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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am eligible for both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Hazelwood Act. I am currently on active duty and will retire in one year. I have three daughters. The first will start at Texas A&M in the Fall 2014. What are my options for funding her education while reserving some for the next two children? Specifically, can I use the Hazelwood exemption first, even though I am still active duty? Can I save the Post 9/11 GI Bill for daughter number 2 or 3 in case they opt for a private school or out of state school? Thanks for the help.
Cheers! — Rust

A: No you can’t use your Hazelwood Act first, because to do so, you need a DD214 showing you have been discharged and you don’t have that yet. At the least, make a transfer of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to each daughter – at least one month to daughters 2 and 3 and nine months to daughter number 1 before you get out. Now daughter number 1 is covered for the first year.

By giving each one at least one month of benefits, now you have the flexibility to move your transferred benefits around after you retire. If you don’t give daughters 2 and 3 at least one month of benefits, you could not give them any after retiring.

You have 150 hours of Hazelwood Act benefits you can transfer, however normally you can use Hazelwood Act benefits only after using up all of your Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you wanted to keep it fair among all three daughters what about giving daughter number one 28 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and daughters 2 and 3 each 4 months. Then give each daughters 2 and 3 seventy-five hours of Hazelwood Act benefits. That way each daughter gets a total of 28 months of benefits between the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Hazelwood Act.

Granted, dollar-wise it would not be fair as daughter number one would end up with more benefits financially. With some thought, you can probably work out a fairer breakdown, but at least this gives you something to think about.

And maybe daughter number one only wants to get a two-year degree in which you would have 4 additional months to divide up among the other two daughters. The key is to give each daughter some Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits while you are still serving and then revoke and reallocate as necessary once you are out and they are in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have some Part 61 flight instructors willing to support my intended use of GI Bill to pay for a Commercial Twin Engine rating. However they want me to do all the leg work to get them all forms they would need to fill out to become approved by the VA and such. Couple of questions:

• Can you get me more info such as the required forms that the part 61 trainer will need to fill out.
• Roughly how long would it take them to get approved?
• Can I start my training before they are approved and still get reimbursement once their VA approval comes in?
• Do I have to have a Class 2 medical prior to starting the training
Thanks! — James

A: Hi James. I’ll answer each one of your questions in the order asked. First, your flight instructors will have to be part of a VA-approved flight school before the VA would approve the rating you want to take. If their school is not approved, they can go to this link for information on how to get approved. While the link refers to foreign schools, the requesting process is the same for U.S. schools.

As far as how long it takes to get approved, I won’t even guess. The VA has to investigate the entity requesting approval. It can get to be a lengthy back and forth process. If you are in a hurry to get started, my suggestion is to go to a school already approved.

No, the school has to be approved first before your Post 9/11 GI Bill can pay for the training. The rational is what happens if the school ends up not getting approved? Approval is not a rubber stamp process and many schools don’t get approved.

Yes. Again the rational is what happens if the VA paid for a bunch of flight training only to find out you can’t pass the medical exam required to fly. It would be a waste of money so they required you to pass the medical first if required, before they pay for training.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: As a spouse of an active duty member who has passed his GI Bill to me, can I use the bill to get two different master’s degrees from two different schools?

A: You probably could with proper justification, but not at the same time. Why? Because the VA will only let you work on one degree plan at a time. However you could attend two schools at the same time while working on one degree plan.

The way to do it is to designate the school that would be issuing your degree as your parent school. Your other school is your secondary school. Have your parent school approve the classes you want to take at your secondary school. Once you have finished classes there, your secondary school will send a transcript of your credits to your parent school and they will credit your degree plan with those credits.

Now onto using Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to fund two master’s degrees. Typically the VA will only approve a degree plan that is higher than the one you used your GI Bill entitlement for the last time. So if you use it to get your first master’s degree, they normally would not approve you getting a second degree at the same level, unless the two degrees are in related fields and you can convince how getting the second master’s degree will help you career-wise.

Without knowing more information, would it be wiser to save the entitlement you would use for a second master’s degree and instead apply it toward a PhD? The VA would most likely approve that degree plan without reservation.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I have approx. 18 months left on my MGIB and I’m wondering how to maximize the transfer to the new 9/11 GI Bill and provide those to my 2 kids before I leave the military. How much can I end up transferring to them? Will they only receive 18 months, 36 months, or 48 months? For me to obligate another 4 years of service, I’m hoping to be able to get 48 months but don’t know how. Thanks for the help. — Steve

A: There is not a way to get more Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement than what you have left under the Montgomery GI Bill Steve. If you only have 18 months of entitlement left, then that is the total amount of entitlement you have to split between your two kids – each one could get up to 9 months of entitlement or you could split it up however you want – as long as it doesn’t total over 18 months. And yes, to make that transfer, you would have to commit to an additional four years of service.

