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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Right now I am really thinking about going to Universal of Technical Institute (UTI) when I EAS from the Marine Corps. I have been trying to look up definite answers as far as the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the way it works with UTI. The course I want to do at UTI is around $32,000. Now what I want to know is that, am going to get just the $17,500 cap for a Non College Degree Program? Or if maybe the UTI in Sacramento has a Yellow Ribbon Program? And if it doesn’t, what can I do to pay the extra tuition and fees, since its $32,000, with the $17,500 cap which would leave with almost $15,000 left to pay out of pocket.

A: The good news is that Universal Technical Institute is a GI Bill-approved private school with two campuses – one in Sacramento and another one in Rancho Cucamonga! The way it would work Dom, is your Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay up to $17,500 per year directly to your school for tuition and eligible fees. Being neither school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA at this time, the remaining unpaid tuition would be your responsibility.

However, there are various scholarships, grants and work-study programs that may help you fund your part of your tuition. But, there are different types of scholarships which may either work for you or against you.

For example, if you get a scholarship that can only be applied toward your tuition, it will reduce the amount your Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay, because the VA is the last payer when it comes to paying your tuition. That ends up being somewhat counterproductive.

There are other scholarships that are not dedicated to tuition, so the VA would end up paying the same amount as if you didn’t have the non-fenced scholarships; these are the better ones to try and get.

You could also send in a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Aid) form to see what you would qualify for in other financial aid. Finally, you might have to get a part-time job and work during non-school hours to make extra money.

As part of your Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would also get a monthly housing allowance. For the Sacramento area, it averages $1,728, plus you would also get a book stipend of $83 per month.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My ex-husband is currently serving and is awaiting approval of his reenlistment. Our son was denied benefits because his father had not yet reenlisted as of October 2011. His current enlistment ends 10/01/2012. He has served over 10 years – since 06/08/2001. Why does he need to have proof of reenlistment to qualify for the GI Bill transferred benefits? My ex-husband is currently deployed so my son had to sit out this semester while this mess gets sorted out and we had to pay for the first semester out of pocket after the request for GI Bill benefits were denied. Please help! Thanks.

A: There are three service requirements that must be met when transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a dependent:

• Have served for at least six years after September 10, 2001.

• Currently serving.

• Agree to serve for another four years (unless eligible for retirement in less than four years – then a lesser amount of future time is required.)

It sounds like your ex-husband met the first two requirements – he has 10 years of having served and is currently serving, but failed to have an enlistment of at least more four years in place at the time he tried to transfer his benefits to his son.

As far as the “why” he has to have that extension in place is because the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option is used as a retention tool. If a servicemember wants to transfer benefits to a dependent, s/he has to agree to do the additional time.

Once your ex-husband gets his extension in place, and tries to transfer benefits again and it gets approved, your son has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get his Certificate of Eligibility. He will need that document when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband was a Texas resident when he was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982. He graduated from the USNA in 1986. He served on active duty from June of 1986 to June of 1991. He received an honorable discharge in 1991. Given those facts, it’s my understanding that he qualifies under the Hazelwood Act. We are Texas residents and our daughter is an undergraduate at a private university in Texas. She is considering going to medical school after she graduates. If she attends medical school at one of the medical schools that is part of the University of Texas System could she use her father’s Hazelwood hours to cover tuition? (Note: She will be under the age of 26 the entire time she is in medical school and her father has never used any of his Hazelwood hours).

A: Yes, it sounds like your husband does meet the Hazelwood Act requirements of:
• Currently a Texas resident;
• Having been Texas resident at the time he entered the U.S. Armed Forces;
• Served at least 181 days of active military duty;
• Received an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions;
• Does not have any remaining usable GI Bill benefits;
• Not in default on federal education loans or student loans made or guaranteed by the State of Texas.

So to start the transfer process, your husband/daughter will have to create the following packet of information:
1) Application Packet for Veterans (HE-V)
2) Application Packet for the Child (HE-D)
3) DD214 –Military Discharge Form
4) Child’s Birth Certificate or Tax Return from previous year prior to enrollment

Just so we are clear, she is not limited to just the University of Texas school system – she can attend any of the Texas Public Institutions. Nor does she have to be under the age of 26 during the whole period she uses her Hazelwood Act benefits – just 25 or younger when she starts using her benefits.

Once your daughter is accepted into one of the Texas public universities or colleges, s/he can then fax the packet to her school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My dad has been a Marine since 1994 but he left me and my mom in 2000. If I got him to do the GI Bill thing, would I qualify for it? Another question after my dad left, my mom’s friend has being taking care of me like a father would and he has been in the military since 1994. Is it possible he could transfer his GI Bill to me so I can go to college?

