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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am in the U.S. Army Reserve. I have the Student Loan Repayment Program in my contract, although I don’t have any tuition debt. Am I still able to do anything else with the SLRP in my contract? My preference would be to transfer it to my wife, who does have tuition debt. Is this possible? If not, are there any other options with the SLRP? Thanks!

A: Actually, I’m not sure how you even got the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) if you did not have any student loans at the time you enlisted – that is one of the requirements to get the program. However if you do have the program and to answer your question, no you can’t use it to pay off your wife’s student loans.

In the SLRP requirements, it specifically states “Only loans incurred for the soldier’s education will be paid”, so that excludes using the program to pay off any student loan that was not used to directly fund your education.

And having SLRP also delays you being able to use your Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve. Also under the rules, it says that you can’t use the SLRP program and acquire GI Bill eligibility at the same time, so you are delaying being able to use your GI Bill by three years, the obligation period of the SLRP.

It is too bad that you didn’t know about these restrictions when you signed up as in reality, this benefit will not benefit you at all; in fact, it might not even be valid being you did not have any student loans when you came in.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I receive monetary funds while I am unemployed and plan to attend school for training? If so, who do I contact to apply for these benefits? How do I find how much I qualify to receive? Please respond.

A: If you are between the ages of 35 and 60, and meet these other requirements, you may qualify for the newest GI Bill – VRAP:

  • Are unemployed on the date of application.
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge.
  • Are not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance).
  • Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability.
  • Are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program.

The program opened up in last July and they can enroll up to 99,000 students. So far as of this writing, 86,540 applications out of 103,689 submitted have been approved.

If you want to apply, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. Note on the form you are applying for VRAP. The program ends on March 31 next year, so don’t delay if you qualify.

If approved, you can get paid $1,564 per month, for up to 12 months, to go to school. Your training program has to be one listed on the Department of Labor’s High Demand list and can’t be taught at a school also offering four-year degree programs. Once finished with the program, the DOL would assist you with finding employment.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, This fall I want to take 2 bi-semester classes at my school, one in the first half and one in the second half. Each class is worth 5 credits, and I’ll be taking another 7 credits that are the full semester, on top of these classes. So throughout the whole semester I will be full time. My question is will I receive full bah payments for the semester since I meet all of the requirements?

A: You should, but it really depends on the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. If 12 is their “magic number”, then you would meet the requirement as you would be taking 12 credits during each half of the semester – 5 from each bi-semester class and 7 from the full semester class.

Just make sure that you don’t have a break between when one 5-credit class ends and another one begins. If you do, then for that number of days you would not meet the requirements to be eligible for the full Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance (MHA). You would only qualify for 7/12ths of the full amount (assuming 12 credits is considered full-time at your school.)

One thing worth noting is if you plan on taking all your credits online, then the most MHA you would get is $684 per month. However, if you take a mix of online and on campus, then you would qualify for the full MHA amount.

Either way you would still get the book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit (up to $1,000 per year) and your tuition paid directly to your school (up to the resident undergraduate rate if you attend a public school). If you attend a private school, then the VA would pay up to $18,077.50 per year in tuition.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a niece that’s an ROTC graduate at Tuskegee. She will be commissioned next month and she wants to know what she has to do qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill? Her plans are to be a reserve officer and continue her education.

A: The first thing she has to do to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill is go on active duty to pay back her service obligation of four years, if she was on a four-year ROTC scholarship program. If she was not on a ROTC scholarship, then she only has to serve three years.

During that obligation time, she would not be acquiring Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. That wouldn’t start until the beginning of either her fourth or fifth year. Then it takes an additional three years to get to the 100% eligibility tier. So she is looking at either seven or eight years to get to the top of the Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility scale, but her total commitment is for eight years anyway when she enlists. However, if she is going right into the Reserves, she would not be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill regardless, unless she deploys on a Title 10 order for at least 90-days in support of a contingency operation after her ROTC obligation is satisfied.

