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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Which is more beneficial, the full transfer or the transfer after 36 months? I will only be using MGIB for my Master’s, which is a two-year program. I know it will not cover the full costs of a master’s program, but I want to get everything I can out of it. Which way gives you more money for school and fees? Thank you!

A: In most cases, the full transfer of your 36 months of benefits from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill would be more beneficial and here is why. Under the MGIB, you would get $1,564 per month to go to school. Out of that amount, you have to pay tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition in full, if you attend a public school in your home state and you are at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier. Choose a private school instead and they would pay up to $19,198.31 per year towards your tuition directly to your school.

But if you have to pay out-state tuition at a public school, or your private school tuition exceeds what the VA can pay, you might check to see if you qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program, provided your school has a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA.

Under YR, your school could waive up to 50% of the difference between what they charge and what the New GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount, so in theory, the YR program could wipe out any difference that you might have.

I said in theory, because your school could also have agreed to pay a lesser percentage in which the VA would pay a lesser amount and you would have some of the difference left to pay. Either way it is a great deal. If you think you would need the YR program, ensure your school is on the YR list for your state.

At either type school, you would get the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) and book stipend. The MHA averages $1,300 per month across the U.S. and you get $41.67 per credit per semester in book stipend money (up to the $1,000 per academic year cap).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My school requires a student to take 12 credits hours per semester to be considered a full-time student. I have not been able to fill up my schedule yet to be considered full-time due to non-availability of classes I need. How much BAH can I expect to receive if I only end up with two online courses and one on campus equaling to 9 credits at the University of Texas at El Paso located in El Paso, TX. Secondly, if I decide it’s not worth losing the rest of the BAH forever, what happens to those benefits for that semester if I decide to drop my classes and wait for next semester to have a full time schedule?

A: You can expect to get $0.00 BAH because the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay BAH … it pays a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). I’m a stickler for the terminology because BAH and the MHA are so very different and by referring to one, when you mean the other, just causes confusion among both parties.

If you were taking at least 12 credits, what the University of El Paso considers to be full-time, you would get $1,167 per month in MHA. But because you are only carrying 9 credits, you would get 9/12ths that amount or about $875.25.You would also get less in book stipend money too as it is calculated at $41.67 per credit hour per semester.

I’m not sure what you are referring to when you said “if I decide it’s not worth losing the rest of the BAH forever . . . .” Over the course of the semester, you would end up losing the equivalent of one month’s of MHA. While at the onset it looks like you would lose that amount “forever” in the sense that you could never get it back, you really would not. Why?

Because if you are taking only 9 credits per semester, you are only using up 9/12ths of a month of eligibility for each month you are in school that semester. So instead of using 120 days of eligibility (for a normal 16-week semester), you would only use up 90 days. So in theory, you would have an additional month of eligibility to use and get back that amount you “lost”. You might be able to use that month by taking a certification or licensing course along the way before your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits expire.

If you drop the courses, and it is after your school’s official drop period, you lose that eligibility and then you really have lost those benefits forever. Stay the course – it would all work out in the end.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How does it work? How can my parent transfer the GI Bill to me? How can I apply to the Fry Scholarship?

A: First of all, your parent has to have the Post 9/11 GI Bill as that is the only GI Bill that has a transfer-of-benefit option. So if your parent has the Montgomery GI Bill, transferring benefits is out of the question.

Second, if your parent does have the New GI Bill, s/he has to have served for at least six years after September 10, 2001, be currently serving at the time of the transfer request, agree to serve for an additional four years, and most of all wants to transfer benefits to you. The sponsor has full control over who gets his/her benefits – even in retirement.

If your parent meets the above requirements and agrees to make a transfer request, s/he can go to the milConnect website and follow the Transfer of Benefits section. Once approved, you then have to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get your Certificate of Eligibility that you would need when enrolling in school.

As far as applying for the Fry Scholarship, your serving parent would have had to die in the line of duty before you would be eligible to apply, which I don’t think is the case being you also asked how your parent can transfer GI Bill benefits to you.

I sensed some desperateness in your question; even if you do not have GI Bill benefits that you can use for college, there are still thousands of grants and scholarships (many of which go unused each year) that you can apply for to get money to go to school. It just takes some initiative to seek them out and apply for them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I transferred my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my spouse who recently received her COE stating that she is eligible for 100% of the benefits payable under the program. However, she is also an Army Reservist and will be going on a short Active Duty tour for which she will receive BAH. Is she eligible to receive my housing benefit as well as her BAH?

A: No she is not. While on active duty, she would get BAH, but not the Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). It is against the law for her to receive both as that is considered “double-dipping”.

However, her tuition would be paid by the VA directly to her school and she would get up to $1,000 per year in book stipend money. It is calculated at $41.67 per credit.

Once she is off active duty and reverts back to Reservist status, her BAH would stop and she would start receiving her MHA. The rest of her Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlements (tuition paid and book stipend money) would remain the same.

Keep in mind that she could pick up some of her own Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement while on Title 10 orders. If she spends at least 90 days on active duty, she would be at the 40% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier; a one year tour would bump her up to the 60% tier.

