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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband enlisted in April 2009 and he chose the SLRP. He then re-enlisted in Nov 2010 for 4 more years. So April 2012 was his 3-year mark. At that point does he then start earning toward Post 9/11 GI Bill? Basically is he still eligible to use any or all 36 months of the 9/11 GI Bill? He plans on re- enlisting again when his window is open. Thanks!

A: He started acquiring Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility the day after his 3-year mark. On April (whatever date), 2015, he would be fully vested in that he would have 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that he could use at the 100% tier level.

Being fully vested at that time, he could also use the Yellow Ribbon Program feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill if he waits until he is out to go to school. This program is advantageous if he is a student who is:

  • attending a private school
  • going to graduate school
  • paying out-state tuition

Under the agreement, the school can pay up to half the difference between what they charge and what the GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount, so in theory, all the difference could be paid. However, in reality, the schools agreement might be for a lower percentage than 50%. In that case, he would have some tuition left to pay out of pocket.

Once he has six years of eligible Post 9/11 GI Bill, is still serving, and has at least four years left on his enlistment at the time, he could also make a transfer of benefits to you or any dependent children he might have. Once eligible, I suggest he gives all of you at least one month of benefits.

That way once he is out, he can revoke, assign and generally move benefits around as he wishes. However, if he never gave the person any benefits while serving, he can’t do so after getting out. It is just something to think about.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Ok I’m getting chaptered out under General discharge but it will change to Honorable after six months. Do I still get to keep my GI Bill?

A: There is that nasty untrue rumor popping up again about unfavorable discharges automatically getting upgraded to Honorable after six months. The truth of the matter is you just got screwed out of your GI Bill benefits and your unit didn’t have the guts to tell you, so they used the phony upgrade-in-six-months story.

Actually you never “lost” your GI Bill benefits – you just can’t use them as long as you have a discharge that is anything but fully Honorable.

The only possible chance of your current discharge getting upgraded to Honorable is if you have the supporting evidence and documentation that your current discharge is wrong and you want to pursue an upgrade.

If so, then fill out DD Form 293 and submit it to your military branch’s Discharge Review Board. Just know going in that there isn’t any guarantees and it can take up to a year to reach a decision, but if you can support an upgrade request, it is the only option you have. The Board goes into the proceedings assuming your discharge is correct; it is your job to convince them it isn’t.

You can either just let your DD 293 and supporting documentation do the work for you, or you can either represent yourself personally at the board or hire a lawyer to represent you. Regardless of the outcome, you have to pay for your lawyer yourself.

Only about 41% of the requests actually result in an upgrade to Honorable. Good Luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I’m Andrew. I did 3 years and 6 months on a 4-year contract. Some things happened and I’m getting a General discharge. What can I do?

A: Well Andrew, it is not so much of what you can do as what you would not be able to do and that is use your GI Bill benefits. In order to do so, you have to have a fully Honorable discharge.

So about the only option you have is to request a discharge upgrade to Honorable. It is not a complicated process, but it can be a long one – up to one year before you hear back with a decision and there isn’t a guarantee you will be successful at getting an upgrade; only about 41% get an upgrade.

To start the process, fill out and submit DD Form 293 to your military branch Discharge Review Board. They view every discharge as being correct, so it is your job to prove why yours is not correct and convince them to change it.

There are a couple of ways you can plead your case. One is to fill out the form and send it in allowing your documentation to stand on its own. The second way involves personal representation at the board along with your DD Form 293. Your personal representation can be either yourself or you can hire a civilian lawyer with discharge upgrade experience to represent you. If you go the lawyer route, you have to pay for his/her services even if you win.

While there are not guarantees you would get an upgrade, it is the only chance you have of ever being able to use your GI Bill benefits, so it is worth the time (and possibly the cost) to try.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My question is: I’m still on active duty, but I will ETS from the military in February 2014. I plan on attending school in August/September of 2014, however, I’m confused as to when to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Do I go and start a DD 22-1990 and apply for the benefits now to switch from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 or do I wait to do that until I ETS?

A: If you do not have plans on transferring any of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your spouse or dependent children, then it is immaterial when you make the GI Bill switch. However if transferring benefits is in your plans, then you have to do it while on active duty because after you are out, it is too late.

To transfer from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990 (not DD Form 22-1990 as you stated in your question). If you have MGIB entitlement left at the time you switch GI Bills, then the months of entitlement you would get under the New GI Bill is the same as what you had before you switched from the old GI Bill.

