This website is not affiliated with the U.S. government or military.
Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My son will be a freshman at CU Boulder in the fall. My husband is on active duty and we are currently stationed in FL, while retaining NY as our state of residence. With the recent changes signed into law in CO, will we be eligible for in-state tuition if my son is using the GI Bill to pay for his education.

A: No you would not and here is why. Under the Colorado tuition residency changes, military dependents can maintain residency for tuition purposes if they meet this requirement: ”Military dependents continuously enrolled in a Colorado college continue to qualify for resident tuition if the military member is transferred outside of Colorado and while the military member continues active military service.” In your son’s case, he had not yet stated school when your husband was stationed in CO.

Your son may have been able to claim Colorado residency if you would have claimed and maintained legal residency in CO, but since you are retaining your residency in NY, this clause does not apply to him – “To retain domicile during an absence from Colorado due to military orders, military personnel must maintain Colorado as their state of legal residence for tax purposes and Colorado voter registration.”

However just because he would not qualify for instate tuition, all may not be lost as the University of Colorado at Boulder is a Yellow Ribbon school, meaning the school and the VA would pay in part, if not in whole, the difference between resident and non-resident tuition.

According to the U of C website for the 2012/2013 academic year, they will take up to 20 students in their Yellow Ribbon Program and pay up to $2,500 per student (meaning the VA would pay up to another $2,500 for a total of $5,000). It is something to look into as far as if they have any slots left.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served in Afghanistan in 2003 for 8 months. From Jan 2006 to Sept 2009 I served in the National Guard as an AGR (Active Guard Reserve) soldier. Under the new 9/11 GI Bill 2.0, I believe they will only retroact my AGR time back to Sept 10, 2011. If this is correct, I only qualify for the 8 months of benefits under the 9/11 2.0 Bill. Is this correct?

A: No it is not quite correct. Under GI Bill 2.0 if you were in the AGR program after August 1, 2009, your AGR service time can go back as far as September 10, 2001. However, because you were an AGR soldier after the August 1st date, your time back to January 2006 should count, but so does your 8 months of deployed time in 2003. So with over three years of eligible time, you should be fully vested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill program.

So what does that mean? It means that if you enroll in a public school undergraduate program in your home state, your tuition and eligible fees would be paid in full directly to your school by the VA. If you choose to go to a private school, then the VA would pay up to a maximum of $18,077.50 per year in tuition and fees.

Monthly, you would get a housing allowance that is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. That was another change under GI Bill 2.0. Before the change, you would have gotten the full housing allowance as long as you were taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time.

You would also get a book stipend at the beginning of each semester that runs about $500 per semester, however, there is a yearly $1,000 cap, so you would only get it for two semesters per academic year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello My husband wants to transfer his GI Bill benefit to me but after reading many websites I am confused and need your help. He has been in the Reserves for 8 years and is headed to Afghanistan in March. Am I eligible to accept this benefit before he goes? Are there certain restrictions or percentages that we would be limited to because of the transfer and since he is in the Reserves? Thank you.

A: If he has not deployed before, he would not qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, nor the transfer-of-benefits option yet. He does meet the past service requirement of having served for at least six years and he would have to be currently serving and have to have at least four years left on his enlistment at the time he makes his transfer request once he is back.

But for a Reservist or National Guardsman to qualify for the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit of 40%, s/he has to serve for a minimum of 90 days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Afghanistan. To get fully vested at 100% requires at least three years of Title 10 service.

A typical one-year tour would put him at the 60% tier, meaning the VA would pay 60% of his tuition and he would get 60% of both the housing allowance and book stipend. With him as your sponsor, you would also “inherit” the same percentage of benefits once a transfer request is approved.

Once he is back, he can go to the milConnect website and initiate a transfer request. Once approved, then you will have to request your Certificate of Eligibility by going to the eBenefits website and submitting VA Form 22-1990e. You would need the certificate when enrolling in school as a student using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: At what point may I transfer my G.I. Bill to my dependents ..I.E. either my spouse or children & if I choose my children can I split it up equally between my 3 children?

A: First, so that we are clear, you can only transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits – not the Montgomery GI Bill. According to the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, you have to meet three service requirements before you can transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your spouse and/or dependents – past, current and future. Let me explain.

To satisfy the past service requirement, you have to have served for at least six years in the Armed Services of the United States. That service can be active duty, Reserves, National Guard or a mix of any three.

