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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Possibility of additional benefits. I was discharged in 2007 with a service-connected disability. I was awarded 17 months and some change of the GI Bill. Fast forward a few years and I have six months of benefits remaining. I was told that I may be eligible for Post 9/11 benefits after I use up my old GI Bill. Is this accurate? Thanks!

A: Yes it is accurate. With a service-connected disability, all you need to get the full Post 9/11 GI Bill are 30 days of continuous service, which you have. Under the Rule of 48, if you are eligible for two or more GI Bills, the most combined months of benefits you can get are 48.

Being you will have used up 17 months, you should still have 31 months left to use. It is too bad you didn’t know this in the beginning, otherwise you could have switched right away and although you would have only gotten 36 months, they would have been at the higher pay rate.

Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) you have been getting paid up to $1,473 per month and you had to pay all your own education expenses. Under the New GI Bill, your tuition would have been paid directly to your school, up to the resident rate for a public school or up to $17,500 for a private school. Monthly you would have received a housing allowance that averages $1,300 per month and a book stipend once per semester of $41.67 per credit (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

Once you have used up your remaining 6 months of benefits, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990 to get your Post 9/11 GI Bill Certificate of Eligibility.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good day, I’m active military and planning to ETS 2013. I have a 3-year active contract and I was wondering can change my GI Bill to Post 9/11 GI Bill? And I found out you can use your GI Bill overseas, so can I use it to study in my home country of the Philippines? Will I be able to use my GI Bill or the Post 9/11 GI Bill in my country? Thank you so much. I hope for an answer.

A: If the school you want to attend in the Philippines is VA-approved, then yes, you should be able to use either GI Bill. The biggest difference between the two GI Bills right now is their pay structure.

If you are a full-time student and use the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) you would get $1,473 per month for up to 36 months. Out of that amount, you would have to pay for your tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school up to the current foreign rate of $18,077.50 per year. Monthly you would get a housing allowance up to $1,368. You would also get a book stipend of $41.67 per credit per semester, up to the $1,000 yearly cap.

If you switch now to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with all 36 months of benefits intact, you would get your full $1,200 MGIB contribution back once you have used up your 36 months of benefits. It would come as part of your last housing allowance payment.

However, if you first use up all of your MGIB benefits and then switch, you can get an additional 12 months of education benefits at the higher pay rate. So it comes down to if you need the additional time (if you intend to work on an advanced degree) or the higher pay rate. If you decide to switch, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I have a question on extending my Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits. I entered the Navy in 2004 and in boot camp I signed up for the option where I paid an addition $1,200 to the Montgomery GI Bill and in return I would get more monetary benefits. When I was separating from the military in 2009 to begin school I asked what would happen to people who opted to pay in extra into the old GI Bill. I was told that I can request an extension to my Post 9-11 benefits as I paid in extra to the old GI Bill for an extension. Was that true? I have 8 months of benefits left but because I had trouble with a math class am a semester behind. I am married and my wife is a student as well so I am figuring out what to do so we can cover our expenses for that extra semester where I won\’t have BAH. Thank you.

A: Not true! What your $1,200 MGIB contribution bought you were 36 months of education benefits that you could use once you met the eligibility requirements. You didn’t pay anything extra for an extension because the extension is the Post 9/11 GI Bill which didn’t come into existence until 2009. So how could you have paid for something in 2004 that didn’t exist until 2009?

The truth is you have full eligibility under the Post 9/11 GI Bill just by serving for at least three years after September 10, 2001 on active duty. However, under the Rule of 48, if you are eligible for two or more GI Bills, the maximum combined number of months of benefits you can get is 48.

So here is what you do to get your additional 12 months of benefits under Post 9/11 GI Bill. Go to the eBenefits website and bring up VA Form 22-1990. In Part II, check Block 9F. In the Effective Date block, put down a date that is well after you have used up all of your Montgomery GI Bill Chapter 30 benefits.

It is important that your effective date is after you have used up your Chapter 30 benefits or all you will get for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits will be the number of months/days you have left under Chapter 30.

Then check the Chapter 30 Block as the GI Bill you are giving up, finish out the form and submit it. This should more than cover you for the additional semester that you need.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I determine what benefits are still available to me for school and if I’m able to allow my wife and daughter to use those benefits?