However, if you first exhaust all your MGIB entitlement and then switch, you would get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement bringing you up to a total of 48 months. So from that aspect it makes a difference when you switch and is in part dependent on your education goals. If you plan to get up to a 4-year degree and stop, then most likely you would be better to switch before you start school.

But if you plan to get a degree beyond your four-year one, then you might be better off waiting until you have used up all of your MGIB entitlement, so you can take advantage of the additional entitlement.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband has served 8 years in the Army and is still on active duty. He’s been able to go to school the last year and is now half way done with his Bachelor’s (using tuition assistance). I already have a bachelor’s degree and am thinking about going to law school in Texas (which would total out to $30,000 a year for three years). Our question is, my husband wants to transfer his GI Bill to me so that we don’t have to go into further debt for my law degree. He wants to reenlist for another three years (to qualify for the transfer) and keep using his tuition assistance for his BA. He does not plan on getting any further degrees.
Is this the right move? Will the transferred GI Bill pay for all of my law school expenses? If he doesn’t transfer it and doesn’t end up using it, what happens to the money?

A: To answer your last question first, the government keeps his $1,200 Montgomery GI Bill contribution. When he paid in his $100 per month for 12 months, it was for the privilege to get paid to go to school for up to 36 months during the 10-year period following his discharge from the service. If he does not use it within that time, the military has still upheld their end of the bargain and they keep the money. Remember, it was termed a “contribution” and contributions are rarely given back.

As far as if it is a good move for him to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill in order to have the option of transferring its entitlement for you to get your law degree? It is a great deal. I don’t know of a better way to pay for a good chunk of your Juris degree by him serving an additional four years of service. Being you said he would have to reenlist for three years, I’m assuming he has one year left on his current enlistment.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it would pay for your tuition up to the resident undergraduate degree rate. I would see if you can find a good school that includes their law program in their Yellow Ribbon Program. That way, your school would pay a percentage of the difference between what they charge and what the GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount, thus lowering the amount left for you to pay.

Just a warning that if he is also using the Tuition Top-Up Program along with Tuition Assistance, he may want to keep back the same number of months of eligibility that he may have already used, so he has that eligibility left to use to finish up his bachelor’s degree.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My Montgomery GI Bill expires this August (10-year limit) and I also have eligibility under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If I allow the Montgomery GI Bill to expire, how many months will I have under the Post 9/11 Bill? Will I lose all benefits if I do not ‘convert’ it now with Form 1922? I have 32 months remaining under the Montgomery GI Bill, and am not currently using it.

A: To answer your first question, you would get the same number of months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement as you had left under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) whether that GI Bill has expired or not, i.e. 32 months. The only way you could get the additional months is to first exhaust all 32 months of your MGIB and being you will hit your 10-year limit in 6 months, there is no way to expend all of your unused MGIB benefits before they expire.

Besides, in most cases, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a better deal for you anyway. First, it has a 15-year shelf-life instead of 10 years so you have the additional time to use your GI Bill.

Second, it pays better. Under the MGIB, you would get $1,564 per month as a full-time student and you would have to pay your own education expenses – tuition, fees, books, etc.

If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA pays your tuition directly to your school and you get both the monthly housing allowance and book stipend. The latter is paid once per semester at the rate of $41.67 per credit. Just know there is a $1,000 annual cap on the book stipend. The housing allowance is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take, but on average pays about $1,300 per month.

To convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990 (not Form 1922 as you stated in your question.)

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, my name is Benjamin. I was discharged in 2002 and am now attempting to apply for my GI Bill benefits. It’s been quite a while and I’m having trouble tracking down my kicker contract. I paid my $100/month for 12 months. I’m unfamiliar with all of the online human resources stuff that seems to be around now as I don’t think it was around when I got out. Any help would be appreciated, thank you for your time.

A: I’m afraid you are too late to use your Montgomery GI Bill benefits Benjamin as that GI Bill only has a 10-year shelf life and you are in your 11th year. But depending on when you got out in 2002, you may have some eligibility left under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as that is good for 15-years from your last date of discharge.

You would have had to serve for at least 90-days after September 10, 2001 to reach the minimum eligibility of 40%. If you meet that eligibility, then go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you would get your Certificate of Eligibility. You would need to turn in a copy of that certificate to your school when you register as a GI Bill student.

At the 40% eligibility, the VA would pay up to 40% of your tuition directly to your school. You would get 40% of the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) along with 40% of the book stipend.

