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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 7 months left on my MGIB. I assume I’m also eligible for additional 12 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill since I served with the Texas ANG (and some AD) after 9/11. I figure I’ll receive 70% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill since I served 18 months of active duty post 9/11. Does this mean I have to exhaust the 7 months of MGIB before I can use the 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill? Or do I have to choose one of the bills for the remaining 19 months of entitlements? To throw a wrench into the equation, I am also eligible for the Hazelwood Act. Can I use the Hazelwood Act at the same time with either of the GI Bills? Since I’m only eligible for 70% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it’d be great to use the Hazelwood Act to help pay off the other 30% of tuition, books, etc. Lastly, is there a phone number I can call to find out how many months of education benefits I’m entitled to (according to the VA – not my own calculations)? I know about eBenefits but have yet to get a premier account set up. Thanks for all the great work you do, Aaron

A: Aaron, to get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, yes, you first have to exhaust your remaining 7 months of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If you switch with these 7 months left, then that is all the entitlement you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

With the Hazelwood Act, you can use your MGIB at the same time, but generally speaking not your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

By the way your question is worded, I think you may be confused as far as what you get under the Hazelwood Act. You get up to 150 hours of tuition waiver – you do not get any real money from using the Act, so under the Hazelwood Act, you would not get the money you wanted to pay for books and other education-related expenses. But, because your tuition would be wavered, you would not need your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The best way to use your Hazelwood Act benefits (in my opinion) is to use the Act in association with your remaining MGIB. Once your MGIB benefits have been exhausted, then use just the Post 9/11 GI Bill by itself. Once finished with it, then go back to using just your remaining Hazelwood Act benefits. What you can’t do is use your Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Hazelwood Act for the same classes.

If you want to call the VA, their main Education number is 1-888-442-4551 (1-888-GIBILL-1). Sometimes it is difficult to get through, so just keep trying. An alternate route would be to contact the VA Regional Office in charge of your state.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a retired USAF member having served from 1983 to Dec 2004. I’m currently using my Montgomery GI Bill Chapter 30 in a OJT program. I have used 24 month’s worth of benefits under this program and want to go to school. I’m just wondering how many months of benefits I have left and what program should I use, the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post 9/11 Bill?

A: If you have already used up 24 months of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) entitlement, then you only have 12 months left to use (and only about 13 months left to use it I might add). So you have a couple of choices.

You can either finish using up your 12 months of MGIB entitlement and switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill (and get an additional 12 months of entitlement along with an additional 5 years to use it), or you can switch right away and get the same number of months of entitlement as you had under the MGIB and get the additional 5 years of time to use your benefits. However, you would not get the additional 12 months of entitlement.

So what is the real difference between the two? By switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now, you can:
• take advantage of the additional time you would have to use up your remaining 12 months of benefits
• get 1/3rd of your MGIB contribution fee back once you have used up your 12 months of benefits
• have the VA pay your tuition directly to your school – you have to pay your own tuition under the MGIB
• get a monthly housing allowance that would be almost the same as your MGIB payment
• get a book stipend each semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

If you use up your remaining MGIB benefits now and then switch, you would still get the last three item on the above list, along with an additional 12 months of benefits, but you would not get any of your MGIB Contribution Fee back.

If you need the additional time, then I would recommend using the first option.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the National Guard from December 06 to January 09 and was discharged with an Honorable discharge. Then I enlisted into the active duty Army on the same day of January 09 and then reenlisted and completed my first contract with the Army. Do I receive GI Bill benefits from that first contract? I’ve paid into the GI Bill twice already, once in the Guard and once in the Army. Now on my second contract with the Army, I’m being discharged on Chapter 14. My question is does my National Guard contract and service makes me able to use the GI Bill? O.K., my 2nd question is since I served honorable with the first contract with the Army, am I able to use the GI Bill from that 3-year contract? I just really want to go back to school.

A: If you enlisted in the National Guard for 6 years, then you had the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR). That GI Bill is unique in that it ended when you got out of the National Guard. I’m not sure what you paid for the first time because the MGIB-SR is free – you do not have to pay for it.

As far as your GI Bill with the Army, if you paid your $100 per month for 12 months, then you have the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD). You served for three years on your first contract, so you have 36 months of MGIB benefits that you can use. Right now if you were going to school full-time, you could get up to $1,648 per month. Keep in mind that you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

But you most likely also have another GI Bill – the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It too is free just from your service. So you can either use up your 36 MGIB months, and switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get another 12 months of entitlement, or you can switch over your 36 months of your MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away and not get the additional time.

