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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’ll try and keep this short. I started out in the Air Force and signed up for the G.I. Bill in 1994. I then did an inter-service transfer to the Army several years later. I never had a break in service and a few years ago I started using my benefits for school. I have used it now for two and a half years and just recently learned I hit my delimiting date. I had no idea what that was so I called and asked. Turns out they have been paying me benefits believing I was no longer on active duty, and I didn’t know there was a difference. My delimiting date was ten years from when I left the A.F. It will take them awhile, but I now think I am going to end up owing them somewhere around $10,000 that they “over paid” me because of their mistake. What would you recommend in this situation? Thank you for your help in this matter.

A: It sounds like the VA received notice that you got out of the Air Force, but never did get the information about you transferring to the Army. Since your Montgomery GI Bill delimiting date is based on your last discharge date, it should have been 10 years from the date you got out of the Army; fifteen years for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

What I would do immediately is send in a Notice of Disagreement Letter to the VA with a copy of your DD214. Explain what happened and what you are disagreeing to. There isn’t a specific format so just write it as a letter. That should give them a history of your military service and show that you got out of the Air Force and went right into the Army. They should be able to adjust your delimiting date based on that information.

The overpayment “debt” is a different matter. GI Bill debt is handled by a different branch of the VA – the Debt Collection Center. Once your delimiting date is adjusted, the debt “should” clear itself up, but keep checking on it to be sure.

As long as it shows you have a debt, you would not be able to use your GI Bill until you have either paid that debt or set up a payment plan. But in your case, I would not do either at this time. After you send in your DD214, keep dogging the VA until they have your delimiting date resolved.

Then go to the Debt Collection Center and address the debt issue with your updated delimiting date. You should then be able to show them that you should have never established a debt in the first place and they should wipe out the debt owed to them.

If you pay that debt (that you technically do not owe) then you would have another problem of trying to get your money back once your delimiting date is adjusted. If you are thinking that this could turn into a big mess, you are right! But stay the course, keep actively engaged and you should persevere in the end.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When I eventually leave the service I would like to enroll full time at a 4-year college and get my degree. Will the Post/911 GI Bill pay for all four years and give the BAH for all four years?

A: The short answers to your questions are “yes” and “no”. Yes, the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay for four years of college. With 36 months of benefits, it is enough for four 9-month academic years of school.

Under this GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school. Monthly, you get a housing allowance and once per semester, you also get a book stipend; it calculates out at $41.67 per credit up to the $1,000 yearly maximum, which is generally enough for two 12-credit semester per school year.

No, the Post 9/11 GI Bill would not pay you BAH for all four years, because the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay BAH – it pays a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA); it is entirely different than the BAH you are accustomed to while serving in the military.

While the MHA is based in part on the Department of Defense Travel Tables (BAH calculator), much more goes into the calculation, such as your Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level and the number of credits you are taking. Another difference is BAH pays twice a month, where the MHA pays only once a month and usually a month in arrears.

So in the end, the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay you MHA, not BAH, for the full four years you are in school, although the New GI Bill does not pay break pay anymore since the GI Bill 2.0 update in 2011, so you do not get paid when you are not in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am seeking more information about using both tuition assistance and the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the same time. I am currently receiving 70% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and the cost of the tuition for the school that I currently attend is about $610 per credit hour. Will using both the TA and the GI Bill benefits pay for this cost? If so, will I continue to receive my monthly living stipend from the GI Bill?

A: Being you are already receiving the monthly stipend from your Post 9/11 GI Bill and are at the 70% tier level, I’m assuming you are in the Selected Reserve. If you were on active duty, I would answer your questions differently due to the slight differences between active duty and the Selected Reserve in regards to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you have been using the New GI Bill by itself, then you know the VA pays 70% of your tuition directly to your school. So at $610 per credit, you are left paying about $183 per credit.

If you also start using Tuition Assistance (TA), then TA will pay up to the amount by law and the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay 70% of the remainder. When multiple funding sources are involved, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays last.

So assuming TA is paying $250 per credit, the Post 9/11 GI Bill would end up paying 70% of $360 per credit or about $252. This would leave you paying about $108 per credit. So by using TA, the amount you have to pay drops by $75 per credit, but keep in mind, you are still using the same amount of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits either way – one month of benefit for each month in school.

