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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently signed up for the old MGIB benefits and have been waiting to transfer over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill until Virginia made its decision regarding its benefits this year. I am a Texas resident interested in attending a graduate level James Madison University distance learning program. Prior to the changes, Virginia had one of the lowest rates out of any state. Would it be possible to attend the University under either of the GI Bills from another state?

A: I can’t specifically locate James Madison distance learning tuition rates, but as a comparison, they are showing on their website a resident rate of $410 per resident graduate credit hour verses $1,095 for non-residents, so it is quite a bit different.

If you keep your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then it would pay you $1,564 per month if your rate of pursuit is considered full-time and you had served at least three years on active duty. However, if you switch over the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it would pay your tuition up to the resident undergraduate rate of $18,077.50 for a private school. That amount goes up to $19,198.31 on August 1st.

The difference not paid would be your responsibility unless your school is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program (of which James Madison is not) and then between the school and the VA, they would pay the bulk of your difference.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as a full-time online-only student, you would get up to $647.50 per month in housing allowance and a book stipend of $41.67 per credit hour per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

By comparison, if you took just one class at a local campus per semester that applied to your degree plan, in addition to your online classes, you could more than double your monthly housing allowance.

Unless they teach something there you can’t get in Texas, I would look at schools in your home state. The tuition costs would be less (because you would be paying resident rates) and you could still take distance learning. If you would choose a school that is part of the Yellow Ribbon program, then your out-of pocket costs would be low. Just be sure your school has included your graduate degree program in their VA agreement.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My 10-year grace period elapsed as I got out of the Army in 1992. Can I receive any benefits at this time from the GI Bill?

A: Not from the GI Bill you had when you got out in “92”. At that time, you would have had the Montgomery GI Bill and that has a 10-year delimitation date, so it would have expired in 2002.

However, if you meet the requirements below, you may still be able to get in on VRAP training. Congress passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 and included in it the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). VRAP offers up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans who meet the following requirements:
• At least 35 but no more than 60 years old.
• Unemployed on the date of application.
• Have received at least an other than dishonorable discharge.
• Not eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
• Not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability.
• Not enrolled in a federal or state job training program.

The program is limited to 54,000 participants through March 31, 2014. Participants must attend school full-time in order to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program which at this time is $1,564 per month.

Approved students must enrolled in a VA approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school. The program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate, and train the Veteran for a high demand occupation.

If you meet the requirements, apply by going to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I want to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Who is the point of contact I can talk to in person (AD ARMY)? I want to transfer it to my son in 11 years but I’m also thinking about using it to get my IT degree. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

A: If you want to talk to somebody, see your Education Office Counselor on post, however, I can give you the basics of transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits right here.

First, to get a transfer request approved, you have to meet the three Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility service requirements – past, present and future. The past requirement is you have to have served for at least six years on a Title 10 order of which serving on active duty for at least that number of years fulfills that requirement.

Second, you have to be currently serving at the time you make the transfer request. And third, you have to have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your request.

Once you have fulfilled the three requirements, then you can 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 the status change from “Transfer Pending” to “Transfer Approved”.

Once your transfer has been approved (which can take up to 10 weeks), then when your son is ready to start school, he can go to the eBenefits website (or whatever is the website at that time) and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get his Certificate of Eligibility that he would need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student.

Keep in mind you only have 36 months of benefits, so the more months you use for yourself, the less you will have left to transfer to your son. Being you are still on active duty, I would use the Tuition Assistance/ Tuition Top-Up program to help get your IT degree as that would preserve the most benefits for your son.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Thanks for your insight on the Post 9/11 GI Bill. My question is this: I am active-duty and will continue to be active-duty while my teenage son enters a 4-year university out-of-state in California. Will he be eligible to receive the BAH stipend while attending school and I am still on active-duty?

A: No he would not get the BAH stipend as you know it, but he would get the Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). Being you are still on active duty, your BAH is paid twice a month – on the 1st and the 15th. Also the amount you get is tied to your pay grade and where you live.

