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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My child is a full time student currently living at home but s/he is getting ready to switch schools and move out. I need to know if it is possible for s/he to receive the books and housing assistance money that the GI Bill provides or does it go to the active duty service member?

A: It should not be going to the active duty service member now! The servicemember transferred his/her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to the child. The housing allowance and book stipend should go into that child’s bank account via Direct Deposit or the child should receive a check at his/her address.

The student can inform the VA of his/her new school by submitting VA Form 22-1995 – Request for Change of Program or Place of Training. If the child’s money is coming by hard copy check, the new address on the form will update that change.

However, if the child’s money is coming via Direct Deposit, then the child needs to call the VA at 1-888-442-4551 with his/her Direct Deposit routing number and account information.

I don’t know the reason why the servicemember wants to control the student’s Post 9/11 GI Bill money, but part of going away to school is learning how to manage money. If the student has never had money to manage, that is going be a lot harder to learn now away from home than it would have been if s/he would have had money to manage while still living at home.

When the student’s mother or father transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the money went with the benefits (or at least should have). I am appalled at the number of times I hear stories of parents trying to keep control over their kids.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I plan on attending a pharmacy school in Texas. I am currently in community college in California. The officials say I cannot have an “education plan” that is for another state. They told me I must make a degree plan for a school in California. The problem is that they require different classes. Now the GI Bill will not pay for my actual required classes? Can you please help direct me to where this is written in law? Thank you.

A: I can’t tell you where it is written in law, but what the officials told you about your degree plan is true. You can’t be enrolled in a school in Texas with a degree plan on file with the VA for a school in California.

But you could do this – enroll in your school in Texas as your primary school. That would be the degree plan the VA would have on file. The problem is if you are not a resident of Texas, then you would end up paying out-state tuition which is much more expensive.

Then you could work out with your primary school – the school issuing your degree, which classes you want to take (and that are creditable to your Texas school degree plan) at your community college in California – your secondary school. Once finished with classes at your secondary school, they would send a transcript of your credits to your primary school and which in turn would credit your degree plan.

There should be some common core classes at your community college in California that are on your Texas school degree plan. However be aware that if you take classes not creditable to your degree plan on file, the VA would not pay for them.

Remember what I said about out-state tuition? If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, ask if your Texas school is a Yellow Ribbon school. If so, the Yellow Ribbon feature could help you with the tuition that the VA would not pay as they pay only up to the in-state rate. If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill, then it is a moot point.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a freshman in college in Louisiana and I am using my step-dad’s Post 9/11 GI Bill. What exact benefits do I get? I saw some people talk about tuition, book costs, and housing allowance and I just wanted to know what all I will get and when. I just used most of my money buying books and paying for tuition, so I was wondering how long until I would get this money back. Thanks! – Jamie

A: As a student using Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits, the VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school towards the beginning of a semester. Also toward the beginning of each semester, you would get a book stipend of around $500, if you are classified as a full-time student. It calculates at $41.67 per credit and it does have a $1,000 per academic year cap, but you can usually get it for two semesters per year.

Monthly, you would also get a housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. Across the U.S., it averages around $1,300, however in Baton Rouge for example, it is $1,353 per month.

Your housing allowance is usually paid a month in arrears to you by the VA, so the amount due in September for example would come most likely sometime in October – November at the latest. Also know that it can take longer to get your first check of the semester than it does for the other months in the term.

The money you paid for books you would not get back directly, but you are compensated each semester with your book stipend. That amount may or may not be enough to pay for all your book costs.

As far as tuition, once your school gets paid from the VA, they would either credit your account at school or pay you back directly for what you paid in tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does the VA make mistakes regarding Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits? I enlisted for 4 years of active duty service in 2006 and joined the Reserves in 2010. I enlisted with SLRP, yet have a determination of 100% benefits.

A: Yes, the VA does make mistakes, but less of them now that they have implemented their new Long-Term Solution (LTS) software. Because you enlisted with SLRP, the first three years of your enlistment went to “pay back” the amount your service branch paid on your student loans.

However, the last year of your 4 year enlistment, you did acquire Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. One year of eligible service would put you at the 60% tier.

Did you have any deployed time since 2010 while in the Reserves? If so, that time counts toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility too. A couple of one-year tours would put you at the 100% tier.

If you did not have any deployed time, then the VA most likely does not know you enlisted with SLRP. You would want to get this straightened out before you start school as it would cause a huge mess if left unresolved.

Contact the VA or enlist the help of your school VA Certifying Official. It could be a simple as submitting a copy of the form showing you signed up for SLRP.