If you are on active duty, then you must be fully eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which means at least three of your six years has to be after September 10, 2001 (which in most cases it would be). If your service was in the Reserves or National Guard, then you must have served for at least 90 days out of that six years on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. The main difference is with Selected Reserve service, you don’t have to be 100% qualified to transfer benefits where you do with active duty service.

To meet the current requirement, you have to still be serving in some capacity in the Armed Services of the United States at the time you make a transfer-of-benefits request, meaning if you are already discharged, you cannot transfer benefits.

Lastly, to meet the future service requirement, you have to have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time you make a transfer request, unless you are within four years of being “retirement eligible” meaning you are within four years of having served for 20 years. If your current enlistment does not take you out to 20 years or more, then you may have to sign up for the number of years that would take you out to 20 years of service.

So once you meet the three service requirements, then you can go to the milConnect website and make your transfer request. You have up to 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that you can split up however you want. You can split up your benefits between just your three children or your spouse and any number of your children. Just keep your total request to 36 months or less.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I plan to attend a working professional MBA program. Total cost is $21,000 and is twelve courses over 20 months. I will still be on active duty for the first twelve months of this program. What is the best approach to Tuition Assistance/GI Bill payments that will cover this cost, without using too many total months of GI Benefits (in case I want to pursue a doctorate or law degree in the future.). In other words, how to I keep from using more months of GI Bill benefits to cover tuition than absolutely necessary.

A: Under the Rule of 48, you can get 48 months of benefits using both your Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9/11 GI Bill. That would give you 5.33 years of education. However, by using Tuition Assistance (TA) and Tuition Top-Up programs, you could extend that out to more time.

In my opinion, the best way for you to go would be to use TA and Top-Up for the twelve months of your MBA program while you are on active duty. TA can pay up to $250 per credit hour (and up to the $4,500 annual limit). Whatever costs exceed $250 per credit and $4,500 annually is passed on to the VA by your service branch. The VA converts that dollar amount to months and days of benefits and deducts that amount from your MGIB Bill benefits. Most likely your MBA tuition would exceed the $250 limit, so some costs would be passed to the VA, but because the TA is paying the bulk of the bill, it would not cost you much in benefits for the first 12 months.

Then once you are out, continue using your MGIB benefits until they are gone. At that point, send in a new VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website and switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional year of benefits.

I do want to caution you that you must have exhausted your MGIB bill benefits before switching. If not, then all you will get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months and days of benefits you had left under the MGIB. So while you can end up with 48 months of benefits, you have to use them in the way I described. If not, you would end up with a combined total of just 36 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I am still in the military, do I have access to the Montgomery GI Bill right now?

A: It depends whether or not you paid into the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Do you remember signing a MGIB declination? Did you have $100 per month for the first 12 months taken out of your pay through payroll deduction?

If you did not sign a declination, made your $1,200 contribution, and have served for at least enough time to be eligible for the MGIB, then you ”have access” to your MGIB.

But what exactly does “have access” mean? It can mean a couple of different things and each has a different effect on your GI Bill benefits use. First, you can outright use your MGIB months of benefits to go to school just as you would if you were no longer serving in the military, however, the amount you would get is limited to the cost of your tuition and eligible fees instead of the full $1,564 per month that you would get once out and going to school.

However a more efficient way you could use you MGIB benefits would be as part of the Tuition Top-Up program and in conjunction with Tuition Assistance (TA). Under TA, your service branch can pay up to $250 per credit hour towards your tuition (up to the annual $4,500 cap). Anything over the $250 or $4,500 mark is billed to the VA. They in turn, convert that monetary amount into months of benefits at the rate of $1,564 per month and deduct that amount of months and days from your remaining unused MGIB benefits.

So using TA and Top-Up are a great way to maximize your MGIB benefits as TA pays most of the bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I got honorably discharged while injured during training, but I also paid into the G.I. Bill. So can I still use those benefits? Or if not can they be refunded to me?

A: Whether you qualify for GI Bill benefits or not depends on how or why you were Honorably discharged. If the reason for your discharge was coded as service-connected, and you had spent at least 30 days on active duty, then you should qualify for the full 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 100% level. However, under the Montgomery GI Bill, you would most likely only get one month of benefits for each month served.

However, if your injury was not classified as service connected or you were on duty for less than 30 days, you would most likely not qualify for either GI Bill. One other option you might possibly have for a non-service-connected discharge would be if you served for at least 90 days on active duty. Then you would qualify for the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit 36 months of education benefits at the 40% level.

