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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is it possible to have two Post 9-11 GI Bills? And use them back to back?

A: Yes it is possible to have two GI Bills, but not both of them Post 9/11 GI Bills. Heck it is possible to have three! If when you first enlisted, signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill and paid your $1,200 contribution fee, you secured your Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty (MGIB-AD) when you completed your first term of service honorably. If that term of service was after September 10, 2001, you also were eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you would have gotten out of the active military after serving your term of service and then enlisted for six years into the National Guard or the Reserves of one of the service branches, you would have also received the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). Note that you can only use this GI Bill as long as you remain a member of the Selected Reserve. Once you are out, your MGIB-SR benefits expire (as they also do if you stay in the Selected Reserve in excess of ten years.

However, if you have two or more GI Bills, the maximum number of combined months of entitlement that you can have is capped at 48 months by the VA’s Rule of 48.

But to get that 48 months you have to use your GI Bills intelligently. With most GI Bills individually, you get 36 months of eligibility. So if you have both the MGIB-AD and Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can use up your MGIB-AD benefits first, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional 12 months of benefits.

However, if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB-AD or MGIB-SR entitlement left, then all you get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that same number of months and not the additional 12 months.

So to answer your question, yes you can use them back to back, but to get your full 48 months, you must exhaust one before using the other.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I reenlisted on my 3-year mark in Iraq.  I continued my service and got discharged after 6 years with an OTH.  The local VA says that if I can prove my first enlistment was honorable, it will change things with my benefits and all that.  Is that true?  How can I prove such a thing?  In another post, someone posted “The first enlistment, however, was over 36 months and qualifies as a period of honorable service for both GI Bills, Chapter 30 and 33″ on June 29th 2010.  Is that statement true?

A: To answer your first question, yes, that is true. If you can prove your first enlistment ended honorably (with your dates of service after September 10, 2001) you are eligible to use at least the Post 9/11 GI Bill even if you did not sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) when you first enlisted.

So how do you prove your first-term honorable service? When you reenlisted, you should have received an Honorable Discharge Certificate – DD Form 256. That certificate alone is evidence enough that you served honorably. However, many servicemembers don’t know the value of this controlled document and don’t keep it in a safe place. Another source of proof is a copy of your  DD4 Reenlistment Contract. That document lists your previous periods of service also.

The method used to send copies of either or both proofs of honorable service to the VA is via a Notice of Disagreement letter. There isn’t a prescribed format – just title it as such and in the body of the letter, explain what you are disagreeing with, why and that you have attached supporting documentation. Attach copies of your proof and send it in or work through your local VA Rep or school VA Certifying Official.

The answer to your second question as far as if the post you read about having two GI Bills is true or not … is maybe. If you selected the Student Loan Repayment Program when you first enlisted, then you would not be eligible either GI Bill during your first three-year enlistment.

Why? Because you can’t acquire GI Bill eligibility and have the SLRP during the same period of service. Nor would you have both GI Bills if you declined the MGIB, but you would have the Post 9/11 GI Bill as it is free to you just for your service.

However, if you signed up for the MGIB and made your $1,200 contribution, you would have both GI Bills. Just know that you can only use one at a time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My step-son is attending school and using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Once he has completed his first semester and what we are wondering is will there be a break in his housing allowance between when this semester ends and the next one begins. He won’t be in school for a full month and the Summer Semester doesn’t start until later in June? Will there be a long waiting period for the first check after the new semester starts like there was at the beginning of this semester, or will the checks continue on a monthly basis? Also, what will happen over the summer? I know he will not get his housing allowance if he isn’t in school, so we are wondering the same thing, will there be a long delay after the Summer session starts?

A: Before the 2011 GI Bill 2.0 update, students did get break or interval pay, however under that update, it was negotiated away in exchange for some other benefits. And it makes sense – why would the VA pay students while they were not in school? However, on the flip side, having break pay did add some stability to a student’s cash flow where as now, they don’t have that constant income coming in.

As you noted, at the beginning of a semester, there is a significant delay before the student sees his/her first Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance (MHA) and book stipend payment. But then for the rest of the months in that semester, the pay usually comes around the same time each month. However, the process starts all over again with the start of each new semester.

But with the implementation of the VA’s Long Term Solution software with its 80-plus business rules, the VA says the first month wait time has been reduced down to about 24 days with successive months down to 6 days. That is down significantly from the 8 to 10 weeks previous new semester wait time.

