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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi Ron, I’m taking online classes toward two master’s degrees. I plan to retire in about a year, and have 27 months of MGIB left. I would like to start using it for my master’s degrees. While on AD, for part-time up to the minimum full-time enrollment, I believe it’s advantageous to use the MGIB. However, anything over the minimum full-time load looks like the Post 9/11 GI Bill is better for me. Additionally, any classes taken at full-time or greater after AD shows the Post 9/11 GI Bill to be more advantageous. It’s quite possible I will not use all of my MGIB before attaining the degrees. Additionally, I will not have the degrees completed before I leave AD, so there will be no opportunity to transfer the benefits. Will the 9/11 GI Bill pay for two degrees at the same time? For instance, if I’m taking two courses under one program and one course under another program? I’m a bit confused on what is the best course of action.

A: I don’t have enough information to determine which GI Bill would be the better one for you. I can tell you that the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) pays up to $1,648 per month to go to school full-time.

In contrast under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school. Monthly, you get a housing allowance that across the nation averages around $1,300. Yours could be more or less as it is dependent upon the zip code of your school. Also figured into the calculation is the number of credits you take each semester.

Also, you get a book stipend that figures out at $41.67 per credit, however, there is a $1,000 per academic year cap on that stipend. It is enough for a couple of 12-credit semesters per school year though.

Your assessment of using the MGIB while on active duty may be correct. If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, all you get out of it is the book stipend and your tuition paid. I think a better route is to use the MGIB in association with Tuition Assistance and the Top-Up program. Using these three programs ensure you get the best mileage out of your MGIB entitlement use. You only get charged one month entitlement for each $1,648 amount paid.

Not so with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Regardless of what the VA pays, you get charged entitlement for the whole semester.

As far as transferring benefits between GI Bills, you can do that anytime – even after retiring. What you can’t do after retiring is initially transfer benefit to a dependent.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill will not pay for two degrees at the same time as you can only have one degree plan on file at any one time. However, it can pay for you to go to two schools at the same time, but the credits you acquire at one school have to be credited to your degree plan at the school that will be issuing you your degree.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My daughter’s father is a disabled veteran. He mailed us a brochure regarding the Alabama GI Dependents Scholarship Program that she (and he) meet all the requirements for according to the brochure. My problem is we live in Florida. Therefore I am assuming she would be paying out of state tuition and (also assuming) that rate is over the maximum allowable. I am not really sure where to go from here. Are these benefits available to her in Florida? I am just not sure I understand these benefits and how to best use them. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

A: I looked at the brochure and based on that information, it appears that both of them do qualify, however, don’t be surprised if she is declined based on the fact that she does not live in Alabama. Most State GI Bill programs require the student to live in the state where the student will go to school, although this program doesn’t specifically state that it is a requirement.

Assuming she is eligible for the program, yes, most likely she would have to pay out-state tuition. And you are right in assuming it is greater than the allowable under the program which is resident tuition.

I thought I had found an alternate solution in the Academic Common Market Program. It is a reciprocity agreement between many of the Southeastern States including Alabama and Florida, but upon further study, Florida only participates at the graduate degree level, so that won’t work.

Of course, she can always submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. It will come back with a report of how much education financial aid she qualifies for.

And she can apply for a variety of scholarships and grants; the great thing about these is they do not have to be paid back as do student loans. They should be a last choice.

And finally, she could enlist in the military and get her own Post 9/11 GI Bill and use Tuition Assistance while serving.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Before my ex-husband and I got divorced, he transferred some of his GI Bill to me. I am currently enrolled in a college and I was just curious as to what I would be entitled to as I use this. He said he wasn’t sure and I had no idea who to ask. Can you answer my question?

A: I can answer your question up to a point as I don’t know a couple of variables that come into play, but I’ll give you the resource where you can figure it out for yourself.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school. If you are at the 100% entitlement tier (meaning he served at least three years after September 10, 2001on a Title 10 order (which if he was on active duty, he would have met that requirement), then they would pay 100% of your tuition at a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school.

Also, you would get a book stipend of $41.67 per credit, up to the $1,000 yearly cap. If you attend full-time, it is usually enough for a couple of semesters per academic year.

If your ex is no longer serving, then you would also rate the monthly housing allowance (MHA). This is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take each semester. An average across the U.S. is $1,300 per month. Yours could be more or less depending on your school’s zip code.

To find out how much you would get, go to the BAH Calculator. Enter in your school zip code in the Duty Zip Code box. From the Pay Grade drop-down box, select E-5. Use the E-5 with dependents figure as your amount.

If your ex is still serving, you may not get the MHA. It really depends on if he is drawing BAH or not and the settlement of your divorce. Sometimes a lawyer will suggest the MHA for up to 36 months, instead of BAH from the date of the divorce through the duration of the service and up to retirement.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I transferred one year of my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my daughter so that I could do the service commitment before I retired. I want to use Top-Up to cover some of my second BA degree and Graduate Degree but I want to keep as much available for her as possible. If my classes are six weeks long and $750.00 a piece, how much would that deduct from my GI Bill if I used it to cover the entire thing? Also, if my classes (Graduate) are $1400.00 each and I use TA to pay for $750.00 and then Top Up to cover the remaining balance, how much would that deduct from my GI Bill? (6 Week Classes) Thanks!