A: I can tell you right away that if you are retired, you would not be able to transfer benefits to your wife or daughter. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to be currently serving at the time you make your transfer request.

If you are still serving, then go to the milConnect website and enter into your daughter’s and wife’s record how many months of benefits you would like to give each one.

Once the transfer is approved, then each of them must to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e to get their Certificates of Eligibility that they will need when enrolling in school.

If you have the Montgomery GI Bill, generally speaking it never had a transfer of benefits option to it.

As far as benefits that you can use, it depends on which GI Bill you have and when you got out. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), then you have up to 10 years from your last date of discharge to use your 36 months of education benefits.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, that time limit is extended out an additional five years – or 15 years from your last date of discharge. Keep track of time though as once you go over these time limits, your benefits expire and you can no longer use them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I have 9 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and I haven’t used it yet, can it be taken from me? If he split it up between me and my brothers, can it be transferred away from me? My dad is retired.

A: Yes he can. The sponsor that originally owned the benefits and transferred them to you, can also take them away – even after retiring – and give them to your other brothers. It is called revocation and reallocation of benefits.

If your brothers are currently using their Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits, or have exhausted them and you have not used yours yet, your dad may think you are not going to use them. If you don’t use them by age 26, they will expire.

Sit down and have a talk with him. Go into your meeting with a plan on when and how you intend to use your benefits – just be sure you can execute your plan. In other works, don’t write a check that you don’t have the funds to cover.

And if you don’t plan on using your transferred benefits, why not offer to have your dad revoke them from you and give them to your brothers who can use them. That would be a true gesture of brotherly love.

The act of your dad transferring his Post 9/11 GI Bill to you and your brothers was a gesture of kindness on his part and an opportunity for you to have a year of schooling paid for at no expense to you (or him).

Keep in mind that if attending college is holding you back from using your benefits, it doesn’t have to be a four-year college that you attend. You can also use your Post 9/11 GI Bill to attend vocational and technical schools. Using your benefit would give you a start at learning a trade or a skill with little cost to you.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently an active duty member and was told when the original Post 9/11 GI Bill was introduced and that although I did not buy into the MGIB, I am still eligible for the Post 9/11. I have tried to find the “proof” for this but have not been able to find it yet. Am I eligible and if I am at what point do I sign up for and can I use this benefit?

A: If you have been on active duty since September 9, 2001 for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order, then you are eligible for minimum benefits. It sounds like you probably have served since before the August 1, 2009 Post 9/11 GI Bill introduction date being you referenced it – if that is the case, then you are eligible for 100% of the benefit.

Unlike many of the other GI Bills, the Post 9/11 is free to you just by your service to your country. You have 36 months of benefits and up to 15 years from your date of discharge to use them.

You can use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits either while serving or after you are out. A good way to use them while still in is to sign up for Tuition Assistance. Under that program, your service branch picks up most of the tab, however, should your per-credit cost exceed what TA pays, then the difference comes out of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits via a program called Tuition-Top-Up.

It is a good way to maximize your GI Bill benefits and work toward your degree while serving. Because Top-Up and TA work together, it is transparent on your end.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My dad gave his Montgomery GI Bill to me to pay for my school. He told me that I had to maintain a 2.5 GPA or else none of it will be paid for. But I talked to someone from the VA office here on campus and he told me that the GI Bill will pay for all of my classes, even if I fail, and that they’d even pay for me to retake the class, just as long as I went to class. Basically I had to “earn” my F. I guess I really just want to know what exactly the requirements are for me to keep the GI Bill, because without that paying for school, I won’t be able to stay in the university.

A: The last part of your last sentence in your question – “because without that paying for school, I won’t be able to stay in the university.” should be reason enough to do as well as you can. I think your dad knows the rules for grades to keep using your Post 9/11 GI Bill. He may have embellished it just a bit to spur you to do better. Oh, by-the-way, since you are using transferred benefits, you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill and not the Montgomery GI Bill.

What you heard from the VA office is true, your GI Bill will pay for your classes even if you fail and they pay for you to retake them, but only under certain conditions – the part s/he left out.

It gets much more complicated than this, but in general, if you receive a failing grade, you may have to pay benefits back if the reason you failed was within your control, such as out partying and not applying yourself to your coursework.