One question I get asked about summer sessions is that usually a lower number of credits are still considered full-time. Many wonder if they will still get the full-time MHA rate and the answer is yes. Most schools reduce the credit load per summer session, but still are authorized to report it as full-time to the VA. For example, each summer session might be 6 credits long, but there are two sessions per summer semester, so in the end, the rate of pursuit is the same as any other semester.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently on active duty with 18 years of service. I have two children who will not be ready for college for a few more years, but I am currently looking into information on the GI Bill for them. I have been told by other service members to go ahead and sign up in case something happens to me. So I am writing to see if I indeed should sign up now, and if so what forms or where do I start. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Doug

A: Doug, I would also encourage you to sign up now, but not for the same reason. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill you have to meet three service requirements:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future

Because you have already served 18 years and you are currently serving, you have met the first two requirements. Once you are out, you can no longer make a transfer request (although you can still move around entitlement that was previously transferred to your spouse or dependents while you were still serving.)

To meet the last one, you have to have four years remaining on your enlistment at the time you make your transfer request. So once you have extended to have at least four years left on your enlistment, go to the milConnect website and in particular to the Transfer of Benefits Section.

Once your request is approved, and your kids are about ready to start college, each of them would have to get their Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by going to the eBenefits website and submitting VA Form 22-1990e (or at least that is the procedure right now. By the time they are high school seniors and getting ready to start school, the process may be different, but there will still be a process to get their COEs.).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Army Reserves on November 11th 2009 and got sent to Afghanistan shortly after finishing my training, I am planning on taking online courses for a master’s degree in criminal justice. I live in Iowa zip code 50058, how much could I expect to get for assistance under the original GI Bill compared to the Post 9/11 GI bill?

A: This is a great question! Being you are in the Reserves, you have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve. That particular GI Bill doesn’t pay much – $356 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books and any other education-related expenses.

By comparison, with a one-year Title 10 tour in support of a contingency operation, such as Afghanistan, you would be at the 60% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier, meaning the VA would pay 60% of your tuition and eligible fees at the resident undergraduate rate, and you would get 60% of the online monthly housing allowance (MHA) ($404.40 if you attend full-time) and book stipend ($25.02 per credit).

However, if you would take one class that applies to your degree plan per semester, you could get up to $554.40 per month in MHA as a full-time student.

Another option you would have once you get back is REAP. Under that program and as long as you stay in the Reserves and finish out your enlistment, you could get up to $938.40 per month and you have to pay all your own education-related expenses.

So by comparison, a typical four-month semester would look like this:

  • MGIB-SR – $1,424 (You have to pay tuition, fees and books.)
  • REAP – $3,753.60 (You have to pay tuition, fees and books.)
  • Post 9/11 GI Bill – online classes -$1,617.60 MHA + $300.24 (12 credit Book Stipend) = $1,917.84 (You have to pay for books and 40% of your tuition/fees, but 60% of it is already paid by the VA.)
  • Post 9/11 GI Bill – with one on campus class per semester – $2,217.60 MHA + $300.24 (12 credit Book Stipend) = $2,517.84 (You have to pay for books and 40% of your tuition/fees, but 60% of it is already paid by the VA.)

So once you have your cost for tuition and fees, you can better determine which GI Bill would be better for you to use.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently looking into a program at Career Training Solutions in VA. I need to take 5 classes this summer. The summer classes offered at VA Western CC conflict with each other. So I would like to take a couple online classes from Mount Olive CC, I have previously attended there. Would this be possible as far as payment goes?

A: It should be. How this works with taking classes at two schools is Career Training Solutions (CTS) (the one issuing your degree) is called the parent school. Mount Olive is called your secondary school. You have to coordinate which classes you want to take at Mount Olive with CTS. CTS then sends a letter to Mount Olive informing them of the classes you would take from them. Once you are finished with the Mount Olive classes, they send over a transcript of your credits to CTS and they post the credits to your degree plan.

Note the classes you take at Mount Olive have to apply and get credited to your CTS degree plan before the VA would pay for them.

Also, if you only take online classes, and no on campus classroom classes, then your Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance would max out at $674 per month if you are attending full-time. If you are part-time, then your MHA would be pro-rated accordingly to the number of credits you take.

If you take at least one class per semester on campus (that applies to your degree plan), then your MHA could be significantly higher.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I used the Student Loan Repayment option when I enlisted in 2009. I signed a DD2366 stating I was declining the GI Bill. I have read on here that after the first 3 years I will be entitled to start earning GI Bill benefits, so after 6 years of active duty I will have 100% GI Bill benefits? I feel like the DD2366 will preclude me from the GI Bill. Can anyone shed some light on this for me? Thanks in advance – James

A: James, the GI Bill you declined was the Montgomery GI Bill. To get that GI Bill you had to sign up for it and pay the $1,200 “contribution” fee. However, in 2009, the Post 9/11 GI Bill came into being and that is free to you just for three years of service to your country, plus it doesn’t require any payment of any kind.

