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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been in the Army for 11 years and have been active duty for 5 of those years. I am currently on active duty orders with the Utah National Guard. Because of my work schedule, I plan on only taking one or two classes and then adding more each semester depending on how much of the work load I can handle. My question is, from what I have read it seems like the GI Bill is available only for a length of time. Since it will obviously take me much longer to complete my degree than the standard 48 months what would you recommend I do?

A: You are confusing me right off of the bat. If you are actually in the Army, then how can you have been on active duty for 5 out of the 11 years? Either you would have been in the Army for all eleven years or not. The Army does not have a part-time or inactive program, so I have to question whether you mean you are actually in the Army, or if you are in the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) program – a National Guard or Army Reserve program – which is different from being in the active Army.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to your question, but first I have to ask, why are you using your GI Bill now? If you are in the active Army, you could be using Tuition Assistance and preserving your Post 9/11 GI Bill to use later or to transfer to your spouse or dependent children once you are eligible for the transfer option?

If you are actually in the Army, you could also use the Tuition Top-Up program, but that is not available if you are AGR. Even though you wear the U.S. Army tab on your uniform, the programs available to you differ depending on your branch of service.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill gives you 36 months of benefits that you have 15 years from your date of discharge to use. So while you can use your GI Bill benefits now, you do have up to 15 years after you get out.

The 48 months comes into play if you first use up your 36 months of the Montgomery GI Bill and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the 12 additional months. However, 36 months is enough to get a four-year degree by going to school for four 9-month school years.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am an Air Force veteran. I enlisted in 13 Dec 2005 and was honorably discharged 17 Sep 2011. I still have my GI Bill and was curious about “interval pay?” I am assuming that is the pay for living expenses? Or if that isn’t it, I was curious if you got a housing allowance for being a student. And if so do I have to be a full-time student or just taking a few classes?

A: Interval pay was the pay students used to get when they were on breaks between semesters. Under the GI Bill 2.0, it was eliminated. If you use your Post 9/11 GI Bill and take enough credits each semester, then yes you would get the housing allowance during the time you are taking classes.

The housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. As long as you take 51% or more of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time, you would be authorized the housing allowance, but at a prorated and reduced rate.

For example, if your school considers full-time at 12 credits and you are taking 7 credits, then you would only get 7/12th of the full-time housing allowance. That changed awhile back also. It used to be as long as you were taking 51% of the full-time number, you got 100% of the housing allowance.

Also, you have to watch out for classes that run less than a full semester. You only get the housing allowance if you are at or above the 51% mark. So let’s say you are taking three 3-credit classes at the start of the semester for a total of 9 credits – your school considers 12 credits to be full-time. Let’s also say that one of your 3-credit classes ends two weeks before the end of the semester. You would not get any housing allowance for those last two weeks of the semester, because with that one class ending, that dropped you down to 6 credits and you needed a minimum of 7 credits (51%) to be authorized the housing allowance in this example. So in essence, the housing allowance is also calculated on the number of credits you are taking day-by-day.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, my husband and I may be getting a divorce and he is still active duty. He has transferred all 36 months of his Post 9/11 GI Bill to me. The school I am interested in attending is a Yellow Ribbon school. According to the VA website, active duty spouses cannot participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Would I still fall under that once we are divorced? It’s for law school, and it would make a tremendous difference whether or not I could utilize the Yellow Ribbon Program. Also, would all of the other benefits (housing allowance, etc.) kick in if I was no longer an active duty spouse but still using the benefits while he, the sponsor is active duty? Thank you!

A: It looks like you have done your research. As you know, all you get as an active duty spouse is your tuition/eligible fees paid for by the VA directly to your school and a book stipend of $41.67 per credit once per semester. The reason of course why you don’t also get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance is because your hubby is drawing BAH with dependents instead of single. If you would also get the housing allowance, that would in essence be double-dipping or paying you twice for the same thing.

But once that active duty spouse stigma is removed after the divorce, and DEERS is updated to show you are no longer married to your sponsor, then you could draw the monthly housing allowance, qualify to use the Yellow Ribbon program, etc. – just like any other Post 9/11 GI Bill student.

Yes, the Yellow Ribbon program can be quite a boon to the student that:
• Pays out-state tuition
• Is in graduate school
• Attends a private school.

Law school would fall under the graduate school and maybe even private school depending on which school you attend. Please heed a word of caution though – just because your school is Yellow Ribbon, not all of their training programs may be covered under the program. Ask first before enrolling to be sure law school is included in their Yellow Ribbon agreement, at what percentage, annual monetary limit, how many students they accept into the YR program, etc.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was released from the Arkansas National Guard under honorable conditions and was wondering if I am still eligible for my education benefits and if so who might I contact to find out how to get things started. Thanks for the help.

