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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is there any special loan services for veterans waiting for GI Bill BAH? I can’t keep getting credit checks for loans only to get shot down because I “don’t have an income” nor a cosigner because at this rate my credit score will go down. I need money for rent and food! Due to school processing application time I can’t touch a fed student loan for at least 8 weeks! Any ideas? Please help!!!

A: Unfortunately, there isn’t any loans you can get through the VA. Right now applications are taking around 8 weeks to process, but as the VA brings their Long Term Solution software online, processing time is getting shorter.

One tactic that some GI Bill students have been successful using is if you have an eviction notice, send a copy of it in to the VA. Many times that will speed up the processing and get your money to you faster. It seems to give your application a priority and gets it processed faster than others in the system.

Once you get your first payment, then you can expect to get the rest of the payments for that semester shortly after the first of each month. However, know the process will start over again at the beginning of each semester, so plan ahead for the lean times.

If you are not working right now, see if you can find a part-time or temporary job where you can earn at least some income. Also, many schools offer a work-study program that can generate some money to help you out.

Whatever you do, stay away from some of the “quick loan” places. While they can provide a short-term solution now, it comes at a very high cost – usually triple digit interest, which just ends up getting you deeper in debt in the long run.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I will be transitioning out of the military next February and I need to know how can I convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill while still in the service? Or do I need to wait until I get out and then  apply for it?

A: Actually you can “convert” to the Post 9/11 GI Bill anytime. But before you do, let me explain a couple of things.

First, once you convert, it is permanent in that you can’t transfer back to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) if you find out you should not have converted. Do a comparison of benefits of each GI Bill to see which route would be the best to go.

Second, if you convert with unused MGIB entitlement left, then all you will get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months as you had left under the MGIB. However, if you first exhaust all of your MGIB entitlement and then convert, you can get an additional 12 months of entitlement.

If your goal is to get a bachelor’s degree and stop, then converting right now could be a good idea. Also once you convert and use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement that you brought over from the MGIB, you get a pro-rated amount of your $1,200 MGIB contribution back.

If you plan on going to grad school, then it may be better to use up your MGIB first and then convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill so that half of your grad school is covered by your additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. And no, you can’t bring over unused MGIB benefits AND get the additional months of benefits.

If you decide to convert, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you will get your Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when enrolling in school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired 31 Oct 2008, am a current resident of Georgia, and NEVER contributed to any type of GI Bill while on active duty. I did a tour in Iraq while on active (2003). I am not a purple heart recipient. For some reason, my ex-wife believes my daughter who lives in Alabama and wants to go to school in Alabama is eligible for some type of GI bill b/c of my service. I’ve gone through all the questionnaires and don’t seem to meet requirements. Am I missing something?

A: No, you are not missing something. Because of your service on active duty after September 10, 2001, you are eligible for 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. You have 15 years from your date of discharge to use those benefits or until 31 Oct 2023.

However, (there is always a however, right?), you are not eligible to make a transfer-of-benefits request to your daughter. The way Congress worded the New GI Bill, you have to be currently serving “on or after August 1, 2009” in order to make a transfer request to your spouse or dependents. By that date, you had already been out for 10 months. This something I have been working on to get changed, but as of this writing, I have not been successful.

So while you have GI Bill benefits you can use, you are not eligible to transfer them to anyone. If you choose to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school. Monthly, you would get a housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. Once each semester, you would get a book stipend that is calculated based on $41.67 per credit, however, there is a $1,000 per year cap on it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am also a former spouse after 25 years of marriage.  My active duty ex transferred his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit to me and I began my education a couple months ago. I was informed yesterday because my ex is still active duty, I am not be eligible to receive the housing stipend, only the book allowance.  I called VA personally, twice and received the same answer.  I asked if it would make a difference to send in my divorce decree and I was told no.  The fact that he is still active duty is the key.  He needs to retire before I can receive the housing allowance.

A: That might not be entirely true and here is why. Whether or not you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance hinges on if you are still receiving BAH or not. If you are, then no, you would not be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance as that would in essence be double-dipping. The apparent rationale is that a couple – even if they are no longer married – only qualifies for one housing allowance.

How it reads is “If the service member transfers the benefit, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will provide tuition assistance for the recipient spouse, and subject to certain exceptions, it may also include a housing allowance, book stipend, and other benefits.”

As we know, the monthly housing allowance is equivalent to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents, based on the ZIP code of the school where the student is going to school and the number of credit s/he is taking.

Notable however, if the Post 9/11 GI Bill is transferred to a child, the child would receive the housing allowance and book stipend, even if the parent service member is still on active duty and receiving the Basic Allowance for Housing.

If you are not drawing BAH, then I would send in a copy of your divorce decree as part of your Notice of Disagreement letter indicating that you should get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and why.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I started using my MGIB Aug 2012 and have 27 months left of benefits. Are there any ramifications to switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now?

A: The only ramification I can think of is that you would not get the 12 additional months of benefits that you would otherwise receive if you would have first exhausted your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits first and then switched. But if you do not plan to go any further than a bachelor’s degree, then it isn’t an issue.

As you know, under the MGIB, you receive $1,564 per month and out of that amount you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school and you would get a monthly housing allowance (MHA) that in many places is equal to or greater than what you get per month under the MGIB. However, there are also places where it is less. Your MHA is calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking.

You would also get per semester (up to the $1,000 yearly cap) a book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit, which for 12 credits is another $500 per semester.

So there are many more positive ramifications than negative by switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now, unless you need the additional months of benefits and then it may better to wait.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband retired from the Navy in 2010 after 22 years of service. Why can’t he transfer his GI Bill to me?

