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

Q: I started school a little over a month ago. I have already received my explanation of benefits paperwork from the VA saying how much BAH I get per month, how much I get for books, etc. I still have not received any BAH or any payments whatsoever. Any idea what could be going on? I am currently on hold with the VA but its taking forever.

A: Unfortunately, you can be on hold for a long time when calling the VA. If you have only been in school only a month, you have some time yet before you can expect to see any GI Bill money. At the beginning of each semester, it can take 8 to 10 weeks before you see your first money. Then for the rest of the months in the semester, your money should come around the same time each month.

Then at the beginning of the new semester, the same process starts over again. The way the VA’s process works is that they have to process all applications first before they can start the payment cycle and at the beginning of most semesters, they are flooded with applications. For the rest of the months in that semester, not so much – which is why you get your money for those months sooner.

One other thing to know is that the Certificate of Enrollment your school submits on your behalf is what triggers payment. Once the VA receives that document, they check it against your eligibility to see if you have entitlement left. If your school is late in submitting the certificate, it can delay your payment also.

It is a good idea to have some funds saved back to tide you over during the “lean” times of a new semester. Then when you do start getting your Post 9/11 GI Bill payments, you can replenish your school fund account.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi there. My husband is in the Army (Rank E4) and instead of having his student loans paid off, he chose to go with the G.I. Bill when he enlisted. He has been in since November 2011. He recently just finished airborne school and has now PCS’ed to Ft. Bragg, NC (as of March 30th, 2012). My question is, what are the rules for me, his spouse, to use his G.I. Bill towards the remaining tuition for my master’s degree? Does he have to be at his PCS for a certain period of time or do we have to be married for a certain period of time before I can use those funds? Just trying to figure out what the rules are since I will need to fund my upcoming semester within the next few months. Thanks!

A: No, how long you have been married or how long he has been stationed in one place has nothing to do with you being able to use his Post 9/11 GI Bill – it is all about meeting three service requirements – past, present and future.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, he has to have served for at least six years, currently serving, and have at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of the transfer request. So if he has only been in since 2011, he has almost five years left to go before he is eligible for the transfer option.

What can be confusing about the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that there are two sets of service requirements. He is 100% eligible to use his Post 9/11 GI Bill after serving three years, but it takes six years of service before he can use the transfer option.

To fund the rest of your master’s degree, I would recommend applying for spousal scholarships and grants. One good source to use is MilitaryFamily.org.

You could also go to the a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website as it has a wealth of education financial aid information. The point is there is money available for you to use, but it does take some digging to find it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Under the new GI Bill, does an eligible serviceman receive a living allowance for himself and his family while doing a degree course? I have seen lots of references to housing allowance but not to living allowances. How are families supported if the main earner is studying under the GI Bill?

A: As part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your housing allowance and book stipend are the only payments you receive as either direct deposited into your account or sent to you by check. However, I understand your concern about trying to support a family and go to school full-time.

In many cases, either the student also works at least part-time, or the other spouse works full-time while you are going to school. One other option is you can also apply for scholarships and grants. The nice thing about them, versus loans, is that they do not have to be paid back.

Of course your tuition and eligible fees are paid up directly to your school at the resident tuition rate if you attend public school or up to $17,500 per year if you attend private school. The housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take.

If you are a full-time student taking classroom classes and have served for at least three years on a Title 10 order (active duty or deployment if you are in the National Guard or Reserves), then you would be authorized the full housing allowance.

The housing allowance amount is based on the BAH rate tables – the same ones used to calculate your active duty pay – but instead, students are paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents whether you have dependents or not. Across the United States, on average the housing allowance amount is around $1,300. If you go to school in New York City or Los Angeles, it can be double that amount.

Your Post 9/11 GI Bill book stipend per semester is based on $41.67 per credit. It does have an annual $1,000 cap, but that is enough for two full-time 12-credit semesters per academic year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I have a question about the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I was going to school to major in Radiology but have since changed my mind and want to do nursing (RN). I live in MD but I’m currently in TX while my husband’s deployed. The problem is that they only have vocational nursing at this school but want to switch to RN once I’m back to MD. Long story short, how many times can I change my major?