But if she deploys before serving out her obligation, then that time would not count either as Post 9/11 GI Bill time. If having the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that important to her, then the best thing she can do at this time is to go on active duty. Otherwise being in the Reserves, the best she will get is the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve which pays a paltry $356 per month to go to school on top of her monthly drill pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was active duty enlisted from 1990 to 1998. I had the Montgomery GI Bill and used some of my benefits during my 5 year break in service. I came back on active duty as a Warrant Officer in 2008 and am interested in transferring my education benefits to my spouse. We are scheduled to PCS back to the states in a couple of months and I will deploy a couple months after that. My wife is considering moving to a different location than my next duty station so that she can work on her Master’s Degree. My question is whether or not she can use my remaining benefits (if she is attending an accredited school) and whether or not she is eligible for the BAH stipend for her physical location due to the fact that she will not be living with me.

A: Just so we are clear, you can’t transfer your remaining Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits to your wife because that particular GI Bill did not have a transfer of benefits option. However, you most likely qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill being you have at least six years of service (of which at least three years has to be after September 10, 2001), are currently serving, and have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request.

If you meet the three above requirements, you can initiate a transfer request by going to the milConnect website and following the instructions in the Transfer of Benefits section. Once approved, your wife has to go to the eBenefits website and request her Certificate of Eligibility by submitting VA Form 22-1990e. She would need that certificate when she enrolls in school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

As far as the Monthly Housing Allowance, no she would not get that as you are drawing BAH for her and she can’t get both. So if she uses her benefits while you are still serving, her tuition would be paid and she would get the book stipend once per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I have been on active duty since July 2009 and will be until January 2014. With under 6 years of active service, (to not include the 4 year “selected reserve period”) I was curious if I could transfer my wife my GI Bill now so she can use the benefits when I’m done with my active time and if she will receive the full BAH as I would. Also I can’t find a straight forward answer as far as if this selected reserve time is actually doing drill or just a call-back period. Thank you for any and all assistance.

A: I’m not sure what a “call-back period” is but if you are referring to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) then no, that time does not count as selected reserve time – only the time you were part of a unit in a drilling status.

So if you weren’t in a drilling unit, then you would only have four years of service in July. If you were in a drilling unit, then you would have eight years of service all toll and you would meet the six-years-of-Armed-Forces-service-after-September-10-2001 requirement.

If your Reserve time counts, then  you meet two of the three service requirements mandatory to get a transfer of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits approved – past service time, and currently serving. You still have to meet the future service requirement of having at least four years left on your enlistment at the time of your transfer request, which at this time you don’t have.

Assuming you would get a transfer request approved, your wife would get the Monthly Housing Allowance (not BAH – that is something entirely different) based on the zip code of her school and the number of credits she would be taking once you were out of the military. If she goes to school while you are still in the service, then she would not get the MHA.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Army in 1981-1984 and from 1984-1990, I was in the Army Reserve then re-enlisted into the Army Reserve in 2008 to present. I know my prior GI Bill benefits have been exhausted due too much time has lapsed. What criteria do I need to reinstate them? If they can be reinstated can I transfer them to my daughter?

A: There is only one possible way that you might be able to transfer GI Bill benefits to your daughter – if you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You are eligible for it if you have deployed after September 10, 2001 on a Title 10 Order in support of a contingency operation for at least 90 days or more. Two such operations were Iraq and presently Afghanistan.

As far as reinstating your GI Bill benefits, unless you fall into one of these three categories (and you may on the last one), you have little to no chance of getting your Montgomery GI Bill benefits reinstated:

  • Detained by a foreign power or government after your release from active duty.
  • Prevented from going to school by illness or temporary disability.
  • Served a later period of active duty of 90 consecutive days or more.

However, reinstating your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits that you may have had from your active duty service in the Army from 1981 through 1984 won’t do you any good as far as transferring benefits to your daughter because the MGIB didn’t have a transfer of benefits option. Besides with that GI Bill starting in 1984, I doubt that you had it.

You most likely have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) from your Army Reserve service but that doesn’t have a benefits option transfer either.

So the only possible option would be if you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill. A one-year tour would put you at the 60% tier level; your daughter would inherit this same level.

