This website is not affiliated with the U.S. government or military.
Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I went to 3 years of college before I joined the Army. I turned down my Montgomery GI Bill so I could receive SLRP. I am currently using the Tuition Assistance (TA) Program to finish my degree. The Army does not have my transcripts because at the time of enlistment, I owed money to the school and could not get my transcripts. I was wondering if I get my transcripts recognized by the Army am I entitled to less TA because I have already received 3 years of college. I need to know if there is a credit limit associated with TA.

A: There isn’t a credit limit associated with TA per se, but TA can only be used for undergraduate work, so in your case, you would only have a year of TA left to use until you get your degree.

Under current regulation, Army Tuition Assistance can pay up to $250 per credit and up to a yearly maximum of $4,500. If your tuition costs more than what TA can pay, or you reach your yearly limit early in the school year, then you would have to pay what it couldn’t out of pocket.

When you declined the Montgomery GI Bill in writing at the time of your enlistment and opted for SLRP, you incurred a three year obligation to “pay” back your SLRP option. However, if you enlisted for six years (or extend your enlistment after your initial three years), you would be acquiring Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.

After a total of six years of service, you would have 100% eligibility for 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill coverage that you could use for an advance degree. The Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% tier, is free to you just by serving your country for three years (beyond your SLRP obligation) on a Title 10 order, which includes active duty. Thirty-six months of eligibility at the 40% tier is available with as little as 90-days of service. All qualifying service has to be after September 10, 2001.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If my wife has my Post 9/11 GI Bill, can I use my Montgomery GI Bill? I am currently retiring.

A: Most likely not. When you switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and further transferred those benefits to your wife, you gave up one of your other GI Bills. If the only other GI Bill you had was the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then you would not have anything left to use. However, if you were lucky enough to have three GI Bills, then you might have MGIB benefits left to use, however they would be limited.

Under the Rule of 48, if you have two or more GI Bills, the maximum combined months of entitlement is capped at 48. So if you gave your wife all 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement, and you have MGIB benefits left to use, you would only have 12 months of benefits that you could use before you would hit your maximum of 48 combined months.

Hopefully, you were using the Tuition Assistance (TA) program while you were active, so you either already have your degree, or the 12 months you might have would be enough to finish your degree. You could also use those months to give you a good start on an advanced degree.

Just so you know, you always have the option to revoke back some or all the entitlement you gave to your wife. If she is not going to use all of it, you could take back the remaining unused months and use it yourself. That would be an option if you do not have any other GI Bill left to use.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi have the Post 9/11 GI Bill and just got accepted into a foreign university in Bulgaria. The school is approved as is the program also. What do they have to do to receive the payment from the GI Bill and I to be able to start classes? Thank you!

A: If your school is already VA-approved, then all they have to do is send in a Certificate of Enrollment once you are registered. If they are not VA-approved, then they need to follow the information and guidance on the Foreign Program Approval Information for Schools webpage. It lists all the documentation they have to provide and things they need to do to become VA-approved. Just know that the approval process can take awhile.

As far as what you have to do, just take your Certificate of Eligibility to your school when you enroll. If you have not yet requested your certificate, submit VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website or see your school’s VA Certifying Official. S/he might be able to certify you on the spot with your actual certificate following later. Be sure to bring all of your service information with you if you are going this route.

The amount you get paid while attending a foreign school is different than what it would be if you were going to school here in the States. First, for tuition and fees, your foreign school falls under the same payment schedule as private schools – $19,198.31 per year for the 2013/2014 school year.

Here in the States, your tuition would be paid in full at the resident student rate (provided you are at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier). For the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA), you would get a fixed $1,429 per month instead of an amount calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take and paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents.

The book stipend money you would receive for being enrolled in a four-year program is the same regardless of where you go to school – $41.67 per credit per semester (up to the $1,000 per year limit).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I just read this on a Post 9/11 GI Bill FAQ article on the HRC Website: “Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill affect the current Active Duty or Reserve Tuition Assistance Program? No.” However, I have read the only way to use both is Tuition Top-Up. My primary intention is to use my Post 9/11 GI Bill because I need the housing allowance, but in this case I only qualify for 70% of tuition. If I go the GI Bill route will I be able to use any Tuition Assistance?

A: I really don’t have sufficient information from your question to answer it accurately, but I can lay down the ground rules for using Tuition Assistance (TA) and the Tuition Top-Up program.

