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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: This January I will hit my 6-year mark and in order to accept my orders to AK. I reenlisted for an additional 6 years. I want to transfer my benefits to the Mrs.; will she have to wait for approval and if so approximately how long does this approval process take? I read on the VA website that as a spouse they’re eligible to utilize the benefits immediately, if this is true what constitutes immediately? Also, I am a bit confused about her/my eligibility of using the yellow ribbon program. Since I am and will continue to be AD, this disqualifies her/me correct? Also, in order to TEB I have to switch from Chapter 30 to Chapter 33. If I do so, would she/I qualify for the additional 12 months? I paid into the whole Chapter 30 and have not used it, or Top-Up at all. Will I receive the $1,200 I paid into back? I am still currently enrolled in Chapter 30 and have not switched yet until I have decided firmly on what the best course of action would be. Please advise. Great forum/site/responses. Keep up the good work and I look forward to hearing from you.

A: First of all before you are eligible for the transfer of benefits option, you have to have served for at least six years – something you would not have attained until January 2014. After your service anniversary date in January, you can start the TEB process. You already meet the other two requirements of currently serving and agreeing to serve an additional four years.

Once your transfer Status Block reads “Transfer Approved”, then your wife has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get her Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Once she has her COE, then she can enroll in school.

You are correct in your assessment of the Yellow Ribbon Program.

As far as qualifying for the additional 12 months, no she would not. You only have up to 36 months of benefits that you could transfer to her. To get the additional 12 months of benefits, you would have to first use up all 36 months of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with months of benefits left, then all you would get is that same number of months and not the additional 12 months.

To get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back, you have to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with all 36 months of benefits of your MGIB intact and use them up yourself. You would get your $1,200 as part of your last housing allowance. If you switch and then transfer your benefits to your wife, you would not get your contribution back.

Your best course of action is deciding what you want out of your GI Bill benefits:
• If you want to transfer benefits to your wife, then you have to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill as the MGIB does not have a transfer option to it.
• If you plan on using your benefits, then it is a matter of the level of degree you want. If a four-year bachelor’s degree is as high as you plan to go, then most people benefit by switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away.
• However, if you plan on working toward an advanced degree, then you may be better off using up your MGIB and then switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months.

Weigh your options and make a decision.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am 25 years old and have used only 11 months of my Chapter 35 benefits. I had to leave school in November of 2010 due to my grandfather (who I get my benefits from) became terminally ill. He passed away in March of 2011 and I had to help my grandmother manage the estate and take care of her and my two younger siblings who she is also raising. I am now 25 and will turn 26 this Nov. 4 which will end my time limit. I was told I can write the VA for an extension is this true and what are my chances?

A: I can’t tell you exactly what your chances would be of getting an extension, but based on what I’m reading in your question, I would think that you would have a good chance of getting one.

Specifically, the VA addresses the extension of Chapter 35 benefits if you were temporarily disabled and could not go to school. While you were not temporarily disabled, you were not able to go to school being you had to stay home and take care of your grandmother and other siblings after a tragic event such as your grandfather passing away.

The way I would approach this would be to write a letter to the VA explaining:
• why you are writing – your Chapter 35 benefit will end upon your 26th birthday.
• the circumstances that affect the reason you are writing – you were not able to attend school during the period of time from when your grandfather passed away in November 2010 until now.
• and ask for an extension of time equal to the amount of time you lost.

Laying out your letter in a logical sequence shows you are an organized person and interested in completing your education. There is not a specific format to use – just write it out in standard letter format.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m really curious, I applied for student loans as well to kind of just have in my savings in case I really needed money, and the student loans processed through first, clearing my tuition. The student loan covered $3,500 and banked the other $1,500. Will the GI Bill reimburse me the $3,500 I put in?

A: Well technically, you didn’t put in the $3,500; your student loans paid your tuition directly to your school. What many people don’t know is that the GI Bill is the last payer, so they pay whatever is left after all other forms of financial aid have paid their portions.

Because your student loans paid all of your tuition, there was nothing left for the Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay, except for your monthly housing allowance and book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

You would have been much better off, just using your Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you attend a public school, it would have paid up to the resident tuition rate. If you attend a private school, it would have paid up to $19,198.31 per year.

If your school was a Yellow Ribbon school, you could have used that program to help pay for tuition that exceeded what the New GI Bill would pay – public school non-resident or that amount over the private school cap.