However, if your reason for failing was not your fault – mitigating circumstances – then you most likely would not have to pay anything back. Mitigating reasons would be like an extended illness that prevented you from attending classes.

The VA can however, terminate paying your GI Bill benefits if you do not show signs of progress, meaning you are failing many classes. They can then resume paying you benefits once again after you have proven the reason for not making progress have been eliminated.

Also, keep in mind that if you have to retake a class, that class is costing you twice the entitlements than if you would have passed the class in the first place, meaning that if you fail too many classes, you won’t have enough benefits to get you to your educational goal.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello Mr. Kness. Question for you, I am active duty and have depleted my TA funds for this year. I would like to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill for three months and then stop. Can I do that? Am I eligible to use it now? Time in service: Jun 2000 – present. Contributed to GI Bill.

A: Yes, you would be eligible to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill now, but I suggest you use it through the the Tuition Top-Up program. It works seamlessly with Tuition Assistance and you wouldn’t have to worry about starting and stopping your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

How it works it that your service branch pays all of your tuition and then bills the VA for whatever part exceeds what TA will pay. The VA pays your service branch, converts what they paid into months and days of entitlement, and subtracts that amount from your unused Post 9/11 GI Bill remaining benefits.

Top-Up works great when you have reached your yearly limit, as you have done, but it also comes into play if your per-credit tuition amount exceeds what TA would pay.

I do want to caution you on one thing though – once you convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can’t go back and use your Montgomery GI Bill as you give up your rights to it when you opt for the New GI Bill.

As far as eligibility, you have to have served for at least three years after September 10, 2001 on a Title 10 order to get the full eligibility, which you have done, so you are at the 100% level.

Using TA and Top-Up is a good way to maximize your GI Bill benefits as TA pays the majority of the costs.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I bought into the old MGIB when I enlisted, and then paid in again when they changed it. I understand there is no cost associated with transferring to the Post-9/11 (aka 2.0) version up front. I probably already know the answer, but thought I would ask anyway: if I switch to the latest and greatest, do they refund me the amount I’ve already paid in for this benefit?

A: I’m not sure what you mean when you say “I bought into the old MGIB when I enlisted, and then paid in again when they changed it.”, unless you are referring to VEAP and then you paid to convert to the MGIB.

Probably, much to your surprise actually there is a way to get at least get part of, if not all, you your MGIB contribution back. I don’t know if that was the answer you were expecting or not.

If you switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with all 36 months of your unused MGIB entitlement left, you can get your full $1,200 contribution back once you have used up all 36 months of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. It will come as part of your last housing allowance payment.

If you have used some of your MGIB benefits and switch with less than 36 months, then you will get a proportional amount of your contribution back. For example, let’s say you switch with 18 months left. To estimate how much you would get back, divide $1,200 by 36 months and then multiply that result by 18. Each month is worth about $33.33 dollars.

However, know that if you switch with MGIB benefits left, you will not get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits; you only get the additional time if you first use up all your MGIB benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How does a veteran apply for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)? This is a short deadline for applying for this benefit from July 1, 2012 through September 30, 2012; therefore the more information that is available the better chance veterans have to take advantage of this educational program.

A: Actually there are two different windows of opportunity you can use, however, by the time you read this post, the first period might be filled. As of this writing, the VA had received 43,185 applications out of their 45,000 participant limit, however, we don’t know how many out of that submitted number were approved. As you indicated, the first window closes at the end of September.

The second window opens on October 1, 2012 and runs through March 31, 2014 and the participant limit is 54,000. What I don’t know and have not seen posted is once the first period is filled, do the outstanding applications automatically roll over to the new window or not. I imagine they will, but we may not know until we get closer to filling the first window.

For those not familiar with the eligibility requirements of VRAP, you have to:
• Be at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
• Be unemployed on the date of application
• Received an other than dishonorable discharge
• Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
• Not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
• Not enrolled in a federal or state job training program.

If you meet the requirements, you can get up to 12 months of paid training at the Montgomery GI Bill rate of $1,473 per month. Your training program has to result in or lead to an associate’s degree, non-degree certificate or certification in a high demand job as defined by the Department of Labor.