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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If you have both the MGI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, can you use both or only one? And which one is a better choice to use?

A: I’ll give you my standard answer of “It depends”, because it does. If you are eligible for both the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can use a combined maximum of 48 months of benefits. The trick comes in on HOW to use both GI Bills to get that maximum amount from both of them.

If you use up all of your MGIB benefits first and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. However, if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with unused MGIB benefits left, then all you would get is the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits as you had left under the MGIB and not the additional 12 months. So while you can use both GI Bills, it is the manner in which you use them that determines if you get your 48 months of benefits or not.

As far as which one is better to use? In most cases, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays more than the MGIB, but it really comes down to how many months you need to finish out your education goal. If your plan is to get a four-year degree, then you may want to switch now and get the higher pay of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

However, if your goal is to get an advanced degree, then you may want to finish out using your MGIB and then switch to get the additional time which should cover your first year of Grad school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How can we find out whether or not we qualify for both Ch. 30 and Post 9/11 GI Bill? I’ve used 18 months of Ch. 30 and have 18 months left. I plan on starting Grad school this spring and would like to know if its best to stick with the Ch.30 or switch to Post 9/11. How many months of benefits will I have total if I were to switch? Thank you.

A: To qualify for minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you have to have served for at least 90-days on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001. Three years after that same date gets you to 100%.

You initially received 36 months of benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If you first exhaust all of your MGIB benefits, you could get an additional 12 months of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill for a total of 48 months. Under the Rule of 48, that is the maximum number of months you can get if you have two or more GI Bills.

So to answer your question being you are considering going to Grad school and with 18 months of benefits remaining, I would think you would want as many months as possible to fully cover your Grad school program which is normally two years. With that said, I makes sense to me for you to use up your remaining 18 months of MGIB benefits, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional 12 months which should take you to the end of your Grad school.

However, if your Grad school is less than two years, as some are 20 months, then you may want to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, use up your remaining 18 months and pay your own tuition, fees and books for your last two months of school, if in fact you even have to. Normally, if you run out of benefits mid-semester, the VA will keep paying you until the end of the semester. Talk it over with your school’s VA Certifying Official to see exactly what your Post 9/11 GI Bill will cover as you approach using up your final months of benefits.

So to me, the deciding factor would be the length of your Grad school program.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently active duty Navy with two years left to serve. I currently have the Montgomery GI Bill that I paid $1,200 for. I am interested to moving to the Post 9/11 but first would like to know if I can use the Montgomery GI bill COMBINED with the TA top off and then after I exhausted that, move onto the Post 9/11 Bill. I know you can transfer after using the Montgomery Bill, but haven’t found any info on using that AND TA top off. I just wanted to make sure it wouldn’t exclude me from transferring to the Post 9/11. I am aware that I would not get my $1,200 dollars back. One last thing, how much money does it take to exhaust the Montgomery GI bill roughly? Thanks for any info.

A: I think what you mean is Tuition Top-Up. And the answer is yes – as a matter of fact, you have to use a GI Bill with Tuition Top-Up as that is where the funds for Top-Up come from.

How it works is the Navy would pay all of your tuition up front, however, the portion over what TA pays would be billed to the VA. The VA pays the Navy for that amount and then divides that amount by the current Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) monthly amount (which currently is $1,564). Then the VA would reduce your unused MGIB benefits by that number of $1,564 units – each unit would then equal one month of benefits.

With the MGIB, you initially get 36 months of benefits, so the amount of money that amounts to is 36 months times the monthly MGIB benefits which we noted earlier as $1,564. So right now the MGIB is worth $56,304.

If you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill in addition to the MGIB, you could get an additional 12 months of benefits once you exhaust your 36 months of MGIB. The trick to getting those additional months is to use up ALL of your MGIB first. If you transfer with any MGIB benefits left, all you will get is that same number of months of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not the additional months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Ron – I reach my 18th year of active service in August 2012. I plan to retire at 20 years of service in the summer of 2014. I would like to transfer some of my Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to my children. In doing so, will I be required to extend an additional 4 years from point I make the transfer election? Or, will I be able to make the transfer and still have the option to retire at 20 without any additional service obligation. Thanks for any additional insight.

A: To use the Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer-of-Benefits Option, you have to have served for at least six years (which you have), be currently serving at the time of your transfer request (which you are) and agree to serve for an additional four years, UNLESS you will reach “retirement eligible” status (20 years of service or more) under your current enlistment. So if you will hit your 20 years under your current contract, you should be able to make a transfer request and get it approved without having to extend.

