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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Thanks for the info. I’m currently still on active duty, using MGIB benefits for my master’s degree classes. The Post 9/11 GI Bill sounds tempting because MGIB does not pay the full tuition cost for me. Any idea what Post 9/11 would pay for part-time or full-time? It is hard to decide whether to switch now so I pay less, or wait until I used it all up and then switch to Post 9/11. I will be finished with this degree this year. I expect to pay about $2k-$4k above what MGIB pays, guessing.

A: I guess my first question is why are you not using Tuition Assistance and letting your GI Bill pay the difference that TA won’t pay? That way the amount that comes out of your GI Bill is minimal and you get much more “bang for your buck” from your GI Bill. TA is free for the taking and if you are not using it, you are throwing money away.

How it works is Tuition Assistance pays your tuition bill in full and then bills the VA for whatever portion exceeds what TA is allowed to pay. The VA in turn converts that dollar amount into days and months of entitlement and they deduct that number from your remaining unused GI Bill entitlement.

As far as how much you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get your tuition paid and receive the book stipend.

Under the New GI Bill, your tuition is paid directly to your school by the VA. They can pay up to the resident undergraduate rate at a public school, so you would have a difference between that rate and the graduate tuition rate. That difference would have to be paid by you, unless your school was a Yellow Ribbon school, then you might have very little left to pay, if anything.

How the Yellow Ribbon Program works is a Yellow Ribbon school could pay up to 50% of the difference with the VA paying an equal amount. Or the school could pay a lesser amount depending on the percentage they have in their agreement with the VA. Also check to see if your graduate program is included in their Yellow Ribbon Program.

Once each semester, up to the $1,000 per year cap, you would get the book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit. Being you are already on active duty, you would not be authorized the monthly housing allowance, so the only money you would get directly is the book stipend, however, the VA would pay your tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m sure you are tired of answering these questions, but I am going to ask it anyhow to make sure I understand. I have used all but 6 months of my MG GI Bill (the National Guard variety). I am about to enroll in post graduate school and I am now eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. From what I have read from earlier posts, I should use the remainder of my MG GI Bill the first year and switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill for the additional 12 months allocated to me? Am I understanding that correctly? I know many of the prior posters were all active duty so maybe that makes a difference, as my MG GI bill adds up to about $500 a month with kicker included.

A: As far as the rules, the process to switch from either MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill are generally the same, so there would not be much of a difference between you having the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR) and your active duty brethren having the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD).

Your thinking about using up all of your MGIB-SR entitlement first before switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is spot on. If you switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB-SR entitlement left, then all you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months as you had before switching. However, if you first exhaust your MGIB-SR entitlement and then switch, you would get the additional 12 months of entitlement.

If you are currently getting about $500 per month from using your MGIB-SR and kicker, then the kicker portion is about $144. That is about right as normally the kicker is about an additional $150 per month.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition up to your authorized tier percentage at the resident undergraduate rate if you attend a public school. If you attend a private school, they would pay up to your tier percentage of $19,198.31 per year.

With either type school, you would get the monthly housing allowance and book stipend. Your housing allowance is dependent on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take multiplied by your tier percentage. Your book stipend calculates out at $41.67 per credit per semester times your tier percentage (up to the tier percentage driven annual cap).

The tier percentage comes into play with Reserve and National Guard members as many times they have less than 100% eligibility. Active duty personnel usually come out with 100% coverage.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Please help: I have two questions. 1. As the spouse of a 100% disabled vet, can I attend two colleges at the same time toward two AAS degrees to total full-time each semester? 2. My daughter is 14 years old and is his stepdaughter, also his dependent under DEERS. Does she qualify for DEA benefits if he does not adopt her?

A: The VA does allow you to attend two colleges at the same time using the GI Bill, but most likely you would not be able to work on two separate AAS degrees at the same time. However, if you choose to attend two schools, the school that will be issuing your degree is called the parent school. Your other school is the secondary school.

How it works is you have to sit down with your parent school and discuss the classes you would like to take at your secondary school. If your parent school approves the classes, they send a letter to your secondary school indicating which classes you would take from them. Once you have completed those classes, your secondary school sends a transcript to your parent school and they post those credits to your degree plan.

Once you complete your AAS, the normal progression is to a higher level degree which would be a bachelor’s degree. However, the VA may approve you taking a second AAS program especially if it is related to your first AAS. However, if they do approve it, be sure to get the approval in writing.

