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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: There is a possibility that the Air Force may have a force-shaping board (Reduction in Force) in 2014? If this occurs and an active duty member is not able to complete the last year of the 4-year service commitment, will they lose their Post 9/11 GI Bill? If so, do they also lose the original MGIB funding as well?

A: Reduction in Forces (RIFs) can be tricky as some have an effect on GI Bill benefits and some do not – it depends on how each one is written. However with that said, I think there is a good chance that you would come out with all of your GI Bill benefits intact and here is why.

While you may not be able to complete the last year of your four-year enlistment commitment, you would have served a full three years, which is all that is required to get to the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level. At that level, then your tuition is paid in full, if you attend a public school in your state where you have residency, or paid up to $19,198.31 per year if you attend a private school. In addition, you would also get the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

I would think your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) funding would be preserved as well as that GI Bill also only requires three years of service to get full funding, which right now it is paying up to $1,648 per month, but you are required to pay your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

As an option to think about if you are only going for a four-year degree, you might want to consider switching over from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the increased funding for your 36 months of benefits. Also, you would get your $1,200 MGIB contribution fee back when you use up the last month of your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Of course, if you plan to get an advanced degree, then you might want to exhaust your MGIB first, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get the additional 12 months of entitlement that you could use toward your next degree.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Navy from AZ but, was stationed in CA and it’s been 16 months since I got out. I still live in San Diego and want to go to school here but, was told that I can’t or I would have to pay the difference that the Post 9/11 GI Bill won’t cover as a non-resident. Is this true? And if so, what do I do?

A: Unfortunately, it is true. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, the VA can pay up to 100% of the resident tuition rate if you attend a public school, or up to $19,198.31 per year if you attend a private school (assuming you are at the 100% tier meaning you served at least three years on active duty).

So you would be responsible to pay the difference between the resident and non-resident tuition rate, unless you choose a school that is a Yellow Ribbon School.

If your school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, then they can pay up to 50% of the difference with the VA paying an equal amount. So in theory, your whole difference in tuition could be wiped out. The things to ask your Yellow Ribbon school are:
• If your degree program is covered by their agreement; if they do not cover your major or the degree you are working towards, then being a Yellow Ribbon school would not help you.
• How much of a percentage do they pay; if it is less than 50%, then you would have some out-of-pocket costs left to pay.
• What is their maximum amount each student gets per year; this is good to know so you know how much you may end up having to pay if you exceed their per student maximum.
• How many students do they accept each year into their Yellow Ribbon Program; do you have a good chance at getting accepting into their program?

Choosing a Yellow Ribbon school could be your holy grail to not having to pay much out-of-pocket costs, even though you are charged non-resident tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, my husband is in the military and he is deployed right now. I just want to ask or get information if I qualify for the GI Bill? I would like to take a class to get my certificate in beauty school. Thanks! — Maria.

A: Maria, you don’t qualify for the GI Bill in your own right as you are not a member of the military. However, you may qualify as a recipient of your husband’s GI Bill, if he is eligible to (and decides to) make a transfer request to you.

To be eligible to make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer request, he has to meet three service obligations at the time he makes his transfer request:
• having served for at least six years
• be currently serving
• agree to serve for an additional four years

So if he meets the above requirements, he could choose to transfer anywhere from one month up to all 36 months of his Post 9/11 GI Bill to you. Most likely you would want at least the number of months it takes to get your beauty school certificate and maybe even an additional month or two. Your husband can revoke any unused benefits back to himself once you are through with school.

Once the transfer of GI Bill benefits is complete, you have to go to the eBenefits website and request your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by filling out and submitting VA Form 22-1990e.

Once you have found the school you want to attend (and have verified that it is VA-approved), then take a copy of your COE with you when you register, as your school needs to know you are using the GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I have 9 months and 29 days remaining of my Chap 1606 GI Bill, and I would like to start using my Post 9/11 GI Bill, do I need to somehow convert those 9months and 29 days into my New GI Bill, or does it happen automatically? I don’t want to lose the time I have left on my Chap 1606 by starting my Post 9/11 GI Bill immediately. Thanks.

A: Even if you lost your remaining 9 months and 29 days of your Chapter 1606, you wouldn’t be losing much as that GI Bill only pays $362 per month as a full-time student. However, know that if you do switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, that is all the entitlement you would get under that GI Bill – 9 months and 29 days – the same as what you had left under Chapter 1606.