If you switch with all of your MGIB entitlement intact, you would get your $1,200 MGIB contribution fee back once you have used up the last of your Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you use up your MGIB first and then switch, you do not have any of your contribution fee back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My daughter will enroll for fall, spring & summer – she has 31 months transferred to her. How much of that entitlement will actually be used. How are the months calculated for usage? She will be taking the max amount of credits for Fall, Spring & summer. Is it smart to use this benefit over summer or is better to save & use just use for Fall & Spring when you take more classes? How does the housing count days also, if you are taking courses year round? Thank you.

A: Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, entitlement use is based on a 30-day month so she would use up one month of entitlement for each month she is in school. So as a full-time student, she can get 31 months of school with the transferred benefits that was given to her.

The one consideration of going to school over the summer is that she may not have any book stipend money left to use for the summer semester or sessions. The book stipend is calculated at $41.67 per credit, however, there is a $1,000 per academic year cap on it. As a full-time student taking 12 credits per semester, it is enough for two semesters – fall and spring – but she would have to buy her summer session/semester books out of pocket.

Most schools use a different number of credits during the summer sessions as far as what they consider to be full-time, so her housing allowance could end up being about the same.

Her housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of her school, rate of pursuit (the number of credits she takes verses what her school considers to be full-time) and her Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level.

While 12 credits may be the full-time floor for the fall and spring semesters, her school may consider 6 credits as full-time for each 8-week summer session, so essentially everything stays at the same ratio.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Another question about rate of pursuit when your university has optional condensed schedules. At my university you are considered full time if you take 4 classes/3 units each for the term (16 weeks). For the fall term, I took one 16-week class and two 8-week classes for a total of 3 classes. I was certified as a 3/4 time student but the schools VA rep was told I am only a half time student because I didn’t take all three classes at once…Is this right? I always thought your rate of pursuit was based on what the school certifies you as not what the VA “thinks.” Please help!

A: What your VA Rep told you is correct. The VA counts the credits you are taking at any one particular point in time, so your 8-week class that starts mid-term, does not count toward total credits during the first half of the term. As your first 8-week class ends and your second 8-week class starts, the number of credits you are taking will not change.

If you are only a half-time student, then you would not qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA), if that is the GI Bill you are using. You have to be taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time to qualify for minimum MHA.

If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill, then you would rate only half of the full-time rate or $824 per month. The good thing with the MGIB is that you are only using up 15 days per month of entitlement for each full month you are in school instead of a full month as you would be doing with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

In the future, and if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, make sure you are taking at least 7 credits per semester so that you can at least get some MHA each month. Otherwise all you are getting out of your Post 9/11 GI Bill is your tuition paid and some book stipend money.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was honorably discharged before I hit the 24-month service mark. Does this mean that I am not eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill? I paid the $1,200 and don’t want my money to go to waste. I know the Post 9/11 GI Bill is an option, but I would prefer to use the old version. If I can’t, can I get my money back?

A: If you don’t complete your initial obligation, and whether you are eligible for Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits or not depends largely in part on the reason why you were separated early in the first place and the amount of time served verses your initial obligated enlistment. If the reason you were separated was for the convenience of the Government, you could get your full 36 months of MGIB benefits if you served at least 20 months of continuous active duty for an obligation of less than 3 years.

However, if your separation reason was for any of the ones listed below, then you most likely would get one month of benefits for each month of service:
• Service-connected disability
• Hardship
• A pre-existing medical condition
• A physical or mental condition that interfered with performance of duty, but didn’t result from misconduct on your part

Some Reductions-in-Force also qualify for full GI Bill benefits while others do not, so if that was the separation reason, see your Education Officer for guidance.

As far as getting your money back, don’t count on it. However, one thing that you should know is that you could get part of your money back by switching your Montgomery GI Bill benefits over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Once you use up those benefits, you would get a pro-rated amount of your $1,200 back. Why? Because you paid for the MGIB, but the Post 9/11 GI Bill is free just for your service.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My question is if I am enrolled at a college full-time taking 12 credits, but 2 of my classes started on November 23rd and the other 2 start on December 19th, do I still get full BAH payment for November and December, since I only whet to school for 2 classes or do I get partial BAH, or since I am enrolled full-time for the semester do I get full BAH for the duration of the semester?

