648 increments and deduct that number of months and days of entitlement from your remaining MGIB benefits. If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the full term of entitlement is deducted regardless of what the VA pays.

Either GI Bill can be used to pay for flight certification such as the ones you want to pursue, however their flight training pay structures differ. Under the MGIB, the VA would pay up to 60% of the approved charges. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it would pay up to $10,970.46 per academic year for the type of flight training you want to take.

If you have the MGIB and want to convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill months of entitlement as you had left under the MGIB. Exhaust all of your MGIB entitlement first and then switch, you could get up to an additional 12 months of benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello I plan on attending Catholic University of America in DC. I used the GI Bill calculator and they came up with: http://gibill.va.gov/CH33Estimator/est.asp I have the full benefits of the G.I. Bill and I have the Yellow Ribbon Program. I plan on taking 5 classes which is equal to 15 credits. So I’m wondering if Veterans Affairs will cover my credit hours. How do I calculate if I’m covered with the knowledge in the link? Thank you so much!

A: The VA recently released an even better GI Bill calculator tool – http://department-of-veterans-affairs.github.io/gi-bill-comparison-tool/. I punched in the information for your school and it comes up that your Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay:
• Up to $19,198.31 per year in tuition.
• $2,193 per month in housing allowance (if you are considered a full-time student by your school).
• Up to $1,000 in book stipend money.
• They are a Yellow Ribbon School.

I would imagine 15 credits would be full-time, but you’ll have to check with your school. If not, then these amounts would be prorated down based on the number of credits they consider to be full-time verses the number of credits you are taking.

I went on Catholic University’s website and found out their tuition and fees for a new undergraduate are $39,726 per year. With your GI Bill paying $19,198.31, you would end up with a difference of $20,527.69.

Catholic University accepts only 55 undergraduates in their Yellow Ribbon program each academic year. Click on the link to view their application. It looks like they pay the maximum of 50% of the difference between what they charge and what your Post 9/11 GI Bill pays. The VA would pay an equal amount which would erase all of the difference. However, be sure to discuss this with your school before enrolling if getting the Yellow Ribbon is a deal-breaker.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I received the old GI Bill in 1998 while on active duty. I left active duty in 2001, but, immediately joined the National Guard within a few weeks. In April of 2004 I was deployed to Iraq. In Jan 2005 I was severely injured and medically retired in 2007. Did my time start over after I retired? I’m concern, just want to finish my degree.

A: Actually, you have a couple of different things going on. One, yes your 10-year delimitation time on your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) did start over with your active duty period of over 90 days starting in April 2004. With a new discharge date in 2007, your MGIB will not expire now until 2017.

But with your deployment, you also became eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. How that works is you can either use up your current MGIB benefits, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits, or you can switch now which would convert your 36 months of MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you would then not get the additional time.

The advantage of doing it this way would be that you would get the higher rate of pay under the New GI Bill and you would extend your delimitation date out by an additional 5 years bringing your date out to 2022. Plus, once you used up all of your converted time, you would get your $1,200 MGIB contribution fee back as part of your last housing allowance payment.

One other thing on the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If your medical discharge was deemed service-connected (and I imaging it was), then you would get the full 100% tier, meaning the VA would pay 100% of your tuition and you would get the full housing allowance and book stipend (provided you are a full-time student). If your discharge was not service-connected, then you would get a percentage of the full amount.

From your question I can’t tell when you were taken off of active duty orders. If you had at least one year on orders, then you would be at the 60% tier. If you were on active duty orders up to your retirement date, then you would have three years of qualifying service and be at the 100% tier anyway. Anything in between one and three years would be prorated percentage-wise accordingly in 6 month/10% increments.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Thanks! …I retired from the U.S. Army in 1992 on disability after 19 years of service. And was eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill. Before the ten year expiration, I applied to the VA to use these benefits and was disapprove due to health. Now I re-applied again a month ago and was told by the VA that these benefits are now expired. I understand that congress pass a statute that allows veterans who could not use their benefits due to disability were exempt from the ten-year limit and were still qualified and could apply at some later date to use these benefit. Am I right on this, please untangle this mystery. Thanks!! …and old Combat Vietnam Veteran who would like to take some online courses.

A: Congress didn’t pass a statute per se, but did include a clause for extending benefits past your expiration date, if you were prevented from attending classes due to a disability. The exact wording from the Chapter 30 Pamphlet is “We can extend your 10-year period by the amount of time you were prevented from training during that period because of a disability . . .”

However, with that said, the burden of proof that you were not well enough to go to school is on you. The VA has very precise and extensive requirements including:
• The type of disability.
• The exact beginning and ending dates, in mm-dd-yyyy format, of when you were disabled and could not attend classes.
• The reason(s) you were unable to go to school.
• The type of each job you worked during your disability period.
• The name and address of each employer, along with the beginning and ending dates and weekly hours worked at each job.

As far as medical proof, they require:
• Your doctor’s diagnosis and treatment.
• How long you’ve had the disability.
• The exact beginning and ending dates of your disability that prevented you from going to school.
• Any other medical evidence such as hospital or lab reports which would further substantiate your MGIB extension claim.

Yes, I know it is a lot of paperwork, but you have to jump through their hoop if you have any chance at an extension at all. Good luck!