I’m not sure what you were told you would get by switching, but it sounds like you were expecting to get more entitlement than what you presently have.

Monetarily under the Post 9/11 GI Bill you would get more as it would pay your tuition and you would get a monthly housing allowance that on average runs about $1,300 per month for someone at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level. Since it is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take, yours could be more or less. Plus you could get up to $1,000 per year in book stipend money.

But you do have another option. If you would first use up all of your Chapter 1606 entitlement and then switch to the New GI Bill, you could get an additional 12 months of entitlement at the Post 9/11 GI Bill pay rates.

So if you need more entitlement, it may be worth suffering through your remaining Chapter 1606 entitlement and then going over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But if your remaining Chapter 1606 entitlement would get you to your educational goal, then it would most likely be wise to switch now and get more money out of your remaining benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I left the Marine Corps in Dec of 2003 and my Montgomery GI Bill will soon reach the 10 year mark. I am thinking of joining the Reserves and would like to know if my Montgomery GI Bill will stop running when I become a Reservist?

A: If you enlist into the Selected Reserve (either the National Guard or any of the service branch Reserves), your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) delimitation date would not reset, unless you were activated or mobilized for a period of 90 days or more while in the Selected Reserves; if so, then it would expire 10 years from your new and latest discharge date.

However getting out in 2003, you also have 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility at the 80% tier level. This means that if you switched from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you could go to school for up to 36 months and the VA would pay up to 80% of your tuition and you would get 80% of both the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

Under the MGIB, you would get $1,648 per month and out of that amount you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc. But under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, 80% of your tuition would be paid directly to your school. The amount you would get in housing allowance is 80% of the authorized amount based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. You would also get 80% of the $41.67 per credit for books, up to a maximum of $800 per year.

You would have to do the math, but you may come out better switching your MGIB over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, plus it would give you an additional 5 years to use your New GI Bill as that one has a 15-year delimitation date instead of 10 years as with the MGIB.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Ron- I retired from the AF in 2004 and am considering using my GI Bill benefits to begin study (part-time) toward a Ph.D. in Physics at UMBC in January 2014. I’ve been accepted by UMBC; will I be reimbursed for textbook and tuition expenses if I pay for them in advance? What specific steps should I take to coordinate my actions with GI Bill administrators? Thanks- Jim

A: It depends on which GI Bill you are using, Jim. Being you got out in 2004, you could have either the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) or Post 9/11 GI Bill (or both). Because the rules differ between the two GI Bills, let’s break them down separately.

With the MGIB, you get paid up to $1,624 per month to go to school full-time. It is your responsibility to pay your own tuition, books and any other education-related expenses that you may have. That monthly amount is all you get.

If you plan on using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA would pay your tuition at the resident rate at your authorized tier level directly to your school. I reference the tier level, because depending on when you got out in 2004, you may or may not be fully covered. If you got out after September 10, 2004, then you are at 100%. If you got out before the September date, then you are at 90%.

Monthly you would also get a housing stipend based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. As a full-time student at UMBC, that amounts to $1,959 at the 100% tier level.

And finally, you would get a book stipend. Right now it is paying at the rate of $41.67 per credit. That would also be multiplied by your tier level if you are at less than 100%. There is a $1,000 per year cap, but you can usually get it for a couple of semesters per year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can a service member use Tuition Assistance and request payment of the MGIB-SR? The SM is not eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

A: Being you are referencing the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR), the servicemember (SM) must be in the National Guard or Reserves. One of the unique features of the MGIB-SR is the SM has to be in the Selected Reserve with less than 10 years of service to use that GI Bill. Once in over 10 years, or upon discharge, the GI Bill expires.

So assuming the SM still qualifies for the Reserve GI Bill, yes he could use it and Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) together. And as a Reservist or National Guard member, s/he is also getting a monthly drill check which can also be used to pay for tuition.

Not to be overlooked are state benefits. Most of the states and territories provide their state militia and Reservists with some form of benefits. Many states have their own GI Bill which then can be used in conjunction with the FTA and the MGIB-SR. It is worth looking into.