A: I don’t know that there really is a limit. However, the VA will “help” you manage your GI Bill benefits so you do not end up wasting them and not have a career that you can make a living with. However, I don’t think you should have a problem going from Radiology to being an RN being both are in the healthcare field.

While you are in Texas, find out how many and which credits would transfer from your current major over to the RN program in MD. What you want to try and avoid is losing too many credits because they won’t transfer. If you do lose too many credits, that may leave you with not having enough benefits left to complete your RN using just your GI Bill benefits alone.

Another thing you could try is see if your school in MD has an online RN program that you could take for now and then transition over to classroom classes once back in MD.

If or when you do change programs, be sure and submit VA Form 22-1995, Change of Program or Place of Training from the eBenefits website to let the VA know your intentions. Your Career Counselor and/or VA Rep at your current school should be able to help you with determining how many of your credits would transfer.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served in the Florida Army National Guard from 2004-2010. I did not have the opportunity to deploy out of the country on Active Duty orders, even though I had prepared thoroughly to go…only to be sent home from Ft. Hood, TX without a second opinion. When I enlisted, I was under the impression that I was obligated to complete 6 years of service without any interruptions or issues, and needed to leave with an Honorable Discharge…which I have received. I was also under the impression by my recruiter that my basic training and AIT counted as Active Duty time, also including the annual training’s I completed throughout my term of service. I am being told by the Dept. of VA that I am no longer eligible for the GI Bill because I do not have enough Active Duty Title 10 orders and also because I am no longer in the National Guard….they literally told me to re-enlist, even though according to Ft. Hood, I am non-deployable for the rest of my life. This frustrates me because my benefits aren’t to expire until November 2019 but now they are totally gone because I ETS’d in 2010. I don’t think this is fair. I devoted 6 years of my life to the Government mainly so I could go to school and make something of myself. I completed all the training I was obligated to and even worked full time for the length of 1 year with the Brigade HQ on orders to help prepare our Soldiers for the deployment in 2010. I endured my own personal hell while I was enlisted that will never be erased from my memory….and now, after all this time that I thought I was a Veteran, I am basically being told now that I am NOT a Veteran. I believe I am entitled to at least my education benefits seeing as that was what was promised to me in the beginning. Can someone please help me determine what I need to do about receiving my education benefits again? Thank you.

A: I don’t think there is anyone to help you with your GI Bill benefits because you are not eligible for any. Let’s start with the easy one first. While you were in the National Guard, you had the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve. That particular GI Bill would have expired at the end of 10 years if you would have stayed in that long, but since you didn’t, it expired the day you got out.

As far as working at the brigade for one year, unless those orders were Title 32 Section 502(f) or Title 10, they do not count for Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. Most likely they were ADSW or ADOS orders, not GI Bill eligible orders. What your recruiter told you about annual trainings counting toward GI Bill eligibility just is not true. Isn’t that a surprise!

However, Basic Training and AIT orders can count, but only after you have 24 months or more of qualifying Title 10 service. Lastly, to qualify for minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you would have had to served for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, which it sounds like you must not have stayed on orders that long at Ft. Hood.

I wish I had better news for you, but you just are not eligible for any of the GI Bills. The VA cannot give you something you are not authorized to have.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How will VA distribute the tuition for a semester abroad. Home school cannot charge tuition to the VA for a semester abroad because the classes are taken at the host school and payment needs to go to host school. Host school sends bill to a third party in the U.S.A. for collection. Third party sends bill for tuition and all fees to student. Semester abroad has been arranged through the International Program Office at home university. International Program Office works directly with third party which then works with the host university. Thank you!

A: First of all, is your foreign host school GI Bill approved? If not, that could be a problem as most likely the VA would not authorize or pay you to attend.

You did not say which GI Bill you are using, but if it is the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then the money would come to you, the third party would bill you and you would be responsible to pay your own tuition, books, fees and other education-related expenses. Currently, you would get $1,473 per month under the MGIB.

If the third party cannot bill the VA, then it doesn’t sound like they are set up to take the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If that is the case, you may be out of luck getting the New GI Bill to pay for that semester. If they were approved to take the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they would have a billing procedure set-up to bill the VA.