A better plan would have been to apply for non-tuition specific scholarships. That way the money goes to you or to your school account and is not applied towards tuition. However, if you get tuition fenced scholarships, then you would have been in the same boat as you are in now as they get applied first toward tuition. The nice thing with scholarships and grants is they do not have to be repaid as with loans.

Most of the time, student loans should be your last choice for financial aid.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have transferred my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my wife and kids and I know my wife wants to attend a $500 Florida real estate license school on Tues and Thurs. How can I get this covered by my benefits?

A: It may be difficult to get her training paid for by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Most real estate license courses are not taught by VA-approved or accredited schools – both requirements to use the GI Bill.

In using the College Navigator program, however, I did find one school in Hollywood, FL – the Sheridan Technical Center – that teaches a real estate program by distance learning.

She could use her Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for online classes and she would get up to $714.50 per month in housing allowance in addition to her book stipend of $83 per month.

However, when I go into their website, I can’t find a Real Estate Course, so she may want to contact them first and ask if they still teach real estate.

Also, she would be able to get her Post 9/11 GI Bill to reimburse her for the cost (or at least part) of the Real Estate Test. Under the current rules, it would pay up to $45.50 in the State of Florida. So even if she can’t get her course paid for, at least she could use some of her Post 9/11 GI Bill to help pay for the certification test.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Are there any education benefits available for a veteran with an RE-4? I am a Navy veteran and looking to enroll in vocational or an extension program. – Andre

A: Your Reenlistment Code does not determine if you can use GI Bill benefits or not; it is your characterization of service, commonly, (but erroneously) referred to as your discharge, that is the determining factor. If you have anything less than fully Honorable, then you would not be able to use your GI Bill.

However, one possibility though is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). As long as you have at least an Other Than Dishonorable Discharge and meet the other requirements of:
• between the ages of 35 and 60
• are unemployed at the time you apply
• do not have any other VA education benefits left to use
• are not receiving VA compensation due to unemployability
• are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program

You have to apply soon however. Right now the program ends on March 31, 2014, but there is talk of extending it to the end of June.

As far as what it pays, you get the same as those receiving the Montgomery GI Bill - $1,648 per month for up to 12 months. You still have 6 to 9 months in which to use this program, which could be enough time to at least give you a good start if not complete your whole program, depending on which program you pursue.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Under the New GI Bill rules, is the one-class-on-campus trick still the key to receiving local BAH rates? Example, if I go to an on-campus class for 3 credit hours, and do another 7 credit hours online, will I receive local BAH per a prorated rate of (3 + 7) 10 credit hours (the local school requires 12 for full time)? Basically, does it work like it did in the old system, except the BAH is prorated for those taking less-than full-time…? Thanks!

A: Yes that is still the “trick” to getting the full Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance that you would be authorized based on the zip code of your school where you physically attend class and the total number of credits you are taking including your online credits.

So let’s say as a full-time student your authorized monthly housing allowance amount of $1,500 per month. Because your school requires that you carry at least 12 credits to be considered full-time, but you are only taking 10 credits total, you would get 10/12ths of the full amount or about $1,250 per month.

You can figure exactly how much you would get by using the BAH Calculator. Be sure the Year drop-down menu is set to 2013 and the Pay Grade set to E-5.

Then just enter your school’s zip code and use the “with dependents” resulting figure as your starting point. Multiply that amount by the number of credits you are taking and divide by the number of credits your school considers to be full-time.

Generally speaking, this amount is at least twice what it would be if you were just taking only online classes, so it can be financially advantageous to attend one class per semester on campus, if you have a school located nearby.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am active duty receiving the New GI Bill. I know that I will be eligible to receive the book stipend starting Oct 1st. Since my term is starting on Sep 26th, will I receive the stipend for this term, or will I have to wait until next term? Also, how will I be receiving the money? Will I get a check in the mail, or is it direct deposit? So far, I have not received any money directly since the tuition goes straight to the school, and I am active duty so I do not get a housing allowance. Do I have to set up a payment arrangement for the book stipend? Thank you for your help in advance!

A: Because the book stipend is for a whole semester, you should get it for this semester even though you are not eligible for it until October 1st. As you know, the Post 9/11 GI Bill book stipend is calculated based on the number of credits you are taking and multiplied by $41.67. It does have a $1,000 per academic year cap, so if you are carrying a full load during the first two semesters, you may not have any book stipend money left for the Summer Sessions or Semester.