You would know if it is corrected or not by what your latest copy of your Certificate of Eligibility shows. It should show you have the 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility at the 60% tier and that it would expire 15 years from your last date of discharge.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am getting ready to retire next year and plan to use my MGIB benefits for 36 months and then the extra 12 months of Post 9/11. I have read some information on a buy up program for an extra $600. I cannot find anything on how to apply for that option. Can I just go to my administration office for the necessary forms? – Jason

A: You can pay your Buy-Up Program contribution Jason by filling out and submitting DD-2366-1 though your Orderly Room. Just so you know, you can contribute anywhere from $20 to the full $600. By contributing the maximum amount, you would get an additional $5,400 in additional school money (or about $150 per month as a full-time student for 36 months) above and beyond what you get from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Your MGIB and Buy-Up would run out at the same time.

Right now the MGIB is paying $1,648 per month, so the Buy-Up would push your total amount up to $1,798 per month.

When you would start using your MGIB, be sure to send in copies of your LES (if you pay through payroll deduction), or a copy of your DD Form 1131 (if you made a lump sum payment) along with your VA Form 22-1990. That is the only way the VA knows you have made a Buy-Up Program contribution and it is the trigger to pay you the additional amount each month while in school.

Oh … and just so you know, the Buy-Up program cannot be used with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. So if you would happen to switch to it before you exhaust your MGIB, you would lose what you had left in your Buy-Up Program and you would not get any of that contribution back either.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently enrolled strictly online and get 1/2 of the housing allowance. I was told that transferring to a 1 day-per-week classroom instruction gets the whole amount, but I can’t find any evidence if this is true. I gave up a ton of overtime to do school and the 1/2 is not as helpful as I anticipated. Anybody know whether there is truth to this?

A: It is one of those little known Post 9/11 GI Bill secrets that is true. As you know, online-only full-time students get a maximum of $714.50 per month. However, by adding in one class per semester creditable to your degree plan, you qualify for the full authorized Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) amount. Crazy huh!

The qualifying classes aren’t about how many times per week they meet, but the fact they are classroom classes you attend on campus and that they are creditable to your degree plan. If not, then the VA would not pay for them, and you would not qualify for the higher MHA.

By attending a class per semester on campus, your MHA is calculated based on the zip code of the school where you physically attend class and on the total number of credits you are taking including both your on campus and online classes.

The way to make this work is by coordinating the classes you want to take on campus (your secondary school) with your online school (your primary school) – the school that would be issuing your degree.

Your primary school sends your secondary school the classes you want to take from them. Once finished with the classes, your secondary school sends your primary school a transcript of your credits and your primary school posts the credits to your degree plan. Everyone is happy – especially you because you doubled your MHA with very little additional effort on your part. If you have a school close to you, and can work out the classes you would take from them with your online school, this is worth looking into.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hey, I’m currently getting ready to ETSs and my NG/Reserve Recruiter on Fort Polk told me if I enlist National Guard that my Montgomery GI Bill will be paid to me and I can just use tuition assistance to cover college. How true is this? He made it sound as if all the monthly benefits would go to me and did not mention the stipulations of the Top-Up TA program (nor did he even mention it). Any help would be greatly appreciated. – Dylan

A: Well Dylan, what I think your Recruiter meant to say, or did say and you misunderstood him/her, was that by enlisting in one of the Reserve Components, which includes the National Guard and all the Reserves of the military branches, you could get your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and use Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) at the same time, which is true but just to be clear, you have to go to school to get paid your MGIB benefits.

In your question, you made it sound like by enlisting in the National Guard or Reserves that you would start getting MGIB payments. You would also not get be able to use FTA or get paid state education assistance benefits when you are not in school.

However, you would continue to get your monthly drill pay as that is not connected with being in school and you may be eligible for other non-education state VA benefits depending on which state you enlist into.

As far as the Tuition Top-Up program, Reservist and National Guard members on drill status are not eligible for that program – only those on active duty.

Something your Recruiter might not have mentioned is that you are also eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill which is generally a better deal than the MGIB. Under the New GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school and monthly you get a housing allowance and a book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap). The housing allowance alone averages $1,300 per month across the United States.

Under the MGIB, you would get up to $1,564 and have to pay your own tuition, fees and books. Also once you used up your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you would get back the $1,200 contribution fee you paid to get the MGIB. It’s worth looking into!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Army in January 1998. I reenlisted in 2001 and again in 2004. Then in 2007, I was discharged with a General Under Honorable conditions. I applied for the MGIB and I was given a letter of eligibility. I filled out the form on eBenefits through VONAPP to change over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Will I be eligible? I have been waiting over a month with no answer from VA yet. I have heard that since my last discharge in 2004 was Honorable, that my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit would be from that date.