The MHA is calculated based on the zip code of the school, the number of credits taken and paid once per month while going to school at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents. Whether or not the person using the benefits has dependents or not does not enter into it.

Dependent children fall under a separate set of rules than spouses.

As you probably know, if your spouse went to school under your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, she would not get the MHA – only the book stipend and get her tuition and eligible fees paid. What is ironic about dependents using the Post 9/11 GI Bill is your son could live at home, not pay rent and still get the full MHA amount he was authorized to receive.

As a non-resident though, he may get charged out-state tuition if his state of residency does not have a reciprocity agreement with California. So in that case, he would have to pay the difference between the resident and non-resident tuition rate.

One thing for him to keep in mind is if his school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, most if not all of that difference could be paid between his university and the VA. If his school is not a Yellow Ribbon school, then he would have to pay all of the difference.

It is something worth looking into as it can make a huge difference in the amount he would have to pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Am I able to use the GI Bill benefits if the veteran and I are no longer married? Will his dependent be able to use the GI Bill when she is old enough to go to college or if he is using it, it only covers him?

A: First, it depends on which GI Bill you are talking about. The only one with transferable benefits at all to dependents is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Second, if your ex has that GI Bill, whether or not you can use it depends on if he transferred benefits to you or not while he was still serving and while still married to you. If he did not, then he would not be able to make a transfer request now after your divorce.

The same situation applies in the case of his dependent being able to use her father’s Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits – he has to have made a transfer of benefits to her while still serving for her to have benefits available for her to use when she is ready to go to college. If he is no longer serving and did not make a transfer of benefits, then he can’t do so now that he is out of the military.

If he would had been still serving though, he could have given her up to the number of unused months of benefits he had left or a lesser amount if he had planned on using some of his benefits.

To answer the last part of your question, both his daughter and he can use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the same time. The VA doesn’t care if they pay two people at the same time or just one as they would end up paying for the same number of months in the end.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently using my Montgomery GI Bill for online college. I saw a thing saying online students would start getting BAH at half the rate of an E-5. Am I eligible to receive BAH and since I’m using my Montgomery GI Bill will I be able to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill when I’m done with the Montgomery GI Bill?

A: If you are using the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then you get one payment per month up to $1,564 as a full-time student. Out of that amount, you have to pay tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses. MGIB users are not authorized a monthly housing allowance or BAH as you call it (although BAH is something entirely different from the housing allowance).

However, if you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and you decide to switch, you would get a monthly housing allowance.

If you are taking all online courses, then you are limited to a maximum housing allowance of $674.50 per month. However, if you are taking classroom classes on campus (or at least one class per semester that applies to your degree plan if the rest are online), then you would get a housing allowance calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking.

Whether you go the online-only or classroom on campus route, you would still get a book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap) and the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school.

If you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then yes, you could get an additional 12 months of benefits once you have exhausted your MGIB.

However, if you decide to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB benefits left, then all you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months you had left under the MGIB and not the 12 additional months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My sister in-law is currently receiving the GI Bill Benefits and currently is enrolled as a full-time student at our university. However, she was just admitted into the hospital last night for internal bleeding. If she can’t finish this semester out due to her hospitalization, what is her liability to the GI Bill? Or will they still cover her? Your quick response is appreciated.

A: When a student cannot finish out a semester, the VA investigates to see whether the reason was due to mitigating or non-mitigating circumstances. If the reason was within the student’s control (non-mitigating), then the VA may request repayment. However, if the reason was outside the student’s control (mitigating), then most likely they would not request repayment.

In the case of your sister-in-law with internal bleeding, the VA would most likely find her reason to be mitigating and not her fault. While she would have to provide proof of mitigation, but that should be fairly easy being she had been admitted into the hospital. She would also most likely have to send in copies of doctor’s reports to substantiate her mitigation circumstances claim.

