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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served on active duty from 28Dec1998 – 28Dec2004. I have not used any of my GI Bill benefits. I applied for the Post 9/11 GI Bill on 27Dec2013. How many months of benefits do I have?

A: Because you have at least three years of eligible service – from September 10, 2001 until 28 Dec 2004 – you have the full 36 months. That is enough for four 9-month academic years or enough to get you a four-year degree.

I do want to caution you on a couple of things though. One, the Post 9/11 GI Bill only pays tuition up to the resident rate if you attend a public school. If you have to pay out-state tuition, then you would have an unpaid difference that either you would be responsible to pay or you might be able to use the Yellow Ribbon Program to pick up the tab (or at least a portion of it).

Two, if you intend to attend a private school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill can pay up to $19,198.31 per year. Here again, you might end up with an unpaid tuition balance and the Yellow Ribbon Program could assist you in paying it.

Not all schools have Yellow Ribbon agreements with the VA. However for those that do, they can pay up to 50% of the unpaid difference and the VA pays an equal amount on top of what they already paid toward your tuition. As you can see, this can wipe out your whole unpaid difference. If your school agreed to a lesser percentage in their agreement, then you could be left with a small unpaid difference which would be your responsibility to pay.

Many new students think the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays the whole tuition amount and that may or may not be true as evidenced by my two examples. So if you will be in either of these situation, it would pay (literally) to ask:
• whether your school is on the Yellow Ribbon program
• if your course of study is covered
• the maximum number of students accepted per year
• and the maximum amount paid per student.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a great benefit to those who can use it, however many Post 9/11 GI Bill students are not aware of its financial potential.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi Ron, my bf is getting out of the Navy in July. He plans on staying in this state with me and go to college. He was TOLD that he would get BAH for housing as long as he was a full-time student. I’ve been getting different answers on that subject. He’s counting on his BAH to fund where he’s going to live as I live with my parents so I can’t help him out. Upon reading various things, I am now worried he won’t have a place to live. Is there any way he can be prioritized to get it sooner? Should he apply for unemployment rights when he gets out so he some money coming to him? Does he even qualify for it?

A: I’m not an unemployment rights expert, so I won’t even attempt you make a recommendation, however, we can talk about his GI Bill options.

First, let’s clarify terminology – the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay BAH, it pays a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). There is a big difference between the two, such as:
• BAH is paid twice a month where the MHA is once per month while in school.
• BAH is based on the zip code of residence while MHA is on the zip code of the school.
• BAH is based on servicmember’s pay grade where MHA is paid at the E-5 with dependents pay grade regardless of the servicmemeber’s actual pay grade at the time of getting out.
• And many other differences.
So you can see that talking about one, when you really mean the other, can be confusing.

If he goes to school full-time, and he has served for at least three years on active duty after September 10, 2001, he would be eligible for the maximum MHA authorized for the zip code of his school. If he served less than three years, then he would get a percentage of the full amount based on the length of his eligible service.

The best advice I can give is for him to have banked at least enough money to get him by for a couple of months. The VA is getting better at reducing the number of days from application of benefits to actually paying the student, so he may not even need the full two months, but to have it would give him a cushion and peace of mind to carry him though until his Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance starts coming.

Once he has his DD214 in hand, he should go to his school’s VA Certifying Official and get immediately certified (which will then allow him to enroll as a GI Bill student). His actual Certificate of Eligibility will follow later. This will get things moving as fast as possible. The VA does not have a prioritization system; this will get things going about as fast as they can move.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m just trying to be clear. So I can only revoke or add months to existing dependents already getting benefit, right?

A: Yes, already getting Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits or had the benefit at one time. For example if you had transferred some of your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to one of your kids while you were on active duty, but not the other one, you can add months after you get out to the child that had already received benefits, but not to the one never having benefits.

Whether the child that had benefits has any left or not is immaterial; s/he can get more benefits again if you choose to make the transfer.
To get maximum flexibility, many servicemembers make a transfer of at least one month of entitlement to each child and their spouse.

That way after retiring, the veteran can revoke and reallocate benefits as necessary, taking benefits away from a child not using them and reallocating to one that has used up their benefits and can use more. Or the sponsor earning the benefits could revoke from one child and use the benefits him or herself.

Where the issue sometimes comes into play is if the servicemember has a new dependent after s/he retires from the military. There is no way to make a transfer of benefits to that new child.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m looking for some insight on using tuition assistance and Montgomery/Post 9/11 GI Bills at the same time. I know in the Guard/Reserve you cannot use the Top Up program, but I am wondering if you can utilize both benefits, using one of the benefits for costs other than tuition/school related expenses. I have a wife and a newborn son and I want to go back to school full time, so I won’t have much time to work. Any info would be greatly appreciated. — Ian

A: You are correct Ian, the Guard and Reserve does not have Tuition Top-Up, but they do have the Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA).