The payment arrangement, in order for you to receive the book stipend, is set up when you enroll in school as a GI Bill student. When you decided to go to school, you should have requested your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by submitting VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. In return you would have received your COE and turned in a copy to your school when you enrolled.

Your school in turn would have submitted a Certificate of Enrollment on your behalf showing you are enrolled in school. That certificate along with your COE is what triggers the book stipend payment to you (and your tuition payment to your school).

As far as how you would receive the money, it depends on the information your put on your VA Form 22-1990. If you included Direct Deposit information, then your money will come into your bank account electronically. If you did not submit DD info, then you would get your book stipend delivered by hard copy check to the address listed on your form.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, my husband is a veteran and is currently in his final semester of his undergraduate degree. He has been using the Montgomery GI Bill for his undergraduate, and we have been wondering if he would be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill for his graduate degree? Any information would be helpful. Thank you, Melanie.

A: Whether or not your husband qualifies for the Post 9/11 GI Bill (and if so at which tier level) depends on if he served on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001 and for how long. Minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits (at the 40% level) are earned with at least 90 days of eligible service after the September date referenced above. Each successive six months of eligible service boosts the tier up an additional 10% until full eligibility is reached after three years of service.

I referenced eligible service because training time does not initially count toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility until you have 24 months of eligible service and then training time is added to the total amount of eligible time.

If your husband uses up all of his Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) first and then switches to his Post 9/11 GI Bill (if eligible), he could get an additional 12 months of entitlement he could use towards his graduate degree. However, if he switches over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB unused eligibility left, he would only get the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not the 12 additional months.

If he decides to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, ensure the effective date he puts in Part II Block 9F is well after he has used up his last month/day of MGIB eligibility. In reality, the VA would switch him over to the New GI Bill the day after his MGIB entitlement runs out, so in effect the switch is seamless. But if he is left with just only one day of MGIB remaining on his effective date, he would only get that one day of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and not the additional 12 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am considering transferring my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my spouse and have a few questions. I currently have almost 9 years served and just reenlisted for two a few months back. Can I transfer the benefit now or do I have to wait until I am able to reenlist again? Also, if she decides to go to school online, would she rate the housing payment even though I am receiving BAH?

A: You have to wait until your reenlistment window opens up again and this time go for at least four more years. The transfer of benefits requirements include:
• currently serving
• having serving for at least six years after September 10, 2001
• having at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request.

With nine years of service and still serving, you meet the first two requirements, but not the last one. And as of August 1st, you have to now meet that last requirement regardless if you are retirement eligible (having served for at least 20 years) or not.

Once the transfer is complete, and your wife has requested her Certificate of Eligibility by submitting VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website and in school, the VA would pay her tuition and eligible fees up to the resident in-state rate directly to her school and she would get the book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

But because you are still serving and she is using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, she would not get the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) regardless if she goes to school online or on campus. However, if she chooses to wait and go to school after you are out, she would get the MHA.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an Army civilian employee and intend to retire in May 2014. I did 37 years of active duty and retired as a CW5 in 2007. I do not have a BA, nor have I used any of my entitlements. I’m a Vietnam Vet as well as a GWOT vet. My question is that although I own my own home, will I still be able to draw the housing stipend while taking a full load at an online school working toward a BA? I should be entitled to the entire 36 months as I was on active duty for the period required by the New GI Bill.

A: Yes, retiring in 2007, you have more than the three years required to get 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% tier. As far as whether you qualify for the housing stipend, that has nothing to do whether you own your own home, paying on a mortgage or renting. If you are going to school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you qualify for the housing allowance.

But with your case in point, the question is which housing allowance would you get? There are actually four types of housing allowances:
• attending school on campus
• attending classes online
• going to a foreign school
• attending school in one of the U.S. Territories

Because you indicated you would be attending classes online as a full-time student, you would qualify for the online-only rate of $714.50 per month. However, if you would take one class per semester on campus that you can credit to your degree plan, you could get almost twice as much in your monthly housing allowance. If you have a school campus located close to you, this might be worth investigating.

Then, your housing allowance would depend on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking, and paid at the E-5 with dependents pay grade.

If you intend to live overseas or in one of the U.S. Territories, then your housing allowance would be fixed at the current rate of $1,429 per month or calculated based on the Oversea Housing Allowance table, respectively.