However, if your current contract does not take you out to at least 20 years, then you would have to extend for enough time (probably two years) to get you to at least 20 years. Even if you would have to extend, it would still be worth it financially to be able to pass your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your children.

If you decide to make a transfer request, now would not be too early to start the process. Once your transfer is approved, then each child has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get their Certificates of Eligibility which each will need when enrolling in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, A few years ago I switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill when it became available. At the time, I was unemployed and attending school full time. I was then offered a position with a company and could not pass it up…but my work schedule does not allow me to attend school at campus. I am very close to finishing college and would love to take online classes, but was told the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not support that. I was also told I could not switch back to the old GI Bill that does. Is there anything I can do to get a chance to use my remaining benefits?

A: Whoever told you the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not pay for online courses did not know what they were talking about. When the New GI Bill was first implemented in 2009, it would not pay a housing allowance to those who attended online-only classes, but it would still pay the tuition and the book stipend.

Then last year when the GI Bill 2.0 legislation was implemented, it started to pay up to about half of what students who attended classes on campus received. Under the latest update on October 1st, full-time online-only students get $684 per month in housing allowance money.

You would also receive up to $41.67 per credit each semester in book stipend money (up to the $1,000 per year annual limit), which is enough for about two 12-credit semesters per academic year.

If you end up attending only part-time, then you would get an adjusted amount based on your rate of pursuit. To get the housing allowance, just be sure you are taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. At 50% or less, you would not get the housing allowance.

What you were told about not being able to switch back to the old Montgomery GI Bill after switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is true. That is one-way street and after you switch, there is no turning back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am currently still serving as Active Duty in the United States Army. I am currently on a tour of duty in Afghanistan and I’ve been looking into how best to use my G.I. Bill. I’m not quite sure which version I have, but I enlisted in 2008. I am married with one child and one on the way. I am interested in obtaining a degree or certification as a Performance Automotive Technician. At first, my choice was attending UTI in Orlando, FL in order to take advantage of the extra electives they have there so I can get out with a broad spectrum of all engine types. However, both the wife and I would love to study abroad and live in Australia. My question is, would my G.I. Bill cover either decision I make? I do not see UTI on the VA list, but their brochure, website and representative assures me they accept it and offer multiple military benefits. On the other hand, if I decide to move to Australia and study there, will I be entitled to less of my G.I. Bill? I’m sure I’ll have to pay for both my family and I to travel there, but what of the BAH rate? Will I still be receiving the same as a single E5 soldier I believe it is? Are there any other benefits to studying abroad as opposed to studying within the states? Thanks in advance.

A: If you end up moving to and studying in Australia, you would be eligible for the foreign student Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing rate which right now is a fixed $1,368 per month. As far as tuition, you would be limited to an annual amount up to $17,500 per year, if you attended full-time.

However, if you studied here in the States, the amount of your tuition paid to attend a private school would be the same. But, if you decide to attend a public school, it would be paid in full at the resident undergraduate rate. Regardless of where you study, you would also be eligible for the book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit (up to the annual $1,000 limit). If you attend a school that does not use a credit-based system, such as many of the vocational/technical schools, then you would get up to $83 per month in book stipend money.

If you think UTI is where you want to go, I would first contact the VA to make sure they are in fact a GI Bill school. I too looked at the Weam’s school search and they are not listed as being a VA-approved school in FL. However, with that said, I saw one of the videos on their website where a student said he used his Post 9/11 GI Bill to go to school there, and I did find some information referencing the Yellow Ribbon Program and being VA approved under Military Friendly Schools/Financial Benefits and also under Academics, but I could not find any information directly of them accepting the GI Bill unless I missed it. Ask questions just to be sure they do accept the GI Bill before you enroll.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good afternoon Mr. Kness, I understand that you’re an expert in these issues, and my recent galvanizing of myself to straighten out issues I’m unsure about, has prompted this email. I recently took a closer look at my service record, and found that I’m currently enrolled in the MGI Bill program. I’m strongly considering attending college upon completion of my military service, and would like the start the process of switching over to the Post-9/11 Bill. What would be the best way to start this process? Thank you for your time.

A: Switching over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is easy – just submit VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. But you need to be sure that is what you really want because once you switch, you can’t switch back to the Montgomery GI Bill if you made a mistake.

Being you have the Montgomery GI Bill, you are eligible for up to 36 months of benefits with three or more years of service. However, if you first exhaust those MGIB months and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you could get an additional 12 months of benefits.

If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB months of benefits left, then all you would get is that same number of months you had under the MGIB before you switched and not the additional months.