A: The qwerky thing about Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement use is it doesn’t matter the cost of the course, you use up the same amount of entitlement. So for a six-week course, you would use up six weeks of entitlement. I don’t know how many six-week courses you have to take until you would have your bachelor’s degree so I can’t tell you the exact amount, but knowing what you know now, you can figure it out.

The Tuition Top-Up program under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is not as good as it is under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Under the MGIB, your service branch pays the whole tuition bill. Out of that amount, Tuition Assistance pays what it can and the remaining amount is sent to the VA for reimbursement back to your service branch.

The VA in turn calculates how much entitlement to deduct from your remaining balance by dividing what they paid by the MGIB monthly amount. So using your figures, if the VA had to pay $650 ($1,400 – $750) they would deduct .39 of a month of entitlement (or about 11 days) from your remaining MGIB benefits.

However under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they deduct the whole six week’s worth of entitlement regardless of how much (or how little) they have to pay. So using the same example as above, if they had to pay $650, they would deduct six weeks of entitlement.

If you want to keep as much entitlement for your daughter as possible, I would forgo the second bachelor’s degree and instead concentrate on your advanced graduate degree.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good morning, I’ve got a small situation. I’m coming up on my ETS next year and trying to plan accordingly. I am looking to become an Endocrinologist using the education benefits I’ll receive from the Post 9/11 GI Bill and through the Hazelwood Act, being that I’m from Texas. I know that I’m eligible for both, but what would be my best course of action? My plan now is to ETS from the service, (hopefully) land a job as an Air Traffic Controller in Texas to supplement my income (using the Hazelwood Act for undergraduate study) and once I complete those four years, use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to have a steady source of income while completing graduate school, residency, etc. I am an ATC in the service so I don’t see it being TOO difficult, but would it be the best way for me to go this route? Or should I use the Post 9/11 first and then go to graduate school in Texas? I assume that graduate school is more expensive, but I’m not sure if that is a factor in either case. I guess I’ve got a lot of research to do but I was hoping that you’d be able to give me better insight. Thanks in advance for the information provided.

A: I think the best plan would be to use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill right away for your undergraduate studies and use your Hazelwood Act for your advanced degree. You could still work as an ATC while working on your Bachelor’s degree so that you could bank some money that you could use while working on your advanced degree using the Hazelwood Act.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and fees directly to your school. Monthly you receive a housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. Once per semester, you would also get the book stipend, which calculates out at $41.67 per credit. Note, there is a $1,000 annual academic year cap, but if you are going to school full-time, it is enough for a couple of semesters of school per year.

Once you exhaust your Post 9/11 GI Bill, transition over to the Hazelwood Act. You would have up to 150 hours of exemption that you could use for your advanced graduate degree at approved institutions of higher learning in Texas. The Hazelwood Act does not pertain to private schools.

While you don’t get a living expense with your Hazelwood Act exemption, if you banked money while you were working as an ATC, you should have a reserve built up to help pay for some of your living expenses.

I suggest doing it this way as it gets kind of muddy trying to use the Hazelwood Act exemption while you still have Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits left to use. Using up your GI Bill entitlement first and then going over to the Hazelwood Act is a lot “cleaner” way to do it and with less hassle.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My question is a general one. I am an officer in the Family Readiness Group and am often asked about the Post 9/11GI Bill. One scenario in particular is this…. I have a USANG TSGT (at this time is on Title 10 for 6 months) who has put in 7 years and was wanting to transfer his GI BILL to his wife. Can he do this and it be effective immediately?

A: To answer your first question, yes (provided he has at least four years left on his enlistment at the time he makes his request) he can make a transfer of his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and most likely get it approved.

He meets the first service requirement of having served for at least six years and he is currently serving in the Armed Forces of the United States, which includes all of the Reserves and the National Guard. He just has to meet that four-year enlistment remaining requirement.

Being he is on a Title 10 order, he meets the Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirement of having served for a minimum of 90 days after September 10, 2001. However, with only six months of eligible service, he would be at the 50% tier. His wife would inherit this same tier percentage.

If he does submit a transfer request, it takes some time for it to be approved, so it would not be effective immediately, but it should be approved within a month or two.

Also know that if she does go to school while he is on a Title 10 order, she would not get the monthly housing allowance – only her tuition paid and the book stipend. Once off Title 10 orders, then she would start getting the housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband (active-duty Navy officer) transferred all of his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to me. I have already registered for classes for this semester and my classes start in one week. I just applied to use those benefits through my university’s veterans’ affairs office and they said it can take weeks for the VA to process my request. In the meantime – I’ve already been billed by the university for the first semester. If I pay out of pocket (or use my Pell Grant or Stafford Loan) to pay for this semester, will I be reimbursed by the VA? I did include my direct deposit information on the form. Or do I not receive benefits until the start of the next semester? Thank you! Renee

A: I would go talk to your school Renee and see first if they know you are using GI Bill benefits and second if they can wait until they get paid by the VA. Some schools have the student pay up front and then reimburse the student once the VA pays them. That is a clumsy system, but some schools don’t want to wait for their money.