A: You may qualify for your Dad’s Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement, provided:
• he is willing and transfers at least part of his Post 9/11 GI Bill to you before he gets out of the Marine Corps.
• he has enough time left on his enlistment to take him out to 20 years (or if not, he is willing to extend for the amount of time he needs to do so).
• you are under the age of 26.
• you are still listed in DEERS as his dependent.

As far as your pseudo-dad transferring some of his benefits to you, the only way he could do that is if he went through the legal adoption process and you formally became his dependent as listed in DEERS as one of his dependents. Otherwise, he can’t make a transfer of benefits to you.

However, keep in mind that thousands of students attend college without using the GI Bill, so if that doesn’t work out, start putting in for scholarships and grants. The nice thing about these is that they don’t have to be paid back the way loans do. You could see what you qualify for to start with by submitting an FAFSA application.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: There is a possibility I may receive an other than honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. I have served 4 years on a 5-year contract and have been on a combat deployment. I have been thrown around with rumors about what could happen to my GI Bill and I am looking for a real answer. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: The real answer is that you would have your GI Bill – you just won’t be able to use your 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefits at the 100% tier with a discharge of anything less than fully Honorable.

However, if you feel your OTH discharge is not right, and you can prove your case, you can submit to the Marine Corps Board of Military Corrections and request that your discharge be upgraded to Honorable. It can take up to a year to hear back with a decision and there is no guarantee they will upgrade it, but it is worth a try if you feel you have truly been wronged. Fill out DD Form 293, attach your supporting documentation and then wait.

You can also choose to make a personal appearance to support your case or hire a lawyer to represent you if you wish (at your own expense). And if you hear a rumor that discharges are automatically upgraded after six months, don’t believe it because it is entirely false. The only chance of it being upgraded is if you apply to the Board.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill 100% and used it for my first year of school. During that time I got a phenomenal job and stopped taking classes to focus on the job. Now that I’m settled in the job I have enough time to do about a class (maybe 2) per semester. If I use the GI Bill to pay for these classes, will that cut into my 36 months? Is there any way to get it to pay just the tuition without taking a full class load. I don’t want to quit my job just to take classes, but I would like to *slowly* finish my degree without paying $4,000. I also don’t want to use up all my GI bill just to slowly take classes. The other option I could think of would be this – how can I get approx 3 months of housing costs at 100%, I can just save that money for future tuition. Is that a possibility? What the minimum course load I would need to pull that off?

A: In most cases, anytime you are getting GI Bill benefits, you are using up entitlement. How much you will use up depends on how many credits your school considers to be full-time verses how many credits you are taking per semester. If they use 12 credits as their full-time, and you are taking a one 3-credit class, then you would use up 3/12ths of a month of entitlement for each month you are in school or about 7 ½ days per month.

But, keep in mind, that you would not be taking enough credits to be eligible for the housing allowance. You have to take at least 51% of a full-time credit load to get any housing allowance at all, which in the above example would be 7 credits. In that case, you would get 7/12ths of the full housing allowance authorized for the zip code of your school if you are taking classroom classes. The housing allowance for online-only students is figured differently.

To get the full housing allowance for three months, you would have to take a full credit load for ¾ of a semester which would be hard to pull off – it would be easier to take a full load for one whole semester. In addition, you would get up to $41.67 per credit in a book stipend for that semester and get your tuition paid at your Post 9/11 GI Bill percentage level.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello Mr. Kness, I have a two-part question. The first one is am I going to incur any penalties if I decided to withdraw from the school that I’m currently enrolled in? Do I have to pay the Housing Stipend that was given to me? I realized that my current school is not the right school that will give me the skill sets that I need in order to pursue my career. The second question is I finally found the right school that I believe will give me the proper skills that will be helpful to me. The problem is that it is not a degree course and it is an online school. Will the updated GI Bill be able to pay for this one? Thank you for your time. (currently using the Post 9-11 Bill)

A: The VA has a policy that you can use one time to drop six credits with no questions asked, so you could invoke that policy for part of your credits. For the rest of your credits, the VA will determine if your circumstances to drop were mitigating or non-mitigating.

If you are dropping just because your school isn’t “right” for you, you may end up paying money back. It would be far easier if you just finished out the semester and then submit a VA Form 22-5495 – Change of Program or Place of Training towards the end of the semester and switch to your new school for the new semester. That way you could make a clean break from one school to the next and not have to worry about paying anything back.