When you talk about “…can they be refunded to me?”, it sounds like you paid into the Montgomery GI Bill – $100 per month for each month you were in (up to the first 12 months). Just so you know, whatever you paid in is gone – you won’t get that money back.

However with that said, if you were in for at least a full year, paid your $1,200, and are fully eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can get your $1,200 contribution back if you transfer from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and use up your 36 months of GI Bill benefits. Your contribution would come as part of your last housing allowance.

I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, but without more information, such as how long you were in and whether or not your discharge was service-connected, I can’t refine my answers to be more succinct.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am transferring my Post 9/11 benefits to my wife, who was planning to attend ITT Tech for nursing. I am being told that spouses are not eligible to attend technical schools or receive the stipends that my kids and I can receive….is this true and if not what is she allowed to do? I’ve received so much mis-information from our education center and I need a straight answer.

A: It is true that there are different rules for spouses than for dependent children when it comes to them using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. First, if you are still serving on active duty, your spouse will not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance. Why? Because you are already drawing BAH for her and you are not allowed to “double-dip” or get paid twice for the same thing. However, she would get her tuition and fees paid by the VA directly to her school and she would get the book stipend each semester (up to the $1,000 yearly cap). And she has up to 15 years to use her transferred benefits from the date of your discharge from active duty.

Keep in mind however, that if you are in the Reserves or National Guard now as a traditional member, or out of the military entirely, she would get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance just the same as you would if you were using your benefits.

However, when it comes to your dependents using their Post 9/11 GI Bill, the difference comes in on housing allowance and delimitation date. As odd as it may sound, your dependents can still live at home (and even not pay a dime in room or board) and still get the full housing allowance allowed based on the zip code of their school and the number of credits they are taking. And their delimitation date is their 26th birthday. Unused benefits at age 26 expire unless you revoke them first.

As far as what types of schools your spouse can attend, she can go to any VA-approved school in either a degree-producing or non-degree course. So yes she can go to a technical or vocational school, or college.

The sad part is how inept it sounds like your education department is when they should be the experts being they are the ones guiding you down the education road.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I received a letter stating I was approved, but when I showed it to the Florida State College Representative, he told me 3 days later that out-of-state students are not covered at all anymore. Is this also true with Yellow Ribbon Schools?

A: No it is not true with Yellow Ribbon Schools. What he told you does not make any sense at all whether your school is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program or not.

Your Certificate of Eligibility has nothing to do with you being a resident or out-of-state student. It only shows how many months of GI Bill eligibility you have, under which GI Bill and your delimiting date (the date when your education benefits expires). . . that’s it.

Because you are a non-resident student, and because Florida State University is a Yellow Ribbon school for the 2012/2013 academic year, the difference in tuition between what a resident student pays and what you pay is covered by the Yellow Ribbon Program. And the VA pays an equal amount.

For instance, if the remaining amount of tuition was $2,000 and Florida State had agreed to pay 35% in their Yellow Ribbon Agreement, then they would pay $700.00 and the VA would pay $700.00. The remaining $600 would be your responsibility. If their percentage was at 50%, you would have nothing left to pay.

I think either your school rep did not understand your question or you mis-understood his answer, because Florida State is a Yellow Ribbon School and you should be covered under their Yellow Ribbon Program.

The only way you would not is if they have a non-resident exclusion in their Yellow Ribbon Agreement. But I don’t think the VA would have approved their agreement if they had that exclusion in it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: The university my son attends offers the Yellow Ribbon Program. Is he eligible for this program under Chapter 35?

A: No he is not eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program and here is why. The program, while called a program, is really a feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, therefore he could only use the Yellow Ribbon Program if he were using the Post 9/11 GI Bill – which he is not.

The Yellow Ribbon program is advantageous for students who are:
• paying out-of-state tuition
• in graduate school or,
• attending private school.

If your son does not fall into any of these three situations, then the Yellow Ribbon Program would not do him any good anyway.

If he were in any of the situations, then under the Yellow Ribbon Program, his school could pay up to 50% of the difference between what his Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay and what his school charges. The VA would pay an equal amount.

But since he is under Chapter 35, all he would get is $987 per month for up to 44 months to go to school full-time and he has to pay all his education-related expenses.

So with that said, I suggest he applies for scholarships and grants as those don’t require repayment.

Also, he should look at any tuition assistance that may be available to him due to him being the son of a disabled veteran. Many of the States offer education financial assistance; he can contact his State Department of Veterans Affairs to see if they have any programs that he may be eligible for.