If you are eligible for the New GI Bill, go to the milConnect website and follow the instructions to submit a transfer request. Once approved, your daughter will have to submit VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website to get her Certificate of Eligibility, something she needs when registering for school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an AF Military Spouse looking to get my Master’s Degree. My husband has applied to Transfer the Educational Benefits of Post 9/11 GI Bill and they are taking longer than expected. I’m extremely eager to start school, is it possible I can apply, begin my studies, and they’ll retroactively pay if it’s approved within the next 60 days?

A: Yes it can take awhile for the VA to approve a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits request; it can take 8 to 10 weeks before you would see an approval. He needs to keep going back to the TEB website where he made his transfer request and look for a status change from “Transfer Pending” to “Transfer Approved”.

Once that happens, you need to submit VA Form 22-1990e to get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) that you will need when registering as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Personally I would refrain from starting school until I have my COE in hand and here is why. What you would be essentially doing is spending benefits that you may not yet have at the time. Until they are approved and you have a COE in hand, you really don’t have them, so you would be “spending money you don’t yet have.”

While the VA does pay benefits up to one -year back, you first have to have had the benefits during the period you are claiming. In your case, you may or may not depending when the VA approves your husband’s request.

Otherwise you are risking the VA disapproving your claim for reimbursement and you would be stuck paying the bill out of pocket. If you are O.K. with that, then go for it, but if it were me, I’d wait until I had my COE.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m headed to college after retiring in 06, I know I more than likely qualify under Voc Rehab, Post 9/11, and MGIB. I opted for MGIB when I did my online application, I’m worried that I haven’t any proof that I paid the 600 plus up; I know it was reflected on an LES at some time in my career but I don’t have it now. Do I need to worry, find someone at DFAS to show an LES that will prove it or is there a system that’ll do it and I’m just worrying over nothing?

A: No you have a right to be concerned. There isn’t a “system” that would tell the VA that you are eligible for the Buy-Up program. If you remembered, by you paying up to $600, you were able to get up to $5,400 in additional money that would be paid to you once you started using your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).

One place you might go to get a copy of your Buy-Up documentation is at the Veterans Service Records website. Another way is to send an SF180 to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132- 5100 with your Buy-Up documentation request.

You might have made the correct decision about choosing the MGIB so that you could use your Buy-Up Program. If you would have chosen the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would not have been able to use the Buy-Up, however, in some cases, it still could be advantageous to go with the Post 9/11 GI Bill even without the Buy-Up money. You would have to work the numbers both ways to see which one would benefit you the most.

Under the MGIB and Buy-Up, you would get about $1,714 combined and you would have to pay all your own education expenses. Under the New GI Bill, your tuition would be paid for directly to your school and you would get a monthly housing allowance that averages $1,300.

If you go to school in the Midwest, it might be a little less; go to school on either the East or West coasts and it is double the average amount. Plus at least for a couple semesters per academic year, you would also get the book stipend which figures out at $41.67 per credit. For a full-time student taking 12 credits, that is $500 per semester.

My point is don’t count out the Post 9/11 GI Bill (even if you would lose your Buy-Up money) until you have done your homework to see which GI Bill would be the better choice for you.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a question – I was discharged with a General discharge. What are the conditions which would make me eligible for G.I. Bill benefits? Like I know hardship is one, but what were all the others? I am just curious I need more info on who exactly is eligible.

A: You are confusing apples with oranges. Let me explain. There is a difference between being eligible for GI Bill benefits and being able to use GI Bill benefits.

For example, you may still have the eligibility for benefits if you were if you were separated early for one of the following reasons:

Convenience of the Government

You must have 30 months of continuous active duty if your obligation was 3 or more years.

You must have 20 months of continuous active duty if your obligation was less than 3 years.

Service-connected disability.


A medical condition that you had before service.

A physical or mental condition that interfered with performance of duty and didn’t result from misconduct on your part.


A certain reductions in force.

However, with anything but a fully Honorable discharge you would not be able to use your benefits – you still have them, you just can’t use them.

If you were able to get your discharge upgraded to Honorable, you would then be able to use the benefits that were waiting for you (provided they hadn’t expired yet.)