Under either program, you would still get the same monthly housing allowance and book stipend. Also, if your state has a state Tuition Assistance in addition to the federal TA, this could also play a part in reducing the amount you have left to pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Say I want to get a gunsmithing certificate from a VA-approved school. The cost is $2,500. The training is at my own pace. Here’s my question: how is the money subtracted from my GI Bill? Do I lose just the months of benefit that equal the $2,500 or do I lose the number of months it takes me to complete the program? I am on active duty and have the Montgomery GI Bill and I am eligible to transfer to the Post 9/11 Bill. Thanks! I don’t want to spend $2,500 and lose an entire year’s worth of benefits should it take me that long.

A: This is a great question and my answer shows what a difference there really is as far as which GI Bill you use. Your concern is the amount of GI Bill eligibility you would use by taking this course and it is a valid concern, but let me show you just what the difference really is.

If you take this course using your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), the amount of entitlement you would use would be in increments of the monthly amount the MGIB pays divided into the cost of the course. Since the MGIB currently pays $1,564 per month and your course costs $2,500, you would use up 1.59 months or about 1 month and 18 days of your MGIB eligibility and you would be required to pay for the course yourself.

If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay the $2,500 course cost directly to the school. Monthly you would get a housing allowance paid at the E-5 with dependents pay grade. It averages around $1,300 per month across the United States, but is dependent on the zip code of your school unless you are taking the course online. Then your housing allowance would max out at $647.50 per month.

You would also get $83 per month in book stipend money. However, you would also use up one month of eligibility for each month you are enrolled in the course; the longer it takes you to finish the course, the more months of benefits you use up. So if you are concerned about using the least amount of eligibility, then your best bet would be to use the MGIB.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My first husband was killed in Afghanistan while in active duty. I just heard that Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits should be transferred by August 1, 2013. Does this affect survivors? Are there any other educational benefits survivors will need to transfer? Is so, how do I transfer my first husband’s benefits (post 9/11 and/or others) to his children? I can’t find any information online. Thank you so much.

A: The upcoming Post 9/11 GI Bill change in transfer of benefits will not affect you or your children. It only applies to those that are retirement eligible and still serving. If your husband did not (or was not yet eligible to) transfer benefits to you or your children, then you don’t have any of his GI Bill benefits to use.

However, you most likely do qualify for Chapter 35, which is a GI Bill you should be able to use as a surviving spouse unless you remarry or are remarried and under the age of 57. You and each child should be eligible for up to 44 months of Chapter 35 benefits each that you can use to go to school. To apply, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-5490 on yourself and each eligible dependent child.

Your children can start using their benefits at age 18 or upon graduating from high school, whichever is first, and would have to use their benefits by age 26. You, on the other hand as the surviving spouse, have up to 20 years from the date of your husband’s death to use your benefits.

Right now Chapter 35 is paying $987 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fee and books. While that is not much, it is an opportunity for you to get trained in something that you can use to support yourself. Good luck.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am about to get discharged with general under honorable conditions (service length of 24 months). Would I still be eligible for the GI Bill? And I originally signed up for Montgomery GI Bill, can I still get Post 9/11 GI Bill? If I can, can I also get the housing allowance as well?

A: To answer your first question, yes you are still eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill. And it gets better yet; you are also eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill complete with the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

But Houston, we have a problem; with a discharge less than fully Honorable, you can’t use any of it. The benefits are there, but they are hands-off, unless you get your discharged upgraded to fully Honorable.

How do you do that? It starts with you filling out and submitting DD Form 293 and sending it to your service branch Discharge Review Board. It is your job on the form to convince the Board why your current discharge rating is wrong. Historically, about 41% of the people have been successful. If you end up being part of that statistic, then you would be able to then use your GI Bill benefits.

Now let’s look at the benefits. If you did not complete your full enlistment contracted time, then you most likely would end up with 24 months of the Montgomery GI Bill – one month of eligibility for each month of service. As a full-time student, you could get up to $1,270 per month.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, training time does not count for GI Bill eligibility until you have more than 24 months of service; assuming you had a 5-month IADT, you most likely have 36 months of eligibility at the 70% tier level. If your IADT was longer than 6 months, then you would be at 60%. Your housing allowance, book stipend and the amount of tuition the VA would pay would all be calculated at the authorized tier level.

So to use your GI Bill benefits, the first thing you must work on is getting your discharge upgraded.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I switch from the MGIB to Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: Switching to the New GI Bill is easy. Just go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. But there is a bigger question that begs to be asked: “Is switching GI Bills best for you?”

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the latest GI Bill on the block. Because it is shiny and new, and thought to be the biggest and best, most people think it is the one they should have. However, before you switch, ensure that it would serve you the best, because once you switch, you can’t switch back if you find out later that you should have stayed with the old GI Bill.

