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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I finally finished signing up for my Montgomery GI Bill benefits. I enrolled in a few courses. Training is full-time, and according to the VA’s website, the monthly amount for benefits is $1,648.00. I just received a letter from the VA stating that my monthly rate is $714.50. Is there something I missed, should I get paid the full $1,648 a month or is there something that states I don’t? Any help please. Thank you.

A: First, I think you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not the Montgomery GI Bill. Second, there are two different types of Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance (MHA) payments. The difference depends on if you are taking all online classes, or attending class on campus or taking an online/on-campus mix.

Because you are getting the lower rate, I’m assuming all of your classes are online. I’ve never understood the rationale between the two payments. The only difference is the online-only student works from home and doesn’t have commuting costs. You still need to eat and have a roof over your head, just like the student attending classes on campus.

But the little-known secret is that if you take just one course per semester on campus that credits to your degree plan, you can get the higher MHA payment. The key is the classes you take locally have to be ones you need to mark off of you degree plan. If you take a class not on your degree plan, the VA will not pay for it nor would it count toward getting the higher MHA.

So if you have a campus close to you, figure out which classes you could attend on campus. Then coordinate with your online class provider to take those classes at a local campus.

Once you have finished those classes, your local school will send a transcript of credits to your online school and they will in turn credit your degree plan and everyone is happy.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Prior to the Post 9/11 Bill I paid the additional $600 kicker for the GI Bill. I separated from active duty in 2009 and have not changed it over the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I plan on taking distance courses due to my work schedule. What would be my best option to keep the old or new option?

A: The GI Bill kicker you are referring to is known as the Buy-Up program. You paid $600 into it to get an additional $5,400 in Montgomery GI Bill benefits. When that $5,400 is spread out over 36 months of payment, it amounts to an additional $150 per month. The thing you have to know about the Buy-Up program is that you cannot use it with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, nor would you get your money back.

Being you are taking all online classes, you may be better off staying with the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Right now the MGIB pays $1,648 per month. Add on the $150 from your Buy-Up Program and you are now at $1,798 per month. Out of that amount you have to pay your tuition, fees, books, etc.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your tuition would be paid directly to your school by the VA, but because you are taking all online courses, you would max out at $714.50 per month for a housing allowance. You would also get a book stipend of $41.67 per credit up to the $1,000 per year max.

You would have to do the math to see which GI Bill would work better for you, but at least you now have a comparison to work with.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is USCG and I know he can transfer some of his GI bill to me, but I need to know if I can use it towards cosmetology school here in CT? If so, how do I go about getting this started?

A: It depends on which school you are going to attend. The biggest thing to watch out for is to be sure your school and program are both covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. A good tool to use to check for approval is the Weam’s School Search Tool.

Just select Non College Degree from the Program Type drop-down menu and click on CT for your state. The program will return a list of schools that match your criteria. If you already have a school that you are looking at, just scroll through the listing to see if it is approved. If you have not yet selected a school, then scroll through to see if you can find a school close to you.

To get started, your husband has to meet the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits requirements which are:
• served for at least six years
• currently serving
• has at least four year left on his enlistment at the time of the request.

If he meets all of the requirements, then he can go to the milConnect website and follow the Transfer of Benefits Section to initiate a transfer request.

Once his request is approved, then you have to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, you would get a Certificate of Eligibility that you need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi My name is Eric and I retired from the Navy in August 2009. I went on terminal leave in June 2009 and did not learn about the transfer to family members Post 9/11 GI Bill. Even though it came in effect August 1, 2009, and I didn’t actually retire until 30 days later, I was already on Terminal Leave and didn’t get the info. I was wondering what can I do about transferring the Post 9/11 GI Bill to my daughter? Is there anything I can do?

A: In reality no, there isn’t anything you could have done differently or do now that would help you transfer your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your daughter.

When the Post 9/11 GI Bill came into existence there was a lot of mis-information and confusion on the transfer of benefits. Because of that, many servicemembers retiring around that time missed out on an opportunity to transfer benefits to a family member.

Some of the branches have taken steps to correct this oversight while others have not. Unfortunately the Navy and Marine Corps are two branches that have not taken an active role yet in providing an opportunity to transfer benefits.

The Army and Air Force have established a waiver process where an affected servicemember can submit a request to their branch’s Correction of a Military Record Board and based on the information submitted to the Board, it will decide either in favor of or against the requester. The form to get the process started is DD Form 149.

While the Army’s waiver process window is for those retiring between August 1st to November 1st 2009, the Air Force left their window open-ended and only uses retiring-after-August-1st as their criteria.