As far as your second question, no she would not qualify for DEA Benefits Chapter 35 if he has not legally adopted her.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am enrolled in a school that considers 7 credit hours to be full-time during the summer. I am taking two 3-credit hour courses for a total of 6 credit hours toward my course of study based on the course catalog for summer and the curriculum for my program of study. The courses I am taking are 8 weeks long and run from Jun 18 to Aug 8. According to the registrar, I am two credits shy of the max the school allows students to take during the summer. Would this in any way lessen my GI Bill housing allowance as the school’s full time credit hour amount is less than that of their fall/winter schedule?

A: It is not unusual for a school to have lesser number of credits during their summer sessions and still be considered full-time. The VA does not have an established standard as far as how many credits it takes to be considered full-time – that value is established by each individual school and reported to the VA.

So while your school may have a 12-credit rate of pursuit as full-time in the Fall and Spring semesters, they can use a 7-credit value during their summer sessions for example, and both values are considered full-time in the eyes of the VA.

However, because you are only taking six credits, when your school uses 7 credits as full-time, you would only get 6/7ths of the Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance or 1/7th less that the full-time amount. You would still get the full book stipend amount of $41.67 per credit and your tuition and eligible fees paid directly to your public school at the rate of a resident undergraduate student or up to $19,198.31 per year if attending private school.

So while your less-than-full-time rate of pursuit does affect your MHA, it does not affect the payment of your tuition and fees, or book stipend. Those rates or percentages of pay remain the same.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am probably going to enlist soon. If I was joint account holder with my wife for her school loans, will the GI Bill work to pay those off then?

A: The GI Bill does not work to pay off any student loans – yours or your wife’s. That is a separate program called the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP).

It may be offered to you at enlistment as a GI Bill alternative, if you are enlisting for just three years, or as an additional program if enlisting for six years. If you opt for SLRP, you immediately incur a three-year obligation as a pay-back period and you have to decline the GI Bill in writing.

And since you can’t acquire GI Bill eligibility during your SLRP obligation period, that is why you can’t get both on a three-year enlistment, but you can with six years. The last three years of your enlistment would fully establish your GI Bill eligibility at the 100% rate.

However, the SLRP most likely would not help you pay off your wife’s student loans. Loans not covered under SLRP include:
• Loans from a private source
• Equity Loans
• Loans from State Funded sources
• Institution Loans
• Consolidated Loans

Most likely, as a joint account holder with your wife, your loans would be classified as consolidated.

However, don’t let this deter you from enlisting. Serving your country as a member of its Armed Forces is an awesome experience.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi Ron, Thank you for some info you provided about Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. I want to ask about mine. I am into my junior year of college transferring from a community college to a university. According to the VA, I have 17 months and 24 days left in my benefits. Now, according to my new school, I need 128 credits to graduate but 70 of the credits I have from the previous school are transferrable. So I think that would leave me with 50+ credits left to take so I can graduate. So, would I have enough time to finish it with 17 months left? Forgive me if there’s errors in my questions, that’s why I turn to an expert (you) for answer. Thank you so much!

A: No, your questions are fine. As a matter of fact, I commend you in looking far enough ahead so you can plan out how to use your remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

In doing the math, I calculated that you actually you have 58 credits left to take in order to graduate. Assuming each of your semesters are 4-months long, you have just over 4 semesters of benefits left to use or about 16 months. If we divide 58 by 4, we get just over 14. So what does this value really mean?

It means that for 2 semesters, you will have to take at least 14 credits per semester while the other two semesters will require you to take at least 15 credits per semester. If you add up 14, 14, 15 and 15, it totals up to 58 credits – the exact number you need to graduate using the 17 months of benefits that you have left.

Granted, you have to know that this does not leave much, if any, room for error. If you would happen to fail or drop a class, you most likely would not have enough eligibility left to get your class paid for again, however, you could always pay for it out of your own pocket.

While 14 and 15 credits per semester are pretty hefty loads, they are very manageable and you should do fine.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am enrolled in two different schools. One is online and the other is on campus. The online school is my parent school, but the housing allowance is much lower than the on campus school. My question is, does the BAH automatically go by the on-campus school rate or does it go by the parent schools BAH rate?

A: When determining your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, the VA uses the zip code of the school where you attend classes on campus. If you were full-time, but only taking online classes, you would get the fixed monthly housing allowance (MHA) rate of $647.50 regardless of where your online school was located.