So while she gets 100% coverage while using the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits she received from you, she would get a lesser percentage once those benefits are exhausted and she starts using her own. That lesser percentage applies not only to her MHA and book stipend, but also to her tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Ok, Let me lay this out so I can get the best return for my education future. I joined in 2004 and am about to get out within 6 months. I just heard all these rumors about needing to transfer my MGIB to Post 9/11 GI Bill … for myself to use it (not dependents). I was active duty the whole 9 years and even paid the extra buy-in for my MGIB in addition to the $1,200 required. Then the Post 9/11 GI Bill came out. What do I do? Do I need to transfer my benefits to get the Post 9/11 GI Bill or should I use my MGIB for the 36 months then the extra 12 months with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I would really value any “what would you do” step-by-step plan.

A: What you heard about needing to transfer your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill before you get out is false. Whoever is telling you this is confusing switching GI Bills with the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits to dependents (which does have to be done before you get out).

You can switch GI Bills anytime … even after retiring. All you have to do is go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. You get back your Certificate of Eligibility that shows which GI Bill you have, the number of months of entitlement you have left to use and your delimitation date – the date your eligibility expires.

If you plan on transferring some or all of your Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility to dependents, then you have to make your transfer request while still serving. The other two requirements are you have to have served for at least six years and agree to serve an additional four years. To make a transfer request, go to the milConnect website and follow the instruction in the Transfer of Benefits Section.

If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now, you lose the money you paid into the Buy-Up program, because it can’t be used with the New GI Bill.

As far as a plan, if your highest degree would be a four-year bachelor’s degree, then normally the best course of action is to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now. On average, you would get over $50,000 from just your housing allowance and book stipend as a full-time student taking on campus classes. Plus the VA would have paid your tuition directly to your school.

Using your MGIB with the Buy-Up, you would only get around $62,000, but you have to pay your own tuition.

If you plan to get an advanced degree, then stay with the MGIB, use it up and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional months of benefits that you can use toward your next level degree.

While this is a sound plan for most people, it may or may not work for you. Do your own GI Bill comparison factoring in your specific situation to see which one would work best for you.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I used all my Chapter 1606 GI Bill for my Bachelor’s Degree. I was later hired into the AGR program and paid $1,200 for one year of the Chapter 30 GI Bill. I am now deployed to Afghanistan. When I return home, will I be able to convert that one year of Chapter 30 to Post 9/11 GI Bill? Would it even be feasible if I am still AGR? If the biggest benefit of Post 9/11 GI Bill is the housing allowance, if I am AGR, I already receive BAH, so I’m wondering if it would even make sense for me to convert. I am enrolled in law school at the University of Akron in Akron, OH and am already using the Federal Tuition Assistance (or at least I was before I deployed), so I am just trying to figure out the best way to maximize my benefits. Thank you!

A:Yes you would be able to convert your Chapter 30 (Montgomery GI Bill) to Chapter 33 (Post 9/11 GI Bill). As part of the GI Bill 2.0 changes, AGR are now considered the same as active duty personnel as far as the Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility is concerned.

To answer your question if it makes sense to convert or not, only you would be able to answer that, however, I can give you some information that may help you make your decision.

If you are getting BAH in the AGR program, you would not get the MHA (Monthly Housing Allowance), however, the VA would pay your tuition up to the resident rate at a public school and you would get the approximate $500 per semester in book stipend money (up to the $1,000 per year limit).

By transferring to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get back your $1,200 MGIB contribution fee, once you finish using up your one year of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

According to the U of A’s website, law school tuition and fees for the Fall is projected at $12,066.02 if you are a resident going to school full-time (15 credits) or $7,370.26 if going to school part-time (9 credits). If the U of A is a state supported school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay that entire amount. If it is a private school, the VA would pay up to $19,138.31 per year.

Plus at either type school, you would still get the book stipend which should cover the projected cost of $1,000 for two semesters of books and supplies.

By comparison, the MGIB would only pay you $1,564 per month and you have to pay your own tuition and fees (and books). If you decide to transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, just go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 10 months and 21 days left of my MGIB benefits. I plan on starting my bachelor’s program this August. I served from 9/2002-9/2004 in the Army. I am wondering 1) How are the months calculated for the MGIB and the Post 9/11 Bill and are they the same? 2) If I plan to go to school from August 2013-December 2014, would it be better for me to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now? 3) My benefits expire September 2014, what happens to the remaining months on my MGIB after that? Can I apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at that point? 4) If I switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and have one month left when I start classes in Fall of 2014, is it possible to get an extension through the rest of the semester? Also I was wondering how long it takes to switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill from MGIB? My classes start the 26th of August, I am considering using the MGIB for fall semester and switching to Post 9/11 GI Bill in January. I just need any advice possible, as I am trying to find a way to have school paid for because of the hardship it is causing my family at this time. Thanks!