A: As a National Guardsman, you had the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). One of the anomalies of that GI Bill is that its benefits expire upon discharge from the National Guard. The other anomaly under that GI Bill is your education benefits expire upon reaching ten years of service. So if you served in the Guard for ten years or more, your MGIB-SR benefits had already expired when you got out. If you served less than 10 years, then they expired when you got out.

However, you may have 36 months of GI Bill benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, if you deployed after September 10, 2001 while you were in the Guard. All it takes to acquire minimum eligibility at the 40% level is serving for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. A typical one-year tour would put you at the 60% tier.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition at your percentage if you attend a public school. If you attend a private school, then the VA would pay up to your percentage of $17,500 per year in tuition.

Whether you attend a private or public school, you would get a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take paid at your percentage. You would also get your percentage of $41.67 per credit once each semester (up to your percentage of $1,000) in a book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I contributed to my GI Bill in 1987-88, and then received a Gen/Hon Discharge in 1990. I was informed that even though I contributed to the fund, I could not receive the benefits because I did not receive a Honorable Discharge. I then reenlisted in the Reserve/Nat Guard in 2003-2009. I am told I have no educational benefits for that enlistment as well? Is there any recourse?

A: What you were informed about regarding your GI Bill and your discharge is true. To qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill, you had to have one enlistment ending in an honorable discharge during that time you were in. As far as your Reserve GI Bill, those benefits ended when you were discharged. However, even if you would have stayed in the Reserves for 10 years, they would have expired at the 10-year mark anyway.

As far as a recourse, you could have one . . . did you deploy while you were in the Reserves or National Guard for six years? If so, that could be your saving grace; if not, you are out of options unless you get your discharge upgraded to Honorable.

As long as you deployed for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, and that ended in an honorable discharge, you could get 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 40% level. If you deployed for a normal one-year tour, the percentage goes up to 60%. While that is not a lot, it is more than you would otherwise get in your situation with your other two GI Bills.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition up to your percentage, you get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend once per semester, both paid at your Post 9/11 GI Bill percentage.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I used about 16 months of my Montgomery G.I. Bill while still on active duty to complete my Bachelors. I am now honorably discharged as of 2007 and served 10 years active duty and paid the extra $600.00. I now am going to get my Masters online thru Liberty University. They have a block rate of $2,200.00 per semester which is 3 months long. Is it best to keep CH 30 and then exhaust it and pick up CH 33 for an additional 12 months? Also, since it will be all online, do I still get the $1,473/mth to pay the tuition and books and pocket the rest or will the VA only give me enough to cover tuition? Thank you!

A: If you use your Montgomery GI Bill to take online classes, the VA would still pay you $1,473 per month from your GI Bill and about another $150 from the Buy-Up program to go to school. You would have to pay your own tuition, books and other education-related fees. So for each 3-month semester, you would get $4,869 from your MGIB/Buy-Up leaving you with $2,669 leftover for the semester to buy books and for living expenses.

Going to school online under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay your tuition and you would get $673.50 per month in housing allowance or $2,020.50 for the semester. You would also get about $500 in book stipend money, so it almost ends up being a wash within about $143 per semester.

So in your situation, it looks like you could exhaust your remaining months of MGIB and then pick up your additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Another consideration to stay with the MGIB would be your $600 Buy-Up Program. If you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would lose that as it is not a valid program under the New GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Ok so I’ve got a couple questions as a reference I’m a dependent using my father’s Post 9/11 GI Bill. First off I’m about to finish my freshman year of college and have used all the allowed months for this year, that being said is my dad able to take online courses over the summer using a portion of the GI Bill he hasn’t transferred over? Secondly if I finish this year and stop attending college for two years then come back would I owe the VA anything? And what if I end up being unable to return and finish my degree would I owe the VA money? Lastly if I were to marry a woman currently in the army would I lose the GI Bill from my father and if not could I use the remaining amount then use a year from my spouses GI Bill?

A: To answer your first question, yes, your dad controls his Post 9/11 GI Bill. So if he wants to take classes online during the summer with what benefits he has left, that is his prerogative.

If you stop using your GI Bill, either due to you running out of benefits or just deciding you no longer want to go to college, you owe the VA nothing. The VA’s part in you using the GI Bill is to ensure you use your benefits responsibly and to pay for classes that are credited toward your declared field of study. If you decide not to finish your degree plan, or to stop now and finish it later, you can do that. Just keep in mind that you will lose whatever unused benefits you have left at age 26.