The book stipend figures out to $16.67 per credit per semester. I can’t tell you exactly what you would get in MHA as that is dependent on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take per semester.
You could also get kicker pay on top of your Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you would need to send in a copy of your kicker contract with your VA Form 22-1990 as that is the only way the VA knows that you have a kicker and how much to pay you. It is worth a try to request a copy of your kicker contract via Veterans Service Records website.

While 40% is not a lot, it is better than nothing.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Please tell me how I can transfer my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my daughter.

A: The process of transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your daughter is easy provided you first meet the transfer-of-benefits requirements. Before you can get a transfer request approved, you must:
• Have served for at least six years; if in the Guard/Reserve, you must have at least one eligible period of service within your six years of service.
• Be currently serving at the time of your transfer request.
• Have at least four years left on your enlistment; if you are on active duty, you would fall under the new rule; you have at least four years or more left before reaching your Retention Control Point or High Year Tenure, because you would have to extend for four more years. If you have less than four years left until reaching either of these points, then most likely you would not be able to get a transfer request approved. So far, the SELRES is not falling under the Retention/High Year Tenure four-year rule.

If you meet these three service requirements, then go to the milConnect website and make a transfer request. Once in your daughter’s record, enter in the number of months of benefits you would like to transfer to her. Once finished and submitted, you will see a status of “Transfer Pending”. Keep checking back periodically and look for a status change to “Transfer Approved”.

Once approved, your daughter then has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get her Certificate of Eligibility. She will need that certificate when she enrolls in school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

If you are not still serving, then you would not be able to make a transfer request.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi. I just retired from the Air Force with over 22 years of service so I am fully eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. My question concerns tuition reimbursement. I would like to attend an accelerated nursing program. The school terms are very busy and one has a load of 25 credit hours. The other terms are 20 and 21 hours to complete the degree. I appears tuition at a state school for this program (in Colorado) will be just under $22K for three semesters (one year). Will the GI Bill cover this? Thanks!

A: It would cover your training, but not at an accelerated rate. In other words, you would get the same as anyone else full-time attending that same school. For state-supported schools, the VA would pay up to the resident undergraduate rate. So regardless of your tuition cost, the most they would pay is resident undergraduate.

However, one thing to check into is if your school has a Yellow Ribbon Program agreement with the VA. If so, ask if your nursing program is included in their agreement. If it is, then both your school and the VA could help pay the difference between what the VA pays and what your school charges for tuition.

How it works is the VA pays your school at the authorized rate. Your school then waivers or “forgives” up to 50% of the difference with the VA paying an equal amount. So in theory, the difference could result in $0.00 meaning you would not have any out-of-pocket expenses.

However, if your school has a lower percentage in their agreement, then you might have some left to pay. Anyway, it is worth asking.
If they are not a Yellow Ribbon school, then you would be responsible to pay the difference.

To actually get the true accelerated rate (where you are using entitlement based on the number of monthly payments packets the VA is paying out each month) you have to be using one of the following GI Bills:
• Chapter 30
• Chapter 1606 or
• Chapter 1607.

For example, if you were using Chapter 30, which is the Montgomery GI Bill, then you would use up a month of entitlement for each $1,564 paid out. So for your 12-month program that costs $22,000, you would use up 14 $1,564 packets resulting in 14 months of benefits used for your 12-month program. But because the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not use a fixed monthly rate system, there isn’t a way to accelerate entitlement use.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, my husband is separating from the Air Force next year and has been hearing all kinds of things about the G.I Bill. I’m hoping you can put a couple things to rest. First off, is there any truth that they are changing the BAH so that everyone gets a flat rate no matter where you’re going to school? And also if my husband is in the Guard while going to school full-time, does he get extra pay on top of his Guard wages? Thank you for any info you can give me.

A: My answers to your questions are no and yes…let me explain. First, no, there is not any truth that everyone will get the same Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance (not BAH – that is something entirely different). And the reason it would not work is because of the big difference in cost of living across the United States.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is calculated off of the BAH designated for each zip code in an area. That BAH rate is determined (and adjusted annually) based on local housing, rental insurance and utilities cost.

So while one student may be getting less than $1,000 per month if s/he is going to school in the Midwest, that same student would get over $2,400 per month to go to school in New York City. So if everyone got the same amount, one student would be advantaged (due to low cost-of-living) while the other student would be disadvantaged (due to high cost-of-living).

As far as your husband using his Post 9/11 GI Bill while in the Guard, he would get the same Post 9/11 GI Bill pay whether he is in the Guard/Reserve or not. It is not like active duty where you can’t get the housing allowance if you are still on active duty.