The question you have to ask yourself is “Is it worthwhile for me to serve four more years in order to give each kid one academic year of benefits?”

Depending on where your kids go to school, it indeed could be worth it. Right now, the if they were to attend a private school, the VA would pay up to $20,235.02 per year in tuition directly to each of their schools.

If their tuition exceeded that amount, and their schools were part of the Yellow Ribbon Program, the school could pay up to half of the difference and the VA would pay an equal amount (on top of the $20,235.02 they already paid.) If they decide to attend a public school in their home state, then their tuition would be paid in full by the VA.

Each kid would also get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance which averages $1,300 per month (even if they lived at home rent free). Since it is based on the zip code of the school and the number of credit each one takes, theirs could be more or less than the average.

In addition, each kid would get up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend. So if you total that all up, that year of entitlement to each kid could be worth upwards of $33,000. If they end up using the Yellow Ribbon Program, it would be even higher – probably around $40,000 per kid.

So is that worth another four years of service? To me it would be, but that is a decision you’ll have to make on your own. Just don’t wait too long before making that decision as once you start transitional leave, you can’t request a transfer of benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was active duty Army from 1985-87, enrolled in MGIB and paid my $1,200. In 1988 I joined the Reserves but due to circumstances I wasn’t able to satisfy the attendance requirement. I’m not sure about my discharge. Fast forward to 2009, I went active duty again however recruiter told me due to prior service I had to dis-enroll for education benefits. I completed 4 more years on active duty ETS’ing in 2013. I joined the Reserves again and still attend drills. The question I have is what education benefit will I be eligible for?

A: You’ll have benefits under both the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD), Post 9/11 GI Bill and possibly the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR).

Even though the MGIB-AD has a 10-year shelf life, and your original start date would have been when you first got out in 1987, the date resets itself if you enlist for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order, meaning your date started over again with your 2013 ETS. That is also your start date for your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, but you have up to 15 years to use it.

And while you have benefits under two GI Bills and possibly three, note that under the Rule of 48, the most number of combined months of entitlement you can get is 48 months.

The way to get all 48 months is to first use up your 36 months of MGIB-AD, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get your additional 12 months totaling 48. If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with MGIB-AD benefits left, then all you’ll get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the same number of months you had left under the MGIB-AD and not the additional 12 months of entitlement.

And you could do that – give up your MGIB-AD and use all 36 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but you may also have one other option.

If you also have the MGIB-SR, you could give up that GI Bill, use those 36 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and then use up your final 12 months under the MGIB-AD. The advantage to doing it this way is that the Post 9/11 GI Bill in most cases pays a lot more than the MGIB-AD.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I was just curious to get a second opinion. I am taking summer classes at the University of Idaho, mix of online and actual classes. My school has a system where you can take 11 credits, what I am taking, but only have to take 3-6 credits at a time. So, I am taking the actual in a class-room classes from May 16-June 24. My two online classes are from June 13-July 08 and July 11-Aug 05. With that said my question is how will my housing allowance be effected? Will I get my housing allowance if, after June 24th, I am only taking online classes?

A: Because the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance is dependent on the zip code of your school and the number of classes you take, it can be affected if you:
• Have a pursuit less than full-time.
• Taking all classes online.

Have a pursuit less than full-time
Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to take at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time in order to qualify for any housing allowance at all. But because you are taking those credits spread out over three periods of time, you’ll only get paid for the number of credits you are taking at any one time. You’ll get the in-class rate for the percentage of full-time credits you are taking for that period of time.

For example, if your schools summer session full-time number of credits is 6 and you are taking 4 credits at the time, you would get 4/6th (or 2/3rds) of the full amount for that period.

Under your schedule, you would get paid one amount from May 16th through June 12th; you would get a different amount from June 13th through June 24th because of your first online class starting and the dates overlapping. Then on June 25th, your credits drop again due to your first class ending, so the amount you would get drops and goes to the online-only rate until July 8th. The online only rate picks up again on July 8th and goes through the end of your third class.

Taking all classes online
Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, online-only classes are paid according to a different rate schedule than in-class classes. If your online-only rate of pursuit is considered full-time, then the most you would get is $754.50 per month. If your rate of pursuit is less than full-time, then you would get a pro-rated lesser amount each month.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I just received my Certificate of Eligibility for the MGIB. I have 36 months of benefits and 27 months until my delimiting date. Based on my dates of service, I would be eligible to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill (at the 80% rate). I compared the Bills’ benefits and MGIB works best for me. However, I would like to use 36 months of benefits, if possible. So, say I use 25 months of benefits under MGIB and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Would I still have 11 months of benefits remaining under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and would my delimiting date be extended by 5 years? If so, do I need to make the switch before I hit the MGIB delimiting date?