A: As I harp on quite frequently, you don’t get BAH – you get the Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). I keep mentioning this because the two are so different and by referring to the wrong one just causes confusion among the readers. While the MHA is based on the BAH tables, that is where the similarity ends.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill MHA is based on three variables:
• the zip code of your school
• the number of credits you take
• the number of days you are in school
Because you are staying at the same school the only variables left are the number of credits and the number of days in the semester.

The other thing to know about the MHA is you only get paid for the number of credits you take at any one particular point in time (provided that you are taking the minimum number you need to qualify for the MHA in the first place). To qualify for any MHA, you have to take at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time.

Assuming you are taking all three-credit classes, you would not qualify for any MHA from November 23rd until December 18th because you are only taking 50% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. On December 19th, you would get the full authorized MHA because you would be then classified as a full-time student.

The other thing to know is that you do not get paid MHA during breaks, so if your classes pause during the holidays, you would not get any MHA during that time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How will I know the payment is from the GI Bill? I received a payment into my account from “U.S. Treasury, VA ch33” and it seems to be about half of the amount of my BAH. How would I find out if this is from the GI Bill benefits?

A: If it says “VA ch33”, then it is most likely your GI Bill payment. The question is what is the payment for – book stipend or your housing allowance? If you are taking a full credit load, then your Post 9/11 GI Bill book stipend should be around $500 for the semester and it should have come shortly after you started that semester.

If it came a month or so after you started school, then it is most likely your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance. If it is your housing allowance, it could be for a partial month especially if you started school mid to late in the month, which would explain why it was less than you had expected. The VA only pays you for the days you were in school, so the first and last month of a semester can be less than the full months in-between.

Another reason for the lesser amount could be that you are attending all of your classes online. If that is the case, then your housing allowance as a full-time student would max out at $714.50 per month, which is about half of what you would get if you were attending classes on campus.

If you are an online-only student, you can bump up your housing allowance by attending just one class per semester at a local school. Just be sure the classes your take are ones that you need to graduate and approved by the school that would be issuing you your diploma.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am trying to switch from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I EAS from the Marine Corps next August but I’m trying to get my benefits now (I don’t want to wait until the last minute). During the application, when I checked the Post 9/11 GI Bill it says when do I want it to be effective. My question is do I want it effective the day I apply or do I want it effective next August?

A: This question on the VA Form 22-1990 is important, but somewhat nebulous as putting down the wrong date can make a difference in the amount of eligibility that you could get. For example, if you have Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits left, but you intend to use them up first, then you would want to put an effective date on the form that is after you have used up the last month/day of your MGIB. That way you would get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits (and have an additional 5 years to use them up before they expire.

However if the date you put down is before you have used up all of your MGIB benefits, then all you would get for eligibility under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months and days as you had left under the MGIB and not the additional 12 months (although you would still get the additional 5 years to use up your transferred benefits).

Switching with MGIB benefits left is not a bad thing as it is all about how much eligibility you need to reach your education goal. If you only plan to get a four-year degree, then 36 months of MGIB/Post 9/11 GI Bill is probably enough. However if you plan to get an advanced degree, then you may want the additional eligibility.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I signed up for the Post 9/11 GI Bill in Oct 2013. I am due to retire 2015. Can my son still use my GI Bill?

A: I’m not sure what you mean when you said you “signed up for the Post 9/11 GI Bill …” as it is already free for the taking just by you serving on active duty for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001. Did you “sign up” by submitting VA Form 22-1990? If so, all that did was get you your Certificate of Eligibility that you would need when enrolling in school.

However if you want to transfer some or all of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your son, you can still do that, but you would have to extend past your current retirement date of 2015 by another two years.

As of August 1st, if you want to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a dependent now, you have to have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request – regardless if you are retirement eligible (served 20 years or more). And once retired, it is too late to make a transfer of benefits.

If you are unsure how much you want to transfer to him, just give him a month or so for now. Once retired, you can give him more, if he already had received some entitlement from you while you were serving; you just can’t do the initial transfer after you have retired.

To make a transfer request, go to the milConnect website and follow the Transfer Your Education Benefits link. Enter in the number of months in your son’s DEER listing that you want to transfer to him. Come back there occasionally and keep watching for the Status Block to change to “Transfer Approved”. Once that happens, the transfer is complete.

A couple of months before your son is ready to start school, have him go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get his Certificate of Eligibility that he would need when enrolling in school.