Let’s start with Top-Up first. Being you are at the 70% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier, I’m assuming you are in the Selected Reserve (SELRES). If that is the case, you would not qualify for the Top-Up program, as is also the case if you are retired.

For the active duty servicemember, Top-Up does work in conjunction with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, although in my estimation it is not a good use of benefits and here is why.

With Top-Up, your service branch pays your tuition in full. Then they bill the VA for the amount above what they are authorized to pay under the Tuition Assistance program rules.

If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA takes out a full semester’s worth of entitlement (usually four month) regardless of how much (or little) they had to pay your service branch.

If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill, they only deduct the number of months and days relative to what they had to pay, so Top-Up is a much better deal under the Montgomery GI Bill.

If you are in the SELRES, you can use Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) in conjunction with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Plus you would get your drill pay, and depending on the military education benefits your state offers, you may qualify for additional funding from your state.

It adds up when you consider all the options available. If you are not in the active military or any Reserve Component, then TA is not available to you either.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m in the National Guard and have served 11 years. I have three deployments so I have over 3 years active duty so I’m 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible. On my next contract I was thinking of getting SLRP and getting loans for my school all year long. Then next year get the SLRP in my contract to repay those loans back. Bonuses suck, so I’d be making my own basically. This won’t affect my Post 9/11 GI Bill right? I already earned that. What do you think?

A: In theory your plan should work, however, I caution you on a couple of things. Number one, will the Guard have the SLRP option available to you when you are due to reenlist?

With the troop draw-down coming on the active duty side, more prior service members getting off of active duty would be getting into the Guard to finish off their 20 years and qualify for retirement benefits. With a large influx of prior service individuals, the Guard may not offer SLRP as a reenlistment option. My point is to make sure it is available before you take out any student loans.

Number two, you already have 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to use. If you do not plan on getting more than a four-year degree, then use your GI Bill benefits and avoid the hassle of student loans (even if the Guard would pay them off).

Also, know that only certain loans qualify for repayment under SLRP. Get the wrong type loan and you’ll end up paying it off yourself. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the National Guard SLRP website to see if you qualify before doing anything rash.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband will unfortunately be getting out of the AF next year with 15 years in service. He currently has the Montgomery GI Bill. He will be taking classes this year until he gets out and needs to look into the Top-Up program to cover the amount left after TA. I’d also like to start taking classes towards my Master’s degree and we’d like to use his benefits towards paying for my classes, too. I’m not sure if I will be able to start before he gets out of the Air Force though. My question is, should he transfer over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now or wait until right before he gets out of the AF so that he’s using his Montgomery for this year?

A: If he plans on using the Tuition Top-Up program, then he should stay with the Montgomery GI Bill and here’s why. Under Top-Up, the Air Force would pay his whole tuition bill. Then whatever is left over after Tuition Assistance (TA) pays its portion is billed to the VA. They convert that amount into months and days of entitlement and deduct the amount from his remaining MGIB benefits.

Using the same program under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA deducts a full semester’s worth of benefits (usually four months) regardless of the amount of money they had to reimburse the Air Force. If it is a small amount that TA won’t pay, he would be better off paying it himself instead of losing four months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

As far as when he should convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, he can do that anytime … even after he is retired. All he has to do is go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990 when he is ready.

However, there is one thing he should know; if he uses up his MGIB benefits first and then switches, he would get an additional 12 months of eligibility. If he switches with MGIB benefits left, he only gets that same number of months he had and not the additional eligibility. That could be of importance depending on his education goal.

Also, I couldn’t get a feel from your question if you were expecting him to transfer benefits to you or not, but he would most likely not be able to. As of August 1st, all personnel incur an additional four year service obligation if they transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent child.

The only way he might be able to do it would be if he is getting out due to a statute that is preventing him from extending for four more years. If he is volunteering to get out, then he could not make a transfer request and get it approved.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am retiring in 4 months and would like to transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Will that be possible? I used Top-Up twice.

A: Yes it is possible. Just be sure it is the right thing for you to do based on your educational goal before you actually switch. The reason? Switching is a one-way road; once you switch, you generally can’t go back to your old GI Bill again.

You said that you used Tuition Top-Up twice. The only effect it would have had on your benefits is that you may not have a full 36 months left to transfer to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

How Top-Up works is your military branch pays your full tuition. What Tuition Assistance cannot pay by law is billed to the VA. They, in turn, convert what they had to pay on your behalf into months and days of eligibility and deduct that amount from your remaining Montgomery GI Bill benefit.