A: If he has the Montgomery GI Bill, it never had a spousal transfer-of-benefits option to it, so there isn’t a means in place to transfer benefits to you.

Because your husband got out in 2010, he would also have eligibility under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. That GI Bill does have a spousal (and dependent) transfer-of-benefits option, but to invoke it, he would have had to make a transfer request before he got out. The way Congress worded the language, the servicemember has to be serving “on or after August 1, 2009” in order to make a transfer request.

The two other service stipulations are having served for at least six years (which your husband would have fulfilled at the time) and having at least four years left on his enlistment unless he was retirement eligible (which he would have been having served in excess of 20 years).

Note: Due to a recent change, after August 1, 2013, all servicemembers will incur a four year enlistment whether they are retirement eligible at the time or not. For those that have less than four years from reaching their High Year Tenure after August 1st, they will not be able to make a transfer of benefits request.

So he would have had to make a transfer request and get it approved well before his discharge date, but since he is already retired, it is too late.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a question… I’ll be starting my classes soon and I’m taking only 11 classes, 10 of which are 3 credits and 1 class that’s 1 credit for my masters. The class would be done via CD-ROM and I’ve already been accepted but haven’t registered for my classes yet. What would be the total amount I’ll be getting using my MGIB? Will it include housing and textbooks too? My texts are pretty expensive ($220), will it be covered too? Please respond. Thanks!

A: So you are taking 31 credits total for your master’s degree right? Because you are using your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), I can tell you how much you would get each month, but not for how long. Because of the type of course you are taking, not based on a specific semester or term length, the VA will most likely pay you based on number of $1,564 units (the amount you get paid when using one month of MGIB entitlement) that your course costs. For example, if your course is $15,640 (for easy figuring), you would get $1,564 per month for 10 months.

The MGIB only pays a fixed amount of money and does not include any money for housing or textbooks – those features are reserved as part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, under the New GI Bill, while you would get a book stipend of $41.67 per credit per semester (up to the $1,000 yearly cap) and your tuition paid (up to the resident undergraduate rate), you would only get up to $674.50 in housing allowance because your course is all non-classroom classes, i.e. distance learning.

If you are fully eligible at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level, (and if your school is a Yellow Ribbon School and your graduate program is included in their agreement) you might get some help with the tuition difference that is not covered by your GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir, I’m trying to determine whether I have any Montgomery GI Bill or Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility remaining. I used the Montgomery GI Bill beginning in the Fall of 2004 until I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in the Fall of 2007. I added to the “kicker” prior to separating from the US Army, for a total value of $56,000. How do I determine my balance? Is there a way to apply for a Post-9/11 extension? Thank you very much in advance.

A: If you served for three years or more on active duty, then you had 36 months of Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) entitlement that you could have used. From the information in your question, you most likely used up three academic years-worth or 27 months. By you probably have 9 months of entitlement left to use under the MGIB.

If you exhaust your remaining MGIB benefits and then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you could get an additional 12 months of benefits, however, if you switch to the New GI Bill with any unused MGIB entitlement left, you would only get that same amount of entitlement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not the additional amount.

I’m a little confused on the kicker that you “added” unless you are talking about the Buy-Up program where you could pay $600 and get $5,600 in additional MGIB benefits. If you did contribute into the Buy-Up program, then note that you can only use that program with the MGIB and not the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As far as your balance of your initial $56,000, you should have about $15,471 left to use – $14,076 for 9 months of MGIB at $1,564 per month + 9 months of your Buy-Up at $155 per month.

If you would witch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, those 9 months would be worth almost as much as your MGIB/Buy-Up in just monthly housing allowance and book stipend … and your tuition would already be paid directly to your school. Under the MGIB/Buy-Up combo, you would have to pay your tuition/fees out of that amount. Something to think about.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I would like to know specifically how to transfer my benefits to my wife. Also, what specifically she can use them for. I will not be attending any college level classes but she has already graduated. Is it possible to transfer my GI Bill benefits to her and pay off her student loans? Thanks for your time.

A: No it is not possible to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to directly pay off her student loans. However, you can make a transfer of benefits to her if you meet the three service requirements:

  • Have served for at least six years of which three must be after September 10, 2001.
  • Are currently serving at the time of the transfer request.
  • Have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time you make a transfer request.

Once you have met these three requirements, then go to the milConnect website and follow the directions listed under the Transfer of Benefits section. Keep checking back at that website and look for an approval of your request.

Once approved, then your wife has to fill out VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website. In return, she would get her Certificate of Eligibility that she would need when enrolling in school.

One thing to note is if she uses her transferred benefits while you are still serving, then she would not get the housing allowance, but her tuition would be paid up to the resident undergraduate rate and she would get the book stipend. If she waits to go to school after you are out, then she would also get the monthly housing allowance.

As far as what she can use them for, she can attend any public or private VA-approved school and take either non-degree or degree producing courses.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I was discharged in 2005 and have currently been using the GI Bill, am I eligible for this new benefit?

A: When referring to the GI Bill and new benefits, I’m assuming you are referencing the Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill respectively, right? If so, then the answer is yes.

Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility goes back to September 10, 2001. And because you got out in 2005, you had served for at least three years after the September date, which put you at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier of benefits.

However, when you said “… eligible for this new benefit”, eligibility can have multiple meanings. For example, if you still have eligibility left under your MGIB and you switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the only eligibility you get under the New GI Bill is the same number of months of eligibility as you had under your old GI Bill. But if you first exhaust your 36 months of eligibility and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you get an additional 12 months of eligibility for a total of 48 months. So in the end, the amount of eligibility your get is directly related to the method in how you use your multiple GI Bills.