When you signed up for SLRP, you incurred a three-year obligation in which during that time you were not acquiring GI Bill eligibility. But since you have six years of service, you have paid back your SLRP obligation and now have 100% vestment in the New GI Bill.

So when you get ready to go to school, you have 36 months of benefits you can use. The VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school and you would get a monthly housing allowance and each semester a book stipend (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

If you attend a public school then your tuition is paid up to the resident undergraduate rate. Should you decide to attend a private school, the VA is limited to paying up to $18,077.50 per year in tuition and fees.

Your monthly housing allowance is calculated based on your school zip code and the number of credits you take. Just know that if you take all your classes online, your MHA maxes out at $674 per month.

You book stipend is calculated at $41.67 per credit if you are in a degree-producing program of $83 per month if in a non-degree course.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Why your link to TEB doesn’t work? It shows a HTTP 404 Error. Please address this for us looking to transfer benefits to our dependents. And for those that don’t know, what is TEB?

A: Your question here was based off of a comment you made to my blog post dated June 2011. Things change rapidly on the Internet, so what was a valid link back when I posted it, is no longer a valid link now; that is why you got a 404 error. We do not go back and update links as changes occur.

To make a transfer request now, go to the milConnect website and click on Transfer of Education Benefits (which by the way if what TEB stands for – Transfer of Education Benefits) and follow the instructions.

Also, the transfer process will only work if you are still serving and are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you are no longer serving, then you are not eligible to make a transfer of benefits request.

The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, a servicemember had to be serving “on or after August 1, 2009” and be currently serving at the time of the request. That is in addition to the other two service requirements of (1) already having served for at least 6 years and (2) having at least 4 years left on your enlistment at the time of the transfer request.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was wondering I’m on active duty and would like to switch from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. How do I go about completing this?

A: Switching from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 is easy; the hard part is determining if switching is in your best interest or not. It is important to figure this out before switching, because once you switch, you can’t go back.

To switch, just go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In Part II, put a check beside Block 9A, mark Block 9F, enter an effective date when you would like your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to start, and check the Chapter 30 block.

After the GI Bill 2.0 update in 2011, both GI Bills almost cover the exact same training, so most likely that is not a factor. What can be a factor is the zip code of your school as that drives the Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance (MHA), along with the number of credits you take. If you happen to be in a low cost-of-living area, that can restrict your MHA.

The other factor which can impact which Bill you use is if you plan on taking all online courses or not. If so, then the most MHA you can get is $684 per month. If you can swing it, take one class per semester on campus as it can double your MHA. But, the VA would still pay your tuition directly to your school and you would still get up to $41.67 per credit per semester in book stipend money (up to the $1,000 per year cap)

For those same classes (online or on campus) under the MGIB, you would get $1,564 per month, but you would have to pay your own tuition, books, etc.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been out of the service for 5.5 years and have not used any of my benefits. I would prefer to do online classes due to child care needs, but I could manage care for maybe 1 class a week if needed. So I am not sure if it would benefit me more to use the MGIB or switch to the Post 9/11. Also when I enlisted I received if I remember correctly 10k for Navy College Fund, how do I use that? How does that affect either fund I choose? I’m very confused on what and where to go. I went to Navy college campus on base a while back (I am civil service now) and they knew nothing about the NCF. I appreciate if anyone could shed some light on this. Thank you. – Christina

A: Yes, Christina, I can shed some light on your questions. First on the “which GI Bill do I use?” issue. Which GI Bill would be more beneficial to you depends on if you plan to take all your classes online or not. If you can take at least one class on campus per semester that can be applied to your degree plan, you can get up to twice as much Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance than if you take all your classes online.

So using this GI Bill and taking all online classes, you would get up to $684 per month in monthly housing allowance (MHA), $41.67 per credit per semester in book stipend money (up to the $1,000 per year limit) and the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school.

If you take a class on campus as explained above, then your MHA is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take, which can amount to twice your online-only rate. In comparison, twelve online-only credits per semester would net you about $3,200 per semester and your tuition would be paid.

Under those same conditions, but using the Montgomery GI Bill, you would net $6,256 per semester, but you have to pay your own tuition, books and other education-related expenses out of that amount.

As far as your NCF, it is a non-issue when comparing GI Bills as you would get the same amount regardless of which GI Bill you would use. Your NCF amount is listed as $10,000, so divide that amount by 36 and you come up with an additional $278 per month that would get on top of your GI Bill benefit.