If your home school and host school were set up under the primary/secondary school system, it would be easy. Your primary school would tell your secondary school which classes you would take. Once you have finished those classes, those credits would be transferred to your degree plan at your primary school.

The other thing to keep in mind is if the classes you want to take at your host school are not on your degree plan, the VA would not pay for them anyway.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like to know all the differences between the two programs and also what will happen to the $600 I’ve paid into the MGIB if I transfer to Post 9/11GI Bill.

A: Your question about the $600 you paid for the Buy-Up program to get $5,400 more of educational benefits is easy to answer – if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you lose it – your Buy-Up benefits can’t be used with the New GI Bill. However, if you decide to stay with the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you would get about an extra $150 per month.

After GI Bill 2.0 was implemented, the biggest difference now between the MGIB and Post 9/11 GI Bill is the pay structure. With the MGIB, you get a fixed $1,473 per month. Out of that amount, you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your tuition at a public school is paid directly by the VA. Monthly you get a housing stipend calculated on the zip code of your school, the number of credits you are taking and paid at the E-5 with dependents rate.

Once each semester, you get a book stipend paid at $41.67 per credit with an annual limit of $1,000 per year. Also keep in mind that if you decide to stay with the MGIB, once you have exhausted your entitlement, you could switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill if eligible. Once you do that, you would get an additional 12 months of benefits, however, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing your Buy-Up benefit at that point – it would have been consumed by the time your MGIB benefits were exhausted.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Need an online full –time technical school that will accept VRAP as its funding source. Please help!

A: There are actually quite a few schools where you can use the VRAP GI Bill. One of the best ways to identify the schools is through the College Navigator search program. First, start by clicking on the Browse Programs button, and select the career of your choice. If you are looking for a technical school, then most likely you will want to check certification for a Level of Award, but it could be an associate’s degree too, depending on your selected field.

Finally select your Institution Type — whether you are looking for public or private school and if they are a two-year school or less than two years. The list of schools the sites returns are ones that match your selected options. Then, you would have to go school-by-school and click on each school’s website to see if they offer their program as an online option.

As you know, under the VRAP program, you are eligible for up to 12 additional months of training in a high demand field. The pay you would get is the same as if you were using the Montgomery GI Bill - $1,473 per month currently at the time of this writing. Out of your monthly money, you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

Once you are finished with your training program, the Department of Labor offers resources to help you find a job.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My father was in the Army and in 2 wars. I wanted to know if there are any benefits that can help me go to college since I am his son? I was told that since he was in the Army and in 2 wars that the Army will pay for me to go to college. Is this true and if not, are there anything available for me?

A: It could be true depending on some factors. First, is your father totally and permanently disabled as a result of his military service? If so, and if you are under age 26, you may qualify for up to 45 months of benefits under the Survivors’ and Dependents Education Assistance Program (DEA). But, if you are older than 26 or your father is not service-connected P&T disabled, then most likely you are not eligible for education benefits.

The fact that he was in two wars really does not have any relevance to the issue. He would be on the same type of order regardless of where he was at.

If you are not eligible under DEA, then I suggest you fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application to see what you qualify for as far as financial aid. It is a fairly easy application to fill out and then you would know if you qualify or not and for how much. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Otherwise, apply for scholarships and grants. These are better than student loans in that they do not have to be paid back. The money is out there – all you have to do is find it. You may have to sort through a bunch of coal to find a diamond, but in the end it would be worth your time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Do I have to change over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill before getting out the Army or do I have time to decide and find a school?

A: This is a rumor that I get asked quite a bit. What people are doing is confusing the Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Benefits rules with the conversion to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you are eligible to use the transfer of benefits option, then you have to make your transfer request and get it approved while you are still serving. You can not do this once you are out. However, if you want to convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill or just get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE), you can do that while still on active duty or after you are out. Keep in mind you have to use your benefits within 15 years from your date of discharge.

To transfer from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990.

If you are eligible to use the transfer feature, then go to the milConnect website and enter into your spouse/dependent child(ren) record the number of months you wish to transfer. Once the transfer is approved, then each of them have to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. Notice this is a different form than the one you filled out to get your COE.