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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My dad died while on active duty when serving in the U.S Army. I am a senior in high school. Are there programs, grants or scholarships that will help me go to college?

A: As a dependent of a servicemember that died while serving, there are many sources of financial aid to help you with education expenses. First, I would look into applying for the Fry Scholarship. It basically has the same benefits as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you can use it up to age 33 instead of being limited to age 26.

It provides up to 36 months of entitlement which is enough to get a four-year degree. The VA pays your tuition directly to your school, and it gives you a monthly housing allowance that averages over $1,300 and pays a book stipend of around $500 per semester.

And then there is Chapter 35 GI Bill. It provides up to 44 months of entitlement which currently pays $1,003 per month as a full-time student. Under this GI Bill, you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

If you are eligible for two or more GI Bills, then the maximum number of months of benefits cannot exceed 48 months. So the best way to use these two GI Bills would be to use the Fry Scholarship first for 36 months and then if you need more, use Chapter 35 for up to another 14 months.

In addition to the two above sources, the Army Emergency Relief has the MG James Ursano Scholarship program. It can provide up to four years of need-based scholarship money.

Plus there are many more sources. But these three should get you started.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have my active duty GI Bill and I just started school. I was under the impression that the money went straight to the school but now they are asking me for money. Who and how do I go about receiving the payments? Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated thank you.

A: Being you referenced your “active duty GI Bill”, I think you are using your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Under that program, the money comes to you and you are responsible to pay your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses. Right now, the MGIB pays up to $1,648 per month (if you had at least three years of service and are a full-time student).

However, if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA pays your tuition and fees directly to your school. Monthly you get a housing allowance and at the beginning of each semester, a book stipend.

Being you asked how do you get receive payments, I’m not sure that you had sent in VA Form 22-1990. If you did, then you should have received your Certificate of Eligibility and handed in a copy of the certificate when you enrolled in school. That way your school knows you are a GI Bill student. If you are using the MGIB, then they know to bill you; if using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they know the VA will pay them.

However, even if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they could still ask you for money, especially if you are paying non-resident tuition. The Post 9/11 GI Bill only pays up to the resident tuition amount; the difference is your responsibility to pay.

Or your school could have you pay your tuition up front and then credit it back to you once the VA pays them. Without more information as to which GI Bill you are using, I can’t give you a better answer.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: As far as flight training, I was told from private pilot onward, the VA will only pay $10,000 a year. When I asked a flight school about this today, I was told the VA went back on their word and now they’re saying you must first obtain a Private Pilot’s certification out of your own pocket. If this is true…What a joke if it is. Why are they changing up things and out right lying to us? They told us Private would be covered and now they’ve backed out.

A: The purpose of the GI Bill is to train you for something you can do for a career. Therefore the VA views (and has always viewed) private flying as an avocation (something you do for fun) and not as a vocation (something you do for a job).

So I think your flight school told you what you wanted to hear to get you enrolled and then blamed the VA for changing their policy, when in fact they did not. The $10,000 per year limit you referred to (actually it is $10,970.46 for this academic year) applies to non-degree programs like and ratings and certifications.

However, if you want your Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay more of your flight training costs, then get into an Aviation Degree program that many colleges and universities offer. These are four-year programs, so the VA views them just like they do any four-year degree.

Because they are degree-producing, the VA would pay 100% of the tuition costs if you attend a public school, or up to $19,198.31 per year if you attend a private school. And many of these programs do include getting your private pilot’s license. In addition, you get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend per semester.

So in my opinion, the party that lied to you was not the VA – I think it was your flight school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently enrolled in the master’s program at a university in Ocala, Florida. I would like to know what my benefits should be. The school representative made and error and gave me a personal check for $1,000.00 dollars. I am receiving $1,000.00 dollars a month? Is this correct, and should I receive additional money for books, lodging, etc.? I exited the Marine Corp in April having served in Iraq.

A: Actually, if you are a full-time student, you should be receiving $1,125 per month in Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance money and it should come directly from the VA. In addition, the VA should be paying your tuition directly to your school and you should be getting a book stipend once per semester in addition to your housing allowance.