I do want to make sure you know which Montgomery GI Bill you have as there is a considerable difference between the two. If you received your Montgomery GI Bill while you were on active duty, then you have the MGIB-AD. If the only MGIB you have is the one you got when you came into the Selected Reserve, then you have the MGIB-SR. The biggest issue is they do not pay anywhere near the same.

The MGIB-AD pays up to $1,648 per month to go to school full-time, if you served for at least three years on active duty. By comparison, the MGIB-SR pays $362 per month. With either GI Bill, you can use FTA, but keep in mind it usually pays up to $250 per credit with a $4,500 per year maximum.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the pay structure is different than it is under either MGIB. The amount of housing allowance you get is directly related to how much eligible service you have, the school’s zip code and the number of credits you are taking.

If as a Selected Reservist the only eligible time you have is a one-year deployment for example, then you would only get up to 60% of the full amount. Three years of eligible service, such as being on active duty the whole time, or 3 one-year deployments, would get you to the 100% tier.

Under the New GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition at a public school up to the resident rate (if there is a difference after FTA is first applied), plus you would get the monthly housing allowance, and a book stipend of about $500 per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap). Under either MGIB, you have to pay your own tuition if there is a difference after what FTA pays.

The caution is the combination of what FTA pays and the Post 9/11 GI Bill will not exceed the total cost of tuition. You are not making “extra” money. And entitlement use is the same regardless of the amount the VA pays toward your tuition – four months of entitlement for a 16-week semester.

Under the MGIB however, entitlement use is calculated at one month of use for each $1,648/$362 paid out depending on which MGIB you use and you could make additional money using the FTA/MGIB combination as you are not limited to the total cost of tuition.

Plus, don’t forget you are also getting drill pay per month and any education benefits your state may offer to its Selected Reservists. It all adds up!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My name is Brian. So I understand that if I change from Post 9/11 to Montgomery GI Bill then I will get more housing allowance over there ya? I’m planning to go to a Cebu University.

A: To fully understand the difference between the two GI Bills, we have to clarify a couple of things. First, if you only have the Post 9/11 GI Bill now and you are still on active duty, you would have to pay the $1,200 contribution fee to be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Second, if you had the Montgomery GI Bill and already switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can’t switch back to the Montgomery GI Bill (nor would you want to – let me explain).

It is true that under the MGIB, you would get up to $1,648 per month to go to school and only $1,429 per month under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But you have to consider more – much more – than just the rates of payment between the two GI Bills.

Under the MGIB, the amount you get each month goes toward paying tuition, fees, books, etc. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay up to $19,198.31 per year towards your tuition, plus you get your housing allowance and a book stipend of about $500 per semester for up to two semesters per year.

So on the surface, it looks like you get more per month under the MGIB (and you do), but when you factor in costs, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the clear choice.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a little confused about how the changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill will affect students attending (or wishing to attend) private institutions. I recently graduated with my first undergraduate degree and I still have 19 months remaining on my Post 9/11 benefits. I am eligible for 50% of the active duty benefits. I am looking to apply to a graduate program at a private school that operates in quarters rather than semesters. Their yearly tuition rate is $31,000. I’m wondering if you could help me figure out how to calculate the amount of benefits that I would receive per quarter. I’m also confused about the private institution cap and how it factors into my situation.

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill changed in 2011 eliminated the in-state maximums for students attending public schools and established a yearly maximum for students at private schools. Now, if you attend a public school and are at the 100% tier, your tuition is paid in full by the VA at the resident rate. If you attend a private school, then they can pay up to $19,198.31 per year.

Because you are at the 50% tier, the VA could only pay up to half of what they would normally pay for a student at the 100% tier. Now onto the quarter verses semester issue.

Semesters are generally 15 or 16 weeks depending on the school, where a quarter is more around 10 weeks long. If you are considered a full-time student, then entitlement use is one month of entitlement for each month of school.

Under the semester system, you would use up four months of entitlement per term. Under the quarter system, you would only use up 2 1/2 months per quarter, so with your 19 remaining months of entitlement, you could get about 7 1/2 quarters of school.

As far as payment, the VA would pay up to $9,599.16 per year (50% of the $19,198.31 maximum) for you to attend a private school. If you attended a public school, they would pay 50% of the resident tuition rate that your school charges.

Under either GI Bill, you are going to have considerable out-of-pocket expenses and since you are only at the 50% tier, and you are not eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have served 27 months & 20 days, got out on a Chapter 8 (pregnancy). Also I signed a paper on about not meeting the 20/30 month rule to receive the basic MGIB benefits. What are my best options, put in an application for the GI Bill or the Post 9/11?

A: What the 20/30 month rule says is that if you enlisted for 24 months, you have to serve at least 20 months to get full GI Bill education benefits; thirty months on a 36 month enlistment. I’m assuming you initially signed up for 36 months.