Yes, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will most likely pay for your non-degree online course. Just be sure your new school is VA-approved. Some of your payments will change though. By taking a non-degree course, your book stipend will go from $41.67 per credit to $83 per months. You’re your housing allowance will be reduced to a maximum of $673.50 per month as an online-only student.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have the new GI 9/11. I get about 70% of that to cover my expenses at school. My husband also has the new GI 9/11 and has transferred 50% to me. I was wondering if I can use both (mine and his) to cover all costs for my school?

A: No you can’t use both GI Bills at the same time as the VA will only let you use one entitlement at a time. What normally happens is when you have exhausted your 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement at 70%, then your 18 months of transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits would kick in.

You didn’t say if your husband’s Post 9/11 GI Bill was at the 100% tier or at a lesser percentage, so your percentage of coverage could go up or down depending on his tier percentage.

Depending on your education goals, you might use your GI Bills entitlement in a couple different ways. If you have a choice on how you want to use your benefits and if you choose to get a four-year degree and have no plans for an advanced degree, then you may want to use your 18 months of transferred benefits first if they are at the 100% level. Then use 18 months of your benefits at the 70% level for your last two years of school.

If you plan on getting an advanced degree, then you may be better off using your 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits first and save your 18 months of transferred benefits for your advanced degree if they are at a level higher. Advanced degree tuition is usually more than undergraduate tuition.

The point is you will have to figure out which program would benefit you the most depending on your educational goals and then use your benefits accordingly.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’ve heard that some post-August 2009 career retirees have been able to transfer their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their dependents. I thought we couldn’t do that. Did something change?

A: Yes it is and only recently did I stumble upon the change. As I read into it further, I found it isn’t consistent throughout all branches of service; some branches are not even participating in the program.

As you know, right after the Post 9/11 GI Bill was enacted on August 1, 2009, many servicmembers retired not knowing they had to transfer their New GI Bill benefits before they left the service. That was a wrong that has not been corrected before now and even today, it is not fully corrected, but at least inroads are starting to be made.

So far only the Army and Air Force are working with retirees in an effort to determine if they knew about the transfer rules or not. For right now, the Navy and Marines have decided not to act on any transfer of benefits requests at this time.

Soldiers retiring between August 1, 2009 and November 1, 2009 can request relief by submitting DD Form 149 – Application for Correction of Military Record to the Army Review Boards Agency (ARBA), 1901 South Bell Street, 2nd Floor, Arlington, VA 22202-4508.

Retired Airmen can submit the same form to the Board for Correction of Air Force Records, SAF/MRBR, 550-C Street West, Suite #40, Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4742, however, the Air Force is not using a fixed ending date as is the Army, just if you retired after August 1, 2009.

In the form, explain in great detail how you were unfairly treated with regard to transferring your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. With the last figures I saw, both the Army and Air Force have approved about 1/3rd of the requests they have received on a case-by-case basis.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello I am about to enroll in college. I’m 35 yrs. old and I am just curious to see what my options are with my G.I. Bill? How much do I have and how to go about using it? I was in the Navy and got out in 2008 I believe. Please if you can let me know soon because I’m starting classes in the fall.

A: Benefits vary according to which GI Bill you have. Being you got out in 2008, you could have both the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the new Post 9/11 GI Bill (PGIB).

To get the MGIB, you would have had to sign up for it when you first enlisted. Do you remember having $100 per month for the first 12 months taken out of your pay through payroll deduction? If so, that is what it was for and you would have the MGIB. If you signed a declination, then most likely you don’t have it.

You would have the Post 9/11 GI Bill though as that is free to servicemembers having served for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001. If you served for at least three years, you are 100% vested; serving for less than three years puts you between the 40% and 90% tier depending on your length of service.

Individually, each GI Bill provides up to 36 months of entitlement. However, if you have both GI Bills, the maximum number of combined months of entitlement is capped at 48 months.

Using the MGIB, you would get up to $1,473 per month and you are responsible to pay all your own education expenses, including tuition, fees, books, etc.

However, if you use the PGIB, the VA would pay your tuition directly to your school and monthly you would get a housing allowance that averages across the United States at $1,300. Additionally, each semester, you would get up to $41.67 per credit in a book stipend. However, it does have a $1,000 per academic year cap, but that is usually enough to get it for two full semesters per year.

To start using either GI Bill, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. In return, you would get your Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when you register for school as a GI Bill student.