So if your education goal is a 4-year degree or less, then switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill may be the way to go, however, if an advanced degree is in your plans, you might want to stick with the MGIB, use that up first and switch at a later time.

One other thing to know, if you switch with months of MGIB benefits left, you would get a prorated amount of your MGIB $1,200 contribution once you finished using your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. The amount you would get is directly proportional to the number of months you transferred over to the New GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello Sir, I have a couple of questions about the GI Bill. I’m currently deployed to Afghanistan, and I should be returning home close to December. Now my questions are, how long do I need to serve on active duty for to me able to use my GI Bill? What exactly are the benefits of the GI Bill? And can you please dumb it down for me because I’ve looked at 4 different sites and I still don’t understand what they are saying. Thank you sir.

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill is based on a tier system. The more time you serve, the more percentage of the Bill you receive. You would get minimum benefits (40%) with as little as 90 days of service on Title 10 Orders after September 10, 2001, but you have to serve three years or more to get the full (100%) of the GI Bill.

If you are a Selected Reservist serving a typical one-year deployment tour, you would be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 60% tier, meaning the VA would pay 60% of your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school and you would get 60% of the monthly housing allowance and once per semester book stipend (up to your $600 annual limit).

Because you would be at less than 100% tier, you would not be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program and you would therefore be responsible for the remaining 40% of the unpaid tuition and eligible fees. However, if you were an active duty servicemember, with three years of service or more, you would be at the 100% tier and eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, provided your school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA.

If you attend classroom classes, you would get your tier percentage of the housing allowance which is figured according to the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. If you decide to do a full-time online-only program, then you would get your tier percentage of $684.00 if you attend full-time.

As far as the book stipend, it is paid at your tier percentage of $41.67 per credit up to your annual $600 limit.

If you are taking about the Montgomery GI Bill, you would get up to $1,564 per month and you have to pay all your own education expenses out of that monthly amount.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q:

I am active duty and currently have the MGIB and never used benefits. I want to get a Master’s Degree and want to know if it would be better to use the MGIB or convert and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill before starting? Or should I initially use the MGIB while I start slowly 1 or 2 classes a semester and then convert later when I get used to going to school again and take more classes and use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to top up Tuition Assistance.

A: Being you are still on active duty, I would first consider using Tuition Assistance (TA) and Tuition Top-Up. Using TA is a great way to maximize your GI Bill entitlement as TA pays most of the bill. How it works is TA pays up to $166 to $250 per credit hour, depending on which branch of service you are in, up to a maximum of $4,500 per year.

If your tuition costs more that TA would pay, or you hit your yearly cap early in the academic year, the additional amount not paid by the VA and taken out of your unused GI Bill benefits.

Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you use up one month of entitlement for each month of benefit paid, so your entitlement is reduced for $1,564 increment paid out by the VA to your service branch.

Entitlement use under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is calculated differently – by your rate of pursuit. So if you are a full-time student, your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement is reduced one month for each month of benefits that is paid out. So if you are a full-time student using Top-Up with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you are using up one month of benefit for each month the VA has to pay out benefits regardless of the amount they pay. If you are a ¾ time student, then you are using up ¾ of a month for each month.

So to answer your question, and because of the way entitlement use is calculated under each of the two GI Bills, I think it makes more sense to stick with the MGIB for now. The upside to doing this is once you have exhausted your MGIB benefits, you could switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits.

However, if you switch with MGIB benefits left, then all you get is the same number of months of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the MGIB.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I use the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and transfer my MGIB to my spouse/dependent?

A:Most likely not and here is why – generally speaking, the Montgomery GI Bill never had a transfer of benefits option. The Air Force and Army each ran a short transfer of benefits pilot program, however, each branch soon gave up the endeavor because of lack of participation.

Part of that disinterest was that military members had to “buy” the transfer privileges by re-enlisting for a specified time. While the Air Force program did include both dependents and spouses, the Army program only included spouses.

You may, however, have Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility where you would switch from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and transfer benefits to your spouse and/or dependents or both.

To be eligible, you have to have served for at least six years after September 10, 2001, be currently serving at the time you make your transfer request and agree to serve an additional four years (unless your current enlistment takes you out to “retirement eligible” status, in which case the amount of future service required is reduced).

Just one note on switching GI Bills – while switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill could give you the transfer of benefits option, you give up all your rights to the MGIB when you do so.

So to answer your question, no you can’t use your Post 9/11 GI Bill and give your MGIB to dependents, nor could you use your MGIB and give your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to dependents. However, you could switch to the New GI Bill (if eligible), transfer some benefits to dependents and both of you use your benefits at the same time.