In the case of non-mitigating, the VA normally stops future GI Bill payments until the debt is either paid or a payment schedule set up. Non-mitigating reasons can be just not applying oneself studying, partying, missing classes, etc.

The VA also has a first-time/one-time drop policy where a student can drop up to six credits with no questions asked and not have to repay back the VA. However, because your sister-in-law’s case seems pretty clear-cut to me, I wouldn’t advise her to use this policy.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My fiancé and I are debating on getting married before going to college. Would that affect my Chapter 35 benefits? I also heard that the GI Bill was being cut. Are Chapter 35 benefits still going to be available?

A: No, getting married would not have any effect on your Chapter 35 benefits at all. Just keep in mind that you only have 44 months of benefits and you have up to your 26th birthday to use them up. Right now, Chapter 35 is paying $987 per month and you have to pay your tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses out of that amount, plus have money to live on.

What you heard about the GI Bill getting cut was wrong, although many people had the same impression. What was cut (and has since been restored) was Tuition Assistance which is available for active duty personnel to use so they can go to college while still serving their country.

While the topic of cutting GI Bill benefits always comes up when Congress is trying to cut the deficit, GI Bill benefits have always survived the cut and I see no change to that pattern in the future.

We saw what happens when they cut Tuition Assistance. The outcry was so loud that they restored funding so the program could continue on. I believe your Chapter 35 benefits are secure and I would not lose much sleep over worrying about losing them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I’m planning to use the GI Bill when I get out (in 4 months). I’d like to start using it in TN (my state of residence), but am planning on getting married and moving to MD where I’ll have to wait a year to claim residency for in-state tuition. Can I use the GI Bill with this kind of sabbatical? Thanks, Anna.

A: You certainly can Anna! Depending on which GI Bill you have, you either have a 10-year or 15-year expiration date from your date of discharge, so you can start using your GI Bill anytime. Just be sure you finish before your benefits expire.

If you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), I understand your concern about the in-state/out-state tuition differences. The MGIB pays $1,564 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc, so it would most likely cost you money out of your pocket.

But if you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, or you can switch to it from the Montgomery GI Bill, then the outcome can be favorable even if you have to pay out-state tuition. The way the Post 9/11 GI Bill works is the VA pays your tuition up to the resident undergraduate rate to your public school. It would pay up to $18,077.50 per year if you attend a private school.

If that school happens to be in the Yellow Ribbon Program, then they can pay up to 50% of the difference between what they charge and what your GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount, so in theory, all your tuition would be paid. But if your school agreed to pay a lesser percentage in their agreement with the VA, then you would have some out-of-pocket costs, but they would be minimal.

Also, a change concerning tuition is in the air. Congress right now is considering legislation where schools would charge servicemembers and veterans the in-state tuition rate regardless of residency, so it might end up being a moot point anyway if that legislation is passed. If passed, schools would be forced to abide by the new policy if they accept GI Bill students.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I applied for the GI Bill few years ago and didn’t check it often therefore I forgot how much do I got. Is there any way to access the system and check how much do I receive.

A: The best way to check and see what you have left is to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you would get a Certificate of Eligibility that shows how many months of eligibility you have left to use, under which GI Bill and when those benefits expire.

Depending on which GI Bill you have, your benefits may have already expired. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill, then you have 10 years from your date of discharge to use your benefits. If you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have an additional 5 years for a total of 15 years from your date of discharge.

If you are past the date of discharge for the GI Bill you have, then there is no point in requesting a Certificate of Eligibility. However, if you still have benefits left that you can use, you would get up to $1,564 per month for the Montgomery GI Bill as a full-time student. Out of that amount, you have to pay your tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a little harder to pin down in that the monthly housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. However, it does pay your tuition directly to your school and you would get a book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 yearly cap) calculated at $41.67 per credit. On average, the housing allowance runs about $1,300 per month. Since the New GI Bill eligibility goes back to 2001, you have some time left until that one would expire.