I’m leery of having you pay the tuition and here is why. Things can get really screwed up fast if your school is not on the ball. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA is the last payer when other forms of payment are involved. So if you pay and your school records that tuition payment, then there is nothing left for the VA to pay.

It probably works O.K. if your school holds your tuition payment in escrow and bills the VA for the full amount, but as you can imagine, there are lots of moving parts to a system like this. Unfortunately if something does go awry, it is really difficult to get it straightened out.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying ask lots of questions as to how they do it. If they have a large veteran student population and have been doing it for a few years, it probably works great. If it is a new system or they are not used to working with veterans, I would proceed more cautiously.

It can take up to 8 weeks to get your first Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance payment. After that, you should see something monthly. Your book stipend usually comes as a separate payment shortly after the start of the semester.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband has 12 years of service as an active duty Marine. He plans to do “at least” 20 years in the Marine Corps. He would like for me to use his Post 911 GI Bill to complete my Master’s degree. He is currently half-way through a 4-year enlistment and is not eligible to reenlist for another year. Do I have to postpone taking advantage of this benefit for a whole year since he doesn’t have a 4-year enlistment currently? He was not told about this when he reenlisted 2 years ago. He also has a “letter of intent to reenlist” signed by his CO. His command is fully aware that he is a career Marine and has every intention to reenlist. They are even “grooming” him for a 1stSgt position. I had read that if a service member does not complete the 4 year enlistment after taking advantage of these benefits they may be liable for repaying the costs of tuition etc. Why would that not also be the case in our situation? Any additional information or assistance you can offer would be very much appreciated.

A: Unfortunately rules are rules and one of the stipulations is that he has to have at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of his transfer request. The other two are currently serving and having served for at least six years – both of which he meets and exceeds.

In the end you most likely would have to wait until his reenlistment window opens up and he can extend. Usually letters of intent to reenlist and even his career focus do not meet the rules of having at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of his transfer request.

What usually happens in the case of not fulfilling a four-year commitment as part of a transfer of benefits is that the recipient loses whatever remaining unused portion of their entitlement that they have left. The VA usually does not go after reimbursement, but cancels further Post 9/11 GI Bill use of transferred benefits.

That could be the case in your situation, but the VA is most likely not going to put you into that situation until he has at least a four-year enlistment remaining at the time he make his transfer of benefits request.

I know you want to get started to work on your master’s degree, but most likely you are going to have to wait.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I wanted to know if and when I use the GI Bill if there is a living expense paid or what. And how and when is it paid out to help take care of my family while in school. Also if my wife or kids use my GI Bill will they also receive living allowance while in school. And I need information on how to transfer the GI Bill to a family member.

A: Let’s start with the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer first. If you are not currently serving, then you can’t make a transfer request to a family member. If you are serving, you first have to have served for at least six years and have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request.

If you meet the above requirements, then go to the milConnect website and make your request by following the Transfer Education Benefits link. Once your request is approved, by the Status Block changing to “Transfer Approved”, then your recipient has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, s/he would get his/her Certificate of Eligibility that would be needed when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school. Monthly, you get a housing allowance that comes to you either by check or Direct Deposit. Each semester, you also get a book stipend (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

The first month of each new semester may take longer than a month to get your check. But each month after that in that semester, it should come about the same time. Just know that the process starts over again with each new semester.

If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill, it is not transferable to a family member. Also the pay structure is different. The money each month comes directly to you and you are responsible for paying your own tuition, fees and books.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’m a Reservist in the Air Force and still currently have 24 months left of my GI Bill. I know that we are allowed to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill for Flight Training. How does that effect the months I have left? I want to get my Flight Instructor Certificate and it could possibly only take me 2 months to complete so if I do flight training, will it only count against my GI Bill for however long it takes me to finish the course or is there an automatic amount of months that get taken from the GI Bill per flight training certificate? Thanks for the help.

A: As a Reservist, you most likely have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR). If you were on active duty before coming into the Reserves, or you were activated on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, then you also may have eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It sounds like you want to switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

Being you are going for a flight certification, you can get the lesser of two things – either reimbursed for the full cost of getting your certification or up to the annual amount, which right now is limited to $10,970.46 per academic year. The interesting thing about the academic year is you could get up to that amount worth of training before August 1st for that year and up to another equal amount after August 1st for the new academic year.

As far as entitlement use, the VA would only deduct the actual amount of time spent in training. So if your training to get your certification takes two months, then that is the amount of entitlement they would deduct.

Just so you know, with certifications and using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would not get the monthly housing allowance or book stipend. It just pays for actual training costs and no more.