As far as your last question, you would not lose your GI Bill benefits transferred to you by your father if you marry. And yes, your spouse could transfer a year of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to you to use. As a spouse, you have up to 15 years from the time of transfer to use your transferred benefits.

So in theory, you could use your father’s GI Bill transferred benefits up to age 26, marry and then have up to 15 years to use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to you by your military spouse. Just know that if you use your spousal transferred benefits while she is still serving, you would not get the housing allowance, whereas with transferred benefits from your father, you would get it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My dad was informed May 2008 that he was deemed 100% disabled and the VA dated the start date of this back to 1999. At the time if I look back to 1999, I was 25 years of age. In my mind I should be able to submit a claim for the 2 years of school I completed using the date the VA deemed my father as 100%, notified in 2008, but backdated to 1999? He or I had no idea he was 100% till 2008, so I was not able to apply upfront for the benefits, but we feel that the VA should honor my claim based on the back-date of his disability to 1999? Can you please help? I just submitted the application and my father’s paperwork yesterday to the VA office in St Louis, MO… Thank you.

A: There are a couple of things at play here. First, back in 1999, your dad would have had the Montgomery GI Bill. Unfortunately, that GI Bill did not have a transfer-to-dependent option, so he would not have been able to transfer GI Bill benefits to you to go to school.

Second, you did not say if your dad’s 100% disability was service-connected or not. If it was, you may have qualified at the time for up to 45 months of educational benefits under Chapter 35 – the Survivors’ and Dependents Education Assistance Program (DEA). If not service-connected, then you would not have qualified.

However, even if you did qualify for Chapter 35 entitlement, there is a statute of limitations as far as how far back the VA will pay benefits. Generally speaking, you can only claim back one year, meaning you could only go back to 2007. Also, if you could go back further, you can only use Chapter 35 benefits up to age 26, so if you were 25 at the time, you would only have been able to use one year of benefits.

You can pursue a claim to the VA if you want, but based on the information I provided in this blog post, I don’t see much chance of success. But good luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I served just under two years in the US Navy (Sep 2005 to July 2007). I was honorably discharged and have a re-enlistment code of 4 (I believe). During Boot Camp, I elected to deposit $100.00 a month for the GI Bill for the total of a year. I completed my deposits at the end of my first year of service – totaling $1,200.00 invested. Upon my discharge I was informed that I was not eligible for the GI Bill. Is this actually the case? Am I entitled to some benefits here? Or at least a refund of the $1,200.00 I invested? I look forward to hearing from you. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Thank you in advance.

A: Whether or not you are eligible for the GI Bill depends on a couple of things. If you didn’t complete your original enlistment, you may still be eligible if you were separated early for one of the following reasons:
• Convenience of the Government
– You must have 30 months of continuous active duty if your obligation was 3 or more years.
– You must have 20 months of continuous active duty if your obligation was less than 3 years.
• Service-connected disability
• Hardship
• A medical condition that you had before service
• A physical or mental condition that interfered with performance of duty and didn’t result from misconduct on your part

If you qualify with an early separation for Convenience of the Government as described above, you may be eligible for the full 36 months of Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits. If you qualify with an early separation for any of the other reasons above, you will be eligible for less than 36 months.

The best you can hope for is one month of benefits for each month of service. However, you should also qualify for a partial Post 9/11 GI Bill. You should have 36 months of benefits at the 80% tier. As far as getting your $1,200 back, that isn’t going to happen unless you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. After using up all your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you might get some of your $1,200 back as part of your last housing allowance payment.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I intend to go to school online after I retire. Being I already have an associate’s degree, how many credit hours do I need to take per semester to be eligible for MGIB? Should I switch to the Post 9/11? If I switch to the 9/11 GI Bill, will they only allow me to get my BA, or can I keep going?

A: Already having an associate’s degree has no bearing on the number of credits you need to take per semester to qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). The MGIB pays out in various amounts based on the number of years you served and your rate of pursuit. For example if you are a ¾ time student having served at least three years of service, you would get $1,104.75 per month.

If you served less than three years, then you would only get $897 per month. Your rate of pursuit is determined by the number of credits you take, and relative to the number of credits your school considers to be full-time.

As far as if you should switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill or not, it depends on a couple of factors. First, if your 36 months of GI Bill benefits is enough to get you the degree you want, then it would probably be a smart move. If you need more months of benefits, then you might be better off to use up your MGIB and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get the additional 12 months of benefits.

If you switch with MGIB months left, you get that same number of months and not the additional ones. So it comes down to either getting the higher payout and no extra months or the extra months and lower payout. Under either GI Bill, you can go all the way up through a PhD.