Another form of financial aid worth pursuing is service organizations scholarships, such as the American Legion and Veteran of Foreign Wars. These organizations, among others, readily each give out their own scholarships each year. I recommend applying for scholarships and grants first and only resort to student loans as a last choice.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I entered the National Guard in 2000. I was deployed to Iraq in 2005. I did 1 year and 3 months active duty time during my deployment. I have applied to Fordham University for spring enrollment full-time. Because I was in the National Guard and I only have 1 year and 3 months active duty, what are the chances that they will grant me Post 9/11 Bill benefits at 100%? This school is very expensive but I stand to gain a great education from attending it. Thank you so much for your time.

A: You won’t get 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill with 1 year and 3 months of deployed time. A minimum of 90 days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation is needed for Selected Reservists (which include the National Guard) to be eligible for the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit of 40%. Then with each additional 6 months of eligible service, the percentage of eligibility goes up 10% until you reach full eligibility (100%) with 3 years of eligible service.

With 15 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible service, you would be at the 60% tier level. Right now, the VA can pay up to $19,198.31 per year in private school tuition if you are at the 100% tier. With you being at the 60% level, they could pay up to $11,518.99.

In addition, you would get up to 60% of the monthly housing allowance authorized based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. Being you would be going to school full-time, you would end up getting $1,954.80 per month.

Also, you would get 60% of the book stipend per credit amount of $41.67 or $25.00 per credit.

You might be able to get some scholarships or grants to help cover the unpaid 40%, however, be careful with scholarships. If you get the kind that is dedicated to pay tuition, it will only reduce the amount of tuition the VA pays. One little known fact is the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the last payer of tuition.

If you have any form of financial aid that is used to pay for tuition, it only reduces the amount the VA pays, so you really don’t gain anything. Instead, apply for scholarships that are not “fenced” to pay for tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does my employer civilian tuition assistance affect my GI Bill? Are they separate?

A: It depends on which GI Bill you are using. The Montgomery GI Bill pays the student directly at the rate of $1,648 per month as a full-time student. Even if your employer pays your tuition, you still get this money to spend as you wish.

However, if you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA is the last payer as far as tuition and they would pay only after all other forms of financial aid have paid their fair share. So if this is the GI Bill you are using, then having civilian tuition assistance would affect how much your GI Bill pays, but not entitlement use. You would still use the same amount of entitlement regardless of what the VA pays.

But with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would also get a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school, the number of credits you are taking and your percentage tier.

Once each semester, you would also get a book stipend. If you are in a degree-producing program, that amount is $41.67 per credit. For non-degree programs the amount is $83 per month. Each is also subject to your tier percentage if you are at less than 100%.

Note there is a $1,000 per year cap on the book stipend, but you can usually get it for at least a couple of semesters per year, if you are going to school full-time. Part-time and you can probably get it for the whole year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I currently have 30 months of benefits left on my Post 9/11 GI Bill. I would “LOVE” to give my wife the opportunity to follow her dream of attending “THE” Rocky Mountain School of Photography. I have 10 years of active duty service, 2 deployments, and only 1 month of AD time since Nov 2011. Is it possible for me to transfer 6 months of my remaining 30 months of benefits to my wife for her to complete this certification coarse. Approximate cost of coarse is $16,000-$18,000. Rocky Mountain School of Photography is not a degree granting school and they only accept a few people per year, however, it is the #1 photography school in the world!

A: Since you stated that you only have 1 month of active duty time since November 2011, I’m assuming you are no longer in. If that is true, then you would not be eligible to make a transfer of benefits to your wife. The three Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer requirements are:
• having served for at least 6 years of which at least three years has to be after September 10, 2001
• currently serving at the time of the transfer request
• agree to serve an additional 4 fours of service.
You would meet the first requirement, but not the last two.

However, if you are in the National Guard or Reserves, that is a different story. You would meet the first two requirements for sure, and if you did not meet the last one right now, you could if you reenlisted for enough time to have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time you made your transfer request.

If you meet all of the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer eligibility requirements, then head on over to the milConnect website and click on Education Benefits. Then click on How to Submit a Transfer Request link. Follow the instructions.

Once your benefits are transferred, then your wife has to submit VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website. After she receives her Certificate of Eligibility, should contact Wendy Ford at RMSP. She is their Career Training Specialist and is up to date on VA policies as far as using them there. Her contact number is 800.394.7677.

Because RMSP is a private school the VA should cover up to $19,198.31 per year in tuition.