A: You don’t need me; you have it figured correctly! The way the transfer program works when transferring remaining unused Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is you would get the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the MGIB – just as you had stated. And because the Post 9/11 GI Bill has a 15-year delimitation date instead of 10 years, your end date would be extended by five years.

As far as when you switch, it shouldn’t make a difference. Just go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. Be sure to check the Block 9F in Part II, put in an effective date and check the Chapter 30 block as the GI Bill you are giving up.

I’m surprised the MGIB works out better for you than the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under the MGIB, you would get up to $1,648 per month to go to school. Out of that amount, you would have to pay tuition, fees, books, etc.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition up to the resident rate at a public school or up to $20,235.02 at a private school. Monthly you get a housing allowance that averages $1,300 across the United States. Your amount may be more or less depending on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. In addition, for two semester each year you would get up to $500 per semester in book stipend money.

While the monthly amount you get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill may be less than it is under the MGIB, your tuition is already paid under the Post 9/11 GI Bill so your monthly housing allowance is free and clear. All I ask is that you recheck your numbers before deciding on which GI Bill to use.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Am I to understand that a 70% permanent disability rating does not qualify my daughter to receive Chapter 35 benefits as a dependent? Her father is an amputee from a service related incident.

A: That is correct. The exact wording is “A Veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability.” At 70% he is not totally (100%) disabled. I know this sounds cruel and harsh, but it is the rule governing the Chapter 35 GI Bill.

However, that should not disdain her from going to school. There are thousands of scholarships, grants and work/study programs that she can apply for. One of her first moves should be to fill out and send in a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. She will get back a report as far as what she qualifies for in the Pell Grant and other types of money for her education. That will give her a starting point.

Then she should start working the scholarships available for children of disabled veterans. One good site that comes to mind is FinAid. Two other programs are the Scholarships for Military Children Program and HomeFrontAmerica.

And here is a comprehensive list of resources from U.S. Veterans Magazine. These four sources were from a couple minutes of searching. Just Google “scholarships for children of veterans” and start working the list of sources returned.

This doesn’t include all of the scholarships available to non-military children. That is a whole search of itself.

Many schools offer their own scholarships and work/study programs. If you are not familiar with work/study, it is where her college would give her a job that requires a few hours per week of work in exchange for a certain amount of reduction in college tuition.

My point is the money is out there, but it will require some work to get it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars each year go un-awarded because students do not apply for it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: First question: I was paid a living expense while going to school, but then got a letter stating they overpaid me and I needed to pay it back. This was done more than once. How can they make the same mistake that many times? How can I find out if they are telling me the truth? I am married with 2 kids and make $8.00 an hour. Is there a program to help me pay it back?

A: First, in defense of the VA, they were paying you what they thought you had coming as far as what they were seeing in your records. Evidently that was not right and it took awhile for the error to surface. My question is why were you not eligible for the living expense?

Where you not taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. If so, that would have made you ineligible.

Or were you taking all classes online, but getting the Post 9/11 GI Bill full housing allowance rate. In this case, you were being paid about twice of what you should have received. Or maybe they were paying you based on the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier rate when in fact you should have been paid at a lesser percentage. Or maybe you dropped classes after your school’s official drop date had passed or did not pass some classes.

Depending on the reason for the drop or failure, they may have determined that you have to pay back that money paid for those classes or the housing allowance amount dependent on those classes.

As you can see, there is a myriad of reasons for overpayment. Because there is not a program to help you pay it back, your best bet now is to contact the VA Debt Management Center and try to work out a payment schedule with them. If you don’t, then the VA will turn it over to the IRS and they will withhold the amount you owe (and probably with interest) from your next Income Tax Refund.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is an active duty service member. I am a veteran with full benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. My question is can I get the MHA while my husband is getting BAH? How does that work? Are they going to give to me the MHA or are they taking my husband’s BAH? I’m starting school in a couple of months I just want to know what to do. Thank you. — Yadira

A: This is a question I frequently get asked Yadira and I think the reason it is so confusing is there are two different sets of rules when it comes to spouses of active duty personnel and Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance eligibility.

Because you have your own Post 9/11 GI Bill as a veteran, the normal rule for spouses of active duty personnel does not apply. In your case you would be treated as if your spouse was no longer on active duty, meaning you would get the full housing allowance authorized for you. And he still draws his BAH just like before you started school.

However, if you did not have your own Post 9/11 GI Bill, but were using benefits transferred from your active duty husband, then no you would not get the housing allowance too because that would be double-dipping which is against the law.

Keep in mind there are two housing allowance pay structures – one of you are taking all classes online and the other if you are taking classes on campus or a mix of online and on-campus.

If you are taking all classes online, then your housing allowance would max out at $754.50 per month (as of August 1st). Take a mix or all classes on campus and your housing allowance would almost double. Just something to think about.

In either case, the VA would still pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school and you would still get the book stipend each semester (up to the $1,000 yearly cap).