But once you add in an on-campus class, you qualify for the monthly housing allowance authorized for the zip code of the school where you physically attend class, along with the number of credits you are taking.

If your MHA was based on the zip code of your online school, then you would not be limited to the maximum online-only rate of $647.50. It is strange why they have it set up this way as almost every online school has either a campus of at least somewhere where their school is administered from. So why doesn’t the VA use that zip code and pay the MHA authorized for that zip code? Good question!

Anyway, in your case, you come out better by them using the zip code of your on-campus school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit be extended past age 26? I have a diagnosed Asperger daughter who will still be finishing college after her 26th birthday?

A: O.K., so what you are really asking is can your daughter’s Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits be extended for her to use them past her 26th birthday. Being you have already transferred benefits to her, your GI Bill delimitation date really doesn’t enter into the equation.

Based on what the VA has to say about extending benefits, I think your daughter has a very good chance of getting her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits extended beyond her 26th birthday. On the VA’s website portion titled Ask a Question, they state that you can request an extension of benefits if “You have experienced an illness or disability that prevented you from attending school.” The quote is from their article titled How Do I Request an Extension of My MGIB-AD or Post 9/11 GI Bill Ending Date? I would think your daughter would fit into this situation with her Asperger’s diagnosis.

They go on to say that if she has experienced a disability or illness that kept her from attending classes, then you should send them the following information when requesting an extension:
• The type of disability or illness she has.
• The exact beginning and ending dates, in the format (mm-dd-yyyy), that she could not go to school due to her diagnosis.
• The reason she could not go to school, i.e. how or why did Asperger’s prevent her from going to class.

They also want to know the type of each job she held during the period she is claiming she could not go to school, provided she had a job. If she did not work, state that fact. If she did, then also include each employers’ name and address, beginning and ending dates, and hours worked per week.

Finally, include information from her doctor. Specifically, a statement indicating:
• The findings of her diagnosis.
• How they are treating her.
• How long she has had Asperger’s.
• And the exact beginning and ending dates of her condition that prevented her from going to school.

Also include copies of any other medical evidence, such as hospital reports and lab test results.

Good Luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Are there any laws in place right now for retirees to transfer their GI Bill benefits? It seems a little unfair how they did it, seems like they are betting on retirees not using it; I use mine but I wish that I could transfer mine to my son. It would take a-lot of pressure off retirees if they could, minus all the other stuff and just giving the education part would help a-lot.

A: I whole-hardheartedly agree with you and it does depend on when you retired. If it was after August 1, 2009, and you were either in the Army or Air Force, you can petition your branch Board of Military Discharge to review your case and make a decision as to whether they think you knew or not that you had to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits before you retired. If you can prove you did not know, then you might be allowed to make a transfer to your son. The Navy and Marine Corp are not adjudicating any cases at this time.

If you retired before August 1, 2009, then you are just out of luck as there is not any provision to allow a transfer of benefits for that group of retirees.

There had been a couple of legislation pieces in the past few years that if passed would have allowed for that, but not only did they not pass, they didn’t have enough support to even come up for a vote. Plus I have sent in a petition to the President of the United States and have talked to anyone that would listen on this subject, but at least so far, all efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

Also, keep in mind that your son only has up to age 26 to use transferred benefits, so they might not do him any good now even if he could get them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I get both benefits at the same time – the GI Bill and Chapter 35?

A: If you are eligible for both, you can get the GI Bill and Chapter 35 consecutively, but not at the same time. That would be known as double-dipping and is not allowed.

If you are using your own Montgomery GI Bill and with three years of service, you would get up to $1,564 per month for up to 36 months. If you served less than three years, that amount drops to $1,270. Keep in mind with this GI Bill you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

If you are using Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, then your tuition and fees would be paid directly to your school for up to 36 months (or the number of months that was transferred to you if you are using transferred eligibility). You would also get the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.

By using Chapter 35, you could get up to 44 months of eligibility paid at the rate of $987 per month. You would also have to pay all education-related expenses.

And then because you are using two GI Bills, you would fall under the VA’s Rule of 48, which says the maximum number of combined months of eligibility could not exceed 48.

So, if you do the math, you would be better off using a GI Bill first for 36 months and finish off your last 12 months with Chapter 35. And of the two GI Bills, most likely the Post 9/11 GI Bill would be your best bet.