A: As long as you had at least one term of service ending in an Honorable discharge, which it sounds like you did in 2001 and 2004, you can use your GI Bill eligibility to go to school.

Many people think they lose their GI Bill eligibility if they only have a bad discharge, when in fact they don’t; they just can’t use that eligibility until they can get their discharge upgraded to at least Honorable.

The eligibility can’t be taken away, however, it does expire in either 10 or 15 years from the last date of discharge for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) or Post 9/11 GI Bill, respectively.

Under the MGIB, you would have received $1,564 per month for up to 36 months. Out of that amount, you would have to pay your tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

However under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you could still get 36 months of eligibility but depending when you reenlisted in 2004, you might or might not be at the 100% tier. If you reenlisted before September 10th, then you would not; you would only be eligible for 90%.

If you reenlisted after September 10th, then you would be at the 100% tier. Still at 90%, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a much better deal than the MGIB in most cases.

The date you had in question deals more with establishing how much eligibility you end up with and not in establishing your delimitation date. That is still driven by your last date of discharge. Even if your delimitation date was driven from the 2004 date, you would still have six years to use up 36 months of eligibility.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband finished his time in the Marine Corps and wants to use his Post 9/11 GI Bill. I am currently on orders with the National Guard (ADOS) and getting BAH. Will he receive his BAH allowance? Thank you.

A: No he will not. Why? Because the New GI Bill does not pay BAH. Even though the Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) is based on the BAH tables, that is where the similarity ends:
• BAH is paid twice a month (on the 1st and 15th) where the MHA is paid once a month (and only when the student is going to school) and usually arrives a month in arrears.
• BAH is based on the zip code of the servicemember’s residence where the MHA is based on the zip code of the school and prorated based on the number of credits the student is taking.
• BAH is paid based on the servicemember’s pay grade and dependent status where the MHA is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents regardless of the servicemember’s rank at discharge or if s/he has dependents.

Using one acronym where you actually mean the other one just causes confusion.

However to answer your question, yes, because he has his own Post 9/11 GI Bill, he will get his own MHA. As noted above, where he goes to school drives in part how much he will get, but overall, the U.S. average is about $1,300 per month.

He would also get $41.67 per credit per semester as a book stipend (up to the $1,000 per year cap) and the VA would pay his tuition directly to his school. So overall, it is not a bad deal.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a bit confused about something. I entered as an enlisted soldier in Feb ‘01 and served for four (4) years on active duty before getting honorably discharged. I received the SLRP and as such had to disenroll from the MGIB upon entrance. My three loan payments were made by SLRP and all I served was one term (4 years) of service, the one for which I got SLRP. What’s puzzling is that I just got a benefits certificate back from VA saying I’m eligible for 50% benefits in Post 9/11 GI Bill. Is this likely a mistake by VA? I was under the impression that you couldn’t get any GI Bill for the same initial term period in which you got the SLRP. The VA certificate sites 324 service days as the basis for my 50% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. Could this 324 days roughly be the one year following the three in which I got SLRP? Basically did VA make a mistake in my case, for the 324 days corresponding to the roughly last year of my initial term, or am I really 50% eligible? I need to know the answer to this because my state VA benefits can’t kick in unless I am ineligible for Fed VA benefits and FE VA is saying I am 50% eligible.

A: No it is not a mistake; most likely you are 50% eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. When you enlisted for four years with the SLRP option, your first three years were to “pay back” your SLRP. During your most of your last year, however, you did acquire GI Bill eligibility.

It is true that you can’t get SLRP and the GI Bill for the same period of service and you did not. That is why your eligibility is for 50% and not 100%. It sounds like you thought you were ineligible for the whole four years, which was not the case.

Also I don’t know if you knew about the Post 9/11 GI Bill or not when you enlisted. The GI Bill declination was just for the Montgomery GI Bill because that GI Bill requires a $1,200 contribution and with only four years of service (and the first three do not count) you would not be able to get full GI Bill eligibility.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill, on the other hand, is different in that is it free just from your service of at least 90 days on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001.

As far as not being eligible for your state VA benefits, look beyond your state. Apply for scholarships and grants not dedicated to pay tuition and you can use that money to help pay towards the 50% of the tuition that your Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay. You would also get 50% of the housing allowance and book stipend. When everything is added together, you should have enough to pay for most of your college.

Join the National Guard or Reserve and get paid for drills and eligible for Federal Tuition Assistance which would give you more money yet for part-time service to your country.