When you don’t meet your initial enlistment obligation, the most you can hope for is a month-for-month eligibility, meaning you should be able to get 27 months of education benefits from your GI Bill.

As far as which GI Bill would be best for you, I can’t answer that without knowing more information – such as your education goal.

Under the MGIB, you could get up to $1,648 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc. Under the Post 911 GI Bill, your tuition is paid up to the resident rate, and you get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend once per semester.

However, I caution you on the housing allowance as online-only students get a different rate than students attending classes on campus – about half as much.

So which GI Bill is best for you depends on where you go to school, if you are attending classes online only or on campus, and your education goal. Generally speaking, most students fair better under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you have to factor in your own situation to determined which GI Bill is best for you.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill require a “pay-in” like the MGIB? I enlisted in ‘04 with SLRP, so I naturally did not pay the $1,200 that my peers paid for the MGIB. I served my initial contract (4 years) and re-enlisted for 2 more, but didn’t finish those as I was selected for Warrant Officer Candidacy School. I’ve since served as an Active Duty W.O. I applied for GI Bill benefits to work on my Master’s degree previously, but was told that I had no benefits…was I mislead or did I apply for the wrong benefit?

A: No, unlike the MGIB, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is free in return for your military service; ninety days of eligible service after September 10, 2001 gets you the minimum benefit of 40%. Serve 36 months get 100% of the benefit. Being you served for four years, you should be at the top tier percentage.

If you checked the 9B box (Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty) in Part II on your VA Form 22-1990, then it would have come back disapproved. However, try again and this time check box 9A (Post 9/11 GI Bill) and see what happens. Also don’t forget to check 9F. As it says, this block has to be checked if this is your first request for Chapter 33.

Once you get your Certificate of Eligibility, then take a copy of it with you when you enroll in school. It will show which GI Bill you are authorized to use, and how many months of eligibility you have left to use.

Because you are still serving on active duty, the VA would pay your tuition (up to the resident rate if you are going to a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year if attending private) and you would get the book stipend, but you would not get the housing allowance. The book stipend calculates out at $41.67 per credit per semester with a $1,000 per year cap.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I took out student loans for my first semester. Since I was on the Montgomery GI Bill, I utilized the check sent to me from the VA for rent and such as my tuition was covered. What would be the effects if I changed to Post 9/11, and utilized loans again next fall? Will I receive the difference from the school since the loan will cover the tuition the VA is sending them.

A: If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there is a good chance you would not need to take out student loans (which have to be paid back at some point). The way the Post 9/11 GI Bill differs from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is that the VA pays your tuition directly to your school at the resident rate.

Attend a public school and your tuition could be paid in full (if you are a resident of the state where your school is located). Attend a private school and the VA can pay up to $19,198.31 per year in tuition.

In addition the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays you a housing allowance that can run as high or more than what you were getting from the MGIB. And it gets even better – you also get a book stipend per semester that pays $41.67 per credit. There is a $1,000 per year cap on it.

One of the unique features of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that it is the last payee in the tuition chain. So if other sources are paying your tuition, the VA would not pay anything towards it. All you would get is the housing allowance and book stipend.

If you are getting other financial aid that is not fenced towards tuition, then the VA would pay your tuition as if you were not getting any financial aid. The VA does not pay your tuition and you get “difference” money – they either pay or they don’t.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like to start Grad school and I’m trying to decide which program I should use. I was informed that I was allowed to start my Montgomery GI Bill and later switch over to the Post 9/11. Can you provide me the benefits of using both programs?

A: Let’s look at the money aspect first between the two GI Bills. If you use your Montgomery GI Bill, all you would get is one payment per month – up to $1,648 – for up to 36 months. Out of that amount, you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

By using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would have three sources of income – your tuition is paid by the VA directly to your school, monthly you get a housing allowance and once per semester, you get a book stipend. Now let’s break down each of these payment streams.

If you attend a public school, the VA pays your tuition in full up to the resident rate. Attend a private school and they would pay up to $19,198.31 per year. If you have to pay non-resident tuition or your private school tuition is more than what the VA can pay, then you either have to pay the difference out of pocket or use the Yellow Ribbon Program if eligible.

Housing Allowance
If you are attending classes on campus, your monthly housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. However, if you are doing your Grad school online, then you are limited to the maximum of $714.50 per month – about half of what you would otherwise get if you are attending classes (even one class) on campus.

Book Stipend
This calculates out at $41.67 per credit per semester and there is a $1,000 cap per academic year. However, this is usually enough for a couple of 12-credit semesters per year.

Now let’s talk entitlement. Under the MGIB, you get up to 36 months of entitlement. If you would switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get that same 36 months of entitlement, however, use up your 36 months of MGIB first and then switch, you get an additional 12 months of benefits.

Because you only need a couple of years to complete your grad school, I would recommend switching right away. Plus when you have used up the last of your Post 9/11 GI Bill, you get your $1,200 contribution fee back. Sweet!