Tuition Top-Up is a good way to maximize your GI Bill benefits if you are still using the Montgomery GI Bill, however, it is not as good if you use it with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under that GI Bill, the VA deducts a full semester’s worth of benefits regardless of how much (or how little) they have to pay.

To switch GI Bills, go to the eBenefit website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you would get your Certificate of Eligibility that you would need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student.

On your certificate, it would show which GI Bill you have, the months of eligibility you have left to use and the expiration date (which would be 15 years from your date of discharge).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I transferred my GI Bill benefits to my wife and children (10 and 7 years old) in October 2009 and then retired December 2009. How long will my wife and children have access to use this benefit?

A: There are different rules for spouses than there are for dependent children as far as the amount of time they have to use Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits. For spouses, they generally have 15 years from your date of discharge to use or lose transferred benefits. This falls in line with the same amount of time you would have had to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill if you would have kept any education benefits for yourself.

For dependent children though, it goes by age. They can start using their benefits at age 18, or upon graduation from high school, and they have finish using their benefits by age 26 or they lose them. So they each have an 8-year window to use up their transferred benefits.

If you have a child that would not be able to use up his/her benefit before hitting the maximum age, or if that child decides s/he does not want to pursue post-secondary education, you can revoke benefits from that child and either reallocate them to another child or to your wife. As a third option, you could keep the benefits for yourself and use them.

What you can’t do is give benefits to a child that never had received transferred benefits to begin with, such as a child you may have had after retiring in 2009.

Even as a sponsor in retirement, you have full control over your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits as far as moving them around among those that already had received benefits before you retired.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been using my Post 9/11 GI Bill and now it has expired and monies were still left on it. Is there any way to extend it so I can use it again?

A: You’re confusing me! I’m not exactly sure what you are talking about when you said “now it has expired and monies were still left on it.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is based on months/days of coverage and not a total amount of money. The amount the VA pays in tuition and that students receive in book stipend and housing allowance can vary quite a bit from student to student over the course of 36 months.

Tuition per credit, the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take are all variables that determine how much the VA pays you and your school. Change schools or the number of credits you are taking and your monthly housing stipend could change.

In your question, you said your Post 9/11 GI Bill had expired. If you are talking about the 15-year delimitation date, that is impossible as it has not been 15 years since the first date of eligibility, September 10, 2001.

Or you might have meant that you had used up your 36 months of eligibility. In that case, that is all the benefit you had. The only way you could have extended that eligibility out to the maximum of 48 months is if you would have first used up your 36 months of Montgomery GI Bill eligibility and then switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get an additional 12 months bringing your total up to 48 months.

However, if you switched to the New GI Bill with MGIB coverage left, then you only received the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill months as you had left under the MGIB and not the additional 12 months.

So to answer your question, no you can’t extend it and use it again, because there is nothing left to extend or to use.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like to know why the government believes it’s fair to give full benefits to people who never put their boots on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11. What it means is a National Guard/Reserve soldier with an honorable discharge can serve three tours of six to 8 months each and still not equal 36 months needed for 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill. Someone needs to speak out. I not saying this because I want a hand out, I’m saying it because the benefit is not being proportionately divided among those who deserve it…I think …What do you think?

A: What do I think? I think you are severely mis-informed. For one, Selected Reservists (SELRES, which include National Guard and Reserve soldiers) generally deploy for 12 month-tours (at least they do in my Division), not the 6 to 8 months as noted in your question. And many soldiers have deployed multiple times to either or both referenced combat zones.

Two, for SELRES personnel, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is prorated by percentage of time served on Title 10 orders in support of a contingency operation. For example, a Selected Reservist with a one-year Title 10 order would still get 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, but only at the 60% tier. Their tier percentage goes up 10% with each additional 6 months of Title 10 support contingency service.

By comparison, active duty personnel get 36 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% tier for three years of Title 10 service, but their service doesn’t necessarily have to be in support of a contingency operation. So they could get the maximum of 100% eligibility and 36 months of coverage for three years of service and never leave the United States.

Because coverage for SELRES members is prorated based on amount of time served on contingency Title 10 orders, I think the system is very fair. What would not be fair is if National Guard members and Reservists would get 100% coverage with less than three years served on qualifying orders.