A: I’ll answer your questions in the order asked: (1) Yes, months of eligibility are calculated the same regardless of which GI Bill you are using. The VA uses a standard of 30 days per month regardless of how many days are actually in the month. So for each month you are in school full-time, you use up one month of eligibility. If you go to school part-time, then you use up a lesser amount depending on your percentage of full-time and rounded off to the nearest 10%. (2) No you would not be better off, because if you switch now you would only get the same number of months and days under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you have left under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).

If you use up your MGIB benefits first and then switch, you get an additional 12 months of benefits. Being you would be in school for four semesters, you’ll use up about 16 months of entitlement and you only have a little over 10 months left.

With your MGIB benefits expiring in September 2014, you would have exhausted your MGIB benefits before they expire, leaving the road open to get Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits (and an additional five years of time to use them). (3) Any unused benefits left at the end of your delimitation date are lost. (4) With either GI Bill, and on a semester term basis, if you run out of benefits mid-term, you are carried through to the end of the semester.

It still takes time to switch GI Bills; not long ago it could take up to eight weeks, but that time is now reduced since the VA switched to their new software.

To switch, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. Just be sure to put your effective date well after when you would run out of MGIB benefits. That way you would seamlessly roll over from one GI Bill to the other.

Stay with your MGIB until it is exhausted and then go over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill so that you get the additional months of eligibility and time to use it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was interested in becoming a certified Home Inspector. I was talking to a school rep with American Home Inspectors Training Institute, LTD and they said they just got certified for the VRAP now. Does a Home Inspector certification qualify as a High Demand field and is American Home Inspectors Training Institute, LTD certified for VRAP.

A: I’m not seeing Home Inspector specifically listed in the VA’s VRAP High Demand Listing, but it could fall under item 162 – Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers, All Others, under the general heading category of Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations.

As far as the school itself, I’m also not seeing them listed in the Weam’s School Search program either, nor does the school mention anything about being VA-approved or taking the GI Bill on their website.

So in light of a lack of information, I think you would want to check specifically with the VA first to see (1) if that occupation is covered under VRAP and (2) if the school is VA-approved before enrolling. Otherwise, you could end up paying for the program yourself.

Just because a school says they are VRAP certified, that doesn’t mean they are. There are many aggressive schools out there right now that want GI Bill money. I’m not saying the school you are looking at is one of them, but because VRAP, nor any other GI Bill, is not mentioned on their website, I would tread carefully.

I’ve heard countless stories where students have enrolled in a school thinking they took the GI Bill only to find out after racking up several thousands of dollars in tuition that they don’t. Guess whose door the school knocks on to get their money?

If this certification is what you want to do regardless if VRAP pays for it or not, then it won’t be a big issue for you. But if the VA must pay for this program for you to succeed, then check out everything carefully before proceeding.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I attend school using my step father’s GI Bill? I’m unsure of how long he was in the military but I have been considering going back to school. I have being hearing I should be able to go back using his GI Bill and I am also hearing I wouldn’t be able to. Please reply soon, thanks!

A: I’m sorry, but being your step-father is not currently serving, he would not be able to make a transfer of benefits to you. The only GI Bill that has a transfer-of-benefits option is the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The way Congress wrote the specifics of it, the servicemember has to have served for at least six years, be currently serving at the time a transfer request was made, and agree to serve an additional four years of service (as of August 1st, this rule applies regardless of the number of years already served.) However, if he would have transferred benefits to you while he was still serving, he would still have the right to revoke, reallocate or use those benefits himself even though he is retired.

The other thing you should know about Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits is there is a maximum age in which you have to use up your transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. So if you are age 26 or older, you would not be able to use transferred benefits even if you had them.

If your step-father has the Montgomery GI Bill, he couldn’t have transferred it either as that GI Bill did not have a transfer option to it.

So even though your step-father isn’t eligible to transfer any of his GI Bill benefits to you, don’t despair. There are many different sources of financial aid available that can help you get through school. Every year, thousands of dollars go unused because nobody applied for the money. Seek out the sources and apply.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have 15 days left on my Ch. 30. I am starting OJT and will be using my remaining 15 days. Once exhausted, is it possible to transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill for the remainder of my OJT? I was on active duty from 2000-2004 and a Reservist from 2009 to the present, and then activated from 03/2011-05/2012.

A: Yes it is possible to change GI Bills. Due to your active duty service after September 10, 2001 and your activation while a Reservist, you have more than the required three years of eligible service; you should be eligible for an additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 100% tier.

However, when you change from one GI Bill to the other, you will notice a change in your monthly payment amount. Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you would get paid 75% of the full-time MGIB rate for the first 6 months of OJT. Being you only have 15 days of MGIB left, that should amount to approximately $586.50.

Once you are under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would receive 100% of your Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) for the first six months of training. I can’t tell you exactly what that amount would be without knowing the zip code of your OJT program, but I can tell you that it averages about $1,300 per month across the United States. It is about double that amount if you are in New York City or LA.

For the second six months of benefits that you would have left, you would get 80% of the MHA. Your employer should be paying you up to the other 20% by now.

To change GI Bills, just go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. Make sure you put an effective date in Block 9F in Part II that is well after you have used up your last day of MGIB benefits. As long as that date is after your MGIB benefits are exhausted, you would seamlessly roll over from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.