The best you could do right now is to send a DD Form 149 to the Navy Correction of Military Records Board so you have it on file, but don’t expect any action on it at this time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: So if I’m using my Montgomery GI Bill already but I haven’t use 36 months of it yet, can I transfer to Post 9/11 GI Bill once I get out from Active Duty? — Christie

A: Hi Christie. To answer your question, yes, you can transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill once you are off active duty or before you get out if you want. Just know that if you switch with unused Montgomery GI Bill entitlement left, you would only get the same number of months of entitlement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the Montgomery GI Bill.

However, if you need more than 36 months of entitlement, as you would if you plan on pursuing an advanced degree, there is a way to get additional months of entitlement. If you decide to switch GI Bills after you use up all of your MGIB benefits, you can get an additional 12 months of entitlement.

Also, if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB entitlement left, you can get a prorated amount of your $1,200 MGIB contribution back. It would come as part of your last Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance payment.

I don’t know how much you know about the Post 9/11 GI Bill compared to what you are getting under the MGIB. If you are using your MGIB while on active duty, you are most likely using it as part of the Tuition Top-Up program. If you were out, you would be getting up to $1,648 per month to go to school full-time, but you have to pay all of your education expenses.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your tuition would be paid directly to your school by the VA and depending on where you go to school you could get almost as much as you are making under the MGIB in Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance. In addition, you would also get a book stipend that can be up to $1,000 per year.

You would have to do the math, and in the end decide if you want to switch or not, but at least you have more information to factor into your decision.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I paid the 12 months of the MGIB, but was discharged at 21 months for pregnancy. Am I still eligible for the benefits, or was my service too short? Also, if not, am I eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

A: Whether you are eligible to use any GI Bill at all or not is dependent on the type of discharge you received. Anything less than fully Honorable and you would not be able to use your GI Bill benefits.

Assuming you did get an Honorable discharge, your best long-term bet financially would be to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The most you could hope for under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) would be one month of entitlement for each month of service or about 21 months of benefits. With less than three years of service, your MGIB would pay up to $1,339 per month as a full-time student, of which you have to pay all of your own education expenses.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you could get up to 36 months of entitlement at the 70% tier level, meaning the VA would pay that percentage directly to your school towards tuition and fees. Any unpaid difference would be your responsibility to pay.

You would also get 70% of both the monthly housing allowance and book stipend. You would have to do the math, but just these two items could add up to as much as you would get under the MGIB, and with the New GI Bill most of your tuition would be paid; under the MGIB, it would not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: This is a situational question. My school considers 12 credit hours per semester full time. Currently, I am enrolled in the fall term for 12 credit hours, but my 4th class doesn’t start until mid-October. Does that mean I will only receive BAH at the 75% pursuit rate until the 4th class starts, or will I receive 100% BAH for the entire semester?

A: You won’t get any BAH for any part of the semester. Because the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay BAH – it pays a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). To call it BAH is very misleading as the two are very, very different.

Now that my ranting on BAH is out of the way, let’s move on to what you would actually receive. Because the MHA is a day-by-day, credit-by-credit based calculation, you only get paid for the number of days enrolled in school multiplied by your rate of pursuit.

So in your situation, you would get a partial MHA up to when your other class starts in mid-October. If you are carrying 9 credits up to that point, then you would get 75% of the full MHA authorized for the zip code of your school. In your case, your school considers 12 credits as full-time. If you are taking 9 credits until mid-October, then you would get 9/12ths of the full MHA up to that point.

Assuming your other three classes run to the end of the semester, your MHA would increase to the full authorized amount starting in mid-October when your other class starts and you attain full-time status.

All of this of course is assuming you are at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level. If not, then you have to multiply everything by your tier percentage to see what you would actually get.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: This is a bit of long scenario. My husband who is in the Army Reserves had tried to transfer his benefits to me in Sept. of 2012. At that time they declined because he did not have 4 years left on his contract. He had the intention of continuing on as he already had 15 years of military service. When he spoke with the education specialist, he was told he had to wait until he had a year left on that contract (he had a little under 2 years left at the time), then reenlist in June of 2013 with an extension. He was told that he could back date up to a year for the benefits. Of course once that was all done, the date on the TEB was Aug. 26, 2013. I had already been going to school fall 2012, spring 2013, and this fall. As I read more and more, it sounds like we cannot change the date for the transfer of benefits. After hours of looking at different websites, I found DA form 4836 (the Oath of Extension). Is there any way we can fight to get benefits for the 2012-2013 school year? I am so discouraged that it would’ve been an easy fix last year when we started the process. Thank you for your time.