In some situations, staying with the Montgomery GI Bill can be more beneficial financially. For example, if you have scholarships fenced for tuition or attend a college that is tuition-free for veterans, you would make more money per month under the old GI Bill.

What many students new to the Post 9/11 GI Bill don’t realize is the VA is the last payer, meaning other forms of financial aid pay their fair share first and the VA pays what is left up to the limits allowed by law. So if all of your tuition is paid by other means, all you are getting from your Post 9/11 GI Bill is the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

For example, let’s assume a student from Georgia has his tuition paid for by scholarships. Under the MGIB, as a full-time student with at least three years of service, s/he would make $5,856 per 16-week semester going to a school in Atlanta; under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, that same student would get $5,156 or $700 less for that same semester.

So it is important to do a GI Bill comparison based on your individual situation to see which GI Bill would be the best for you.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’ve been in the Army for 12 years and I am about to ETS as an E-5 with no dependents. How much will the Montgomery GI Bill pay for me to go to school? Also do I qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program? I am a resident of Georgia.

A: Currently, the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) pays students $1,564 per month up to 36 months to go to school full-time, if you have served for at least three years or more (which you have). Out of that amount, you have to pay tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

As far as the Yellow Ribbon Program, that is part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not the MGIB. But the good news is you also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill too. The minimum benefit of 40% under the New GI Bill comes free of charge just for serving 90 days or more on a Title 10 order. With over three years of service, you are at the 100% tier level.

The only way the Yellow Ribbon program would benefit you is if you:
• attend a private school
• are in a graduate program
• pay non-resident tuition

Because you are a resident in Georgia, if you attend a public school in Georgia, then the Yellow Ribbon Program is not a feature beneficial to you. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your public school tuition would be paid in full.

Also, under the this GI Bill, you would get a monthly housing allowance. It is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. If you were going to school in Atlanta for example, it would pay you $1,164 monthly. While this is less than the MGIB, keep in mind your tuition is already paid under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

In addition, you also would get the book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit per semester. There is a $1,000 per year cap on the book stipend, but it is enough for a couple of 12 credit semesters per year.

If you decide to switch to the New GI Bill, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return you would get your Certificate of Eligibility that you would need when enrolling in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have never used any of my benefits and would like to help my wife finish school. I am an Army veteran with a general discharge. I served from 1993 to 1996.

A: That is a very honorable thing you want to do, however, you have several things working against you as far as being able to transfer your GI Bill benefits to your wife. First, the GI Bill you had back in the mid 1990s was the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Unfortunately that GI Bill does not have any benefit transfer aspects to it.

Second, the MGIB has a 10-year shelf life from the date of your discharge; after that date it expires. You have long since passed your 10-year date from 1996.

Third, with a General discharge, you would not have been able to use your GI Bill benefits yourself, let alone transfer them to your wife.

And while you might have been able to get your characterization of discharge changed to Honorable before your MGIB expired, it still would not have done you any good due to the fact that the MGIB cannot be transferred.

Being your GI Bill benefits would not help your wife finish school, her best bet now for education financial aid would be to apply for grants and scholarships.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in 1986 and paid my $1,200 for the MGIB. I used 28 months of benefits during college and was commissioned in 1996. I have remained on active duty up to the present. My wife is pursuing her master’s degree. Do I have any options to transfer my benefits to her?

A: Yes you do have an option, but it isn’t with the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). The reason you can’t transfer MGIB benefits to her is because that GI Bill does not have a transfer-of-benefits option to it.

However, because you have served for at least three years on active duty after September 10, 2001, you also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill which does have a transfer option. But just so you know, you would only have 8 months of benefits that you could give her.

Under the New GI Bill if you switch with MGIB benefits left, all you get is that same number of months; in your case the 8 MGIB months you currently have left.

To transfer your remaining benefits to her, you still have to be on active duty and have at least enough time remaining to get the transfer approved. If you meet that requirement, then go to the milConnect website and follow the instructions in the Transfer of Benefits Section. Keep checking back at the TEB website and look for a status change to “Transfer Approved”.

Once that happens, then your wife can go to the eBenefits website and request her Certificate of Eligibility by submitting VA Form 22-1990e. She will need her certificate when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Just so you know, if you try and make a transfer request after August 1st, you would automatically have to serve another four years in uniform. If you make your request before that date, you are already “retirement eligible” and no additional service would be required.