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

Q: I am about to get out of my active duty commitment. I was in for 8 years. I am currently looking at Yellow Ribbon services for college full tuition schools already paid for. Does that mean I can pocket my GI Bill? If yes, no or maybe, can you go in detail how I can get my college paid for while pocketing my GI Bill?

A: Based on your question, I don’t think you understand the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It is used mainly by students that have to pay out-state tuition, are in graduate school or attending a private school.

The way tuition payment works under the New GI Bill is the VA would pay your tuition in full up to the resident rate if you attend a public school. So if you are a resident in the state where you attend school, you would not need to use the Yellow Ribbon program.

If any of the other conditions I mentioned apply, you could use the Yellow Ribbon Program, but it only pays on the difference between what the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays and what your school charges. By agreement, your school could pay up to half of the difference (but it could be a lesser percentage) and the VA would pay an equal amount. As far as the money you actually receive, you get the monthly housing allowance and a book stipend once per semester. You can spend that money as you wish.

What many people do not realize is that the VA is the last payer, so if you have scholarships or grants dedicated to paying your tuition, the VA ends up paying less in tuition, but you don’t get the difference in money. Your GI Bill benefit just ended up paying less, but you still used up the same amount of entitlement – you just got less bang for your buck.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I already used my Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement, can you still get the 12-month extension for a vocational school etc., if still unemployed?

A: No you can’t get an extension via the Post 9/11 GI Bill, however, you may qualify for the newest GI Bill – the VRAP (Veterans Retraining Assistance Program). To qualify for the program, you must:
• Be at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
• Be unemployed on the date of application
• Received an other than dishonorable discharge
• Be 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 be in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
• Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program.

If you qualify for the program, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. You will hear back very quickly as to whether or not you qualify. If you find out you do, you can receive up to 12 months of benefits paid at the Montgomery GI Bill monthly rate of $1,473.

Your training program must be completed within one year and result in a license, certification or associate’s degree in a high demand occupation as defined by the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will even help you find a job after completing your training program.

If you do not qualify for VRAP, then you most likely have reached the end of your GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir/Ma’am, I am currently a Major in the Regular Army with almost 16 years of federal active service. I enrolled in the GI Bill when I was commissioned in 1996. I was a non-scholarship ROTC cadet and paid the $1,200 for enrollment. I also purchased the $600 GI Bill kicker in 2005. Additionally, I am currently deployed to Iraq with scheduled redeployment in August. I have a few questions regarding my GI Bill benefits. They are as follows:
1) I have not converted from the GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and I am looking for information on how to accomplish this. Can I accomplish the conversion while I am deployed?
2) I understand that once I transfer my GI Bill benefits, I owe the Army an additional 4 years of service. Is it 4 years from the date of acceptance of the change to the post 9/11 GI Bill? If so, how long does this process typically take?
3) My wife and I do not currently have children, but would like to someday. Once I have converted to the Post 911 GI Bill should I transfer the benefits to her until we have children? I just want to ensure that if we have a child at my 19th year of service and I transfer the benefits from my wife to child that I do not have to serve any more time.
4) If we do have children, it is my understanding that the child can use the benefits until age 26. Is this true?
5) If for some reason I decide to re-call my benefits from my wife or children, can I do that once I transfer the benefits to them? Thank you very much for your assistance.

A: O.K., here we go.
1) To convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990. As long as you have Internet access, you can do it even when you are deployed, but you don’t have to. What you will get back is a Certificate of Eligibility that shows your eligibility, number of months and percentage.
2) To transfer benefits, you have to have served for at least 6 years, currently serving and have at least 4 years left on your enlistment at the time your transfer request is approved. However, if your current enlistment takes you out to the “retirement eligible” point, meaning 20 years of service or more, then no additional service is required. From the time you make your transfer request until it is approved, can take 8 to 10 weeks.
3) Yes, I would recommend transferring your Post 9/11 GI Bill to your wife. If you are blessed with children in your 19th year, you would not be required to serve any additional time. The important thing to keep in mind is the transfer request must be completed before you are discharged.
4) Yes that is true. The child can start using benefits upon turning age 18 or graduating from high school, whichever comes first.
5) The great thing about transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits while you are still serving is you can revoke and reallocate benefits between members already having received benefits. And you can do this even after you have retired. What you can’t do after retiring is to transfer benefits to a dependent not already having received benefits while you were serving.

Just one more thing. You would not be able to use your $600 Buy-Up with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It can only be used with the Montgomery GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: CSM, I was on active duty for 10+ years and paid for the GI