The book stipend is figured at $41.67 per credit and while it does have a $1,000 per year cap on it, it is usually enough for a couple of semesters per year. You get the per credit amount as a reimbursement as you have to buy your books yourself. Some semesters it would be likely enough to buy all your books while in other semesters it may cost you some out-of-pocket money; in the end it all works out.

I’m not sure what is going on with the $1,000 personal check your school representative gave you. By personal, I’m assuming you mean your university and not out of his or her own personal checking account. If so, that would have me asking lots of questions.

I’m assuming it was a snafu between the school and the VA as far as tuition is concerned as the VA pays the school directly. Just to be safe, I would ask what that $1,000 is for and why you are getting it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 13 months of MGIB benefits left and I would like to start graduate school in August 2014. My MGIB benefits will expire December 2014. Will I get 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill or only the 6 months I had left on MGIB before expiration?

A: You lost me. In the beginning you said you have 13 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) months left to use and then farther down you talk about the 6 months you have left before expiration. If you start using your remaining MGIB benefits in August, you should have about 9 months left in December.

Anyway, regardless of what you have left for MGIB, they would expire in December 2014. And if you switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill at that time, all you would get is that same number of months.

Logically, your best bet is to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away and get your 13 months of benefits plus an additional 5 years to use them. Why? Because you do not have enough time to use up your remaining MGIB benefits, switch to the New GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits.

Ideally that would be the best route, but with you starting graduate school in August in the same year your MGIB benefits expire, there just isn’t enough time to do both – exhaust your current benefits and get the additional ones.

The only other choice you have is to start your graduate degree now, so that you have the time to use up your remaining MGIB benefits and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir, I read that I get 100% of my Post 9/11 GI Bill after 3 years of service, which I have accomplished (active duty). But then heard from another source that it is 3 years after completion of Tech school. Which is true? Also if going Guard do you stop accruing benefits towards it? Thank you for your time.

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill is unique in many ways and one of its unique features is the way it calculates entitlement eligibility. The way the rules read, with less than 24 months of service, your training time or Tech school time does not count. However once you are over the 24-months-of-service mark, that training time counts.

So if your Tech school is 6 months long, you would jump from having 18 months of eligibility to 30 months in the course of a day – your 24-month mark. Being you have three years of service, you have 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. But just what does that mean?

It means that you have 36 months of time where you can go to school and have your tuition paid (at the resident rate) directly to your school by the VA. In addition, you would get a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking.

Each semester, you would also get a book stipend that calculates out at $41.67 per credit (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most generous GI Bill in history. You do have enough entitlement to get a four-year degree, if you use your benefits wisely.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an active duty solider about to ETS in August. I have always left my home of record in FL. The past three years I have been stationed in Germany. The school wants proof of residence. My car was in Germany, so I do not have registration. And my voter registration card had to be renewed. The only thing I have is my driver’s license as proof. Do you know if there is a law, sense I have kept my home of record in FL, it will be proof of residence.

A: Unfortunately not and Florida seems to be extra tough when it comes to accepting proof of residency. Right now 20 states offer resident tuition rates to veterans regardless of their state residency and Florida is working toward that (albeit slowly) along with 8 other states.

Florida has a similar bill in their legislature last year, but it was defeated because they had folded in an illegal immigrant tuition policy as a rider. Hopefully this year, they bring it in as a “clean” bill without any extraneous attachments that could jeopardize its passing.

However, there is also a bill in Congress right now that would force all states to offer resident tuition rates to veterans or their schools would not be eligible to receive GI Bill benefits. It has not passed yet, but it does have a lot of support and probably enough to pass when it comes up for a vote.

This bill is part of the Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 and only pertains to public schools. However, if veteran student would not have to worry about how much they were going to pay for tuition, it would open up some other opportunities that otherwise might not have existed. We’ll see what happens!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I’m just wondering if we’re eligible to use my husband’s GI Bill. He’ll be in the Navy for 4 years in June. The ship says we can … so is it true?