A: The root of the problem was your husband waited too long until he tried to transfer his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to you. If he would have started the process when he had four or more years left on his enlistment, this whole mess could have been avoided. But to answer your question, no you most likely would not be able to get your fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters paid for. Why?

Because it would be like trying to drive a car home before you bought it. Being your transfer was not approved until August 26th, you did not have any Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits to use before that date. The VA can’t by law pay you for something you did not have at that time, which when you were going to school you did not have approved transfer benefits yet.

And they can’t back date the transfer, because your husband did not meet all of the service requirements at the time you were going to school:
• currently serving
• having served for at least 6 years
• having at least four years left on the enlistment at the time of the transfer request.

What your education specialist told you about back-dating up to a year back for the benefits is true, providing you had the benefits for the period of time you were trying to collect on – but you didn’t as your transfer had not yet been approved.

So basically, now you can try and collect reimbursement on your fall 2013 semester, as you had entitlement to use for that semester. As far as the other two semesters, you just have to move on and now use your transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement and chalk up the past to experience.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi Ron, wow your blog is very helpful. My fiancé and I are trying to buy a house and he would like to go to college. He served a total of 6 years. He reenlisted or extended his service for an additional 2 years. His first tour was honorable, however, during his second tour he had OTH for drug abuse. Do you think there is any hope for a VA loan and GI benefits? Thank you. Summer.

A: Yes Summer, there is hope – you have a pretty name by the way. My specialty is GI Bill education benefits, so I can’t address much as far as a VA home loan, but I can tell you that his discharge can’t be Dishonorable and he has to meet the service requirement of having been on active duty for a period of 90 days or more – both of which it sounds like that he meets.

As far as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, he needs at least one term of service ending in an Honorable discharge, which he also has. With six years of service, he has up to 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that he can use to go to school.

Go get started, he can go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, he would get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) that would show how many months of entitlement he has left to use, under what GI Bill and when that entitlement expires (15 years from his date of discharge).

When he goes to enroll in school, he would need to bring a copy of his COE with him, so his school knows that he is a student using GI Bill benefits. Good luck to the both of you!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello Ron, my daughter is serving in the National Guard and has been deployed for one year so she is eligible for the Chapters 1606, 1607 and the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 60% rate. Per the WAVE website she has 28 months and 16 days remaining on the 1606 GI Bill. My daughter just switched from 1606 to 1607 (REAP) GI Bill during September 2013. Her education goals are to complete her BA degree in May 2014 (9 additional months) at an in-state public university. Her tuition has been covered by the Guard tuition assistance. Then to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree which takes 33 months. Tuition would be $13k/year or $30k/year plus living expenses, depending on if she gets into the in-state public school or goes to a private school. My questions are: Considering she has 9 months plus 33 months = 42 months of school remaining how can she best use the remaining 1607 and 60% entitlement on the Post 9/11 GI Bill to the best advantage? Can she collect 12 months total on combined 1606 and 1607 then switch to the Post 9/11 and use it for 36 months? Her National Guard duty ends March 2014.

A: Under the Rule of 48, the maximum number of combined GI Bill months of benefits cannot exceed 48. So that means that between her three GI Bills, she only has up to 48 months that she can use. Now let’s look at the way she can use them.

Her Chapter 1606 will end when she is discharged from the National Guard in March 2014. But, because it is the lowest paying of the three with no residual benefits once she is out, it would be my last choice to use. The current rate of payment is $362 per month for a full-time rate of pursuit.

With one year of consecutive qualifying service, i.e. deployed under Title 10 in support of a contingency operation, Chapter 1607 or REAP currently pays $988.80 based on full-time student status. Under REAP, she has up to 10 years from her date of discharge from the National Guard to use her Chapter 1607 benefits.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most generous of the three GI Bills financially. By attending an in-state school, 60% of her tuition would be paid by the VA directly to her school. If she decides to attend a private school, then 60% of up to $19,198.31 per year would be paid directly to her school by the VA. She would be responsible for the 40% of tuition and fees not paid by the VA.

She would also get a monthly housing allowance (MHA) that on average is about $1,300. Once per semester, she would get a book stipend. That has a $1,000 per academic year cap. At her current Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level, she could get up to 60% of each the MHA and book stipend.

When she switched to REAP, she had to give up a GI Bill and the one she most likely gave up was her Chapter 1606 GI Bill, which by the way was a good move. I think her best bet now is to finish using up her 28 months of REAP benefits and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months of benefits. If she switched now, she would only get the same number of months she has left under REAP and not the additional 12 months.

Also, by using her Post 9/11 GI Bill last, it would end up paying her more due to her higher tuition costs for her physical training program.