A: Being you said “we’re”, I’m assuming you mean at least yourself and or dependents. We’ll get to that requirement in a minute.
With over three years in the Navy after September 10, 2001, your husband is fully vested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill meaning that he could start using it right away if he wanted to.

However, for you or his dependents to use his Post 9/11 GI Bill, he has to meet three service requirements:
• having served for at least six years
• currently serving
• having at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of the transfer of benefits request.

While he is currently serving and may have four years left on his enlistment, he does not meet the first requirement yet. However, once he does and he wants to make a transfer of benefits request to you, he can go to the milConnect website and follow the Transfer of Education Benefits Section.

After he makes his request, he needs to keep coming back to the website occasionally and look for a status change to “Transfer Approved”. Once that happens, then you can go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e.

In return, you will get your Certificate of Eligibility which you will need when enrolling as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I recently completed my four years with the Marines. I was a North Carolina resident when I joined and stationed in Hawaii. While I was gone, my family moved to South Carolina and I now live with them. I’m trying to attend school in SC, but they are telling me that the Post 9/11 GI Bill will only pay the in-state tuition costs, and that for this particular school that is about $1,600. The tuition they are making me pay is over $4,000. I thought the GI Bill paid the max tuition for whatever the most expensive public school in the state was, now this community college that only costs 4 grand is going to make me pay out of my pocket, this is outrageous, is something wrong?

A: Actually the way the rules read, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to 100% of the resident tuition costs at a public school, or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school. Because you have not established residency in South Carolina yet, that is why they are charging you the non-resident tuition rate.

You are right, it is outrageous and right now, there is a bill in Congress that would level this playing field – all veterans would be charged the resident rate regardless of residency. However, as of this writing, that bill has not passed yet, but with the support it has, most experts think it will pass.

Another thing to look into that may help pay the difference in costs is the Yellow Ribbon program. If your school has an agreement with the VA, they could pay up to 50% of the difference with the VA paying an equal amount (in addition to the resident tuition they already paid to your school). In theory, this would wipe out all of the difference.

However, your school may have opted for a less percentage, which would then leave a small amount left for you to pay, or they may not be a Yellow Ribbon Program participant.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I was an Army reservist from the summer/fall of 2008. I was deployed to Iraq in 2003-2004 and I left the Army in the fall of 2004. I just spoke to someone at the VA and was told a reservist has to use the GI Bill while they are drilling, otherwise they lose everything. PLEASE help, this is NOT how it was explained to me during my military career. Thanks much!

A: If you are talking about the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), what you were told is true. The Reserve GI Bill, as it is sometimes called, expires either 10 years from when you receive your Notice of Benefits Eligibility (NOBE) letter or upon your discharge from the Selected Reserves (which includes the National Guard).

Fortunately, though, you have at least one other GI Bill (the Post 9/11 GI Bill) and probably two (the Montgomery GI Bill-AD). Let’s look at the second one first.

If you signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill-AD (MGIB-AD) when you first enlisted in the Army and had $100 per month deducted from your pay for the first 12 months, then you have this GI Bill. It expires 10 years from your last date of discharge from active duty, which should be in 2014.

Because you have at least 90 days of service after September 10, 2001, you also have the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You may or may not have full 100% eligibility depending on when you got out in the fall of 2004. If it was after the September date, you are fully eligible; if before the September date, then you have 90% eligibility. Under this GI Bill, you have up to 15 years from your last date of discharge from active duty (2019) to use or lose these GI Bill benefits.

People are often confused between the two Montgomery Bills, because the term “Montgomery GI Bill” or “MGIB” is often used interchangeably, but the rules governing each are as different as night and day.

Relax, you have at least one GI Bill you can use now and into the near future. If you have the MGIB-AD, you can transfer your 36 months of eligibility to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to extend out the amount of time you have to use up those 36 months. If you don’t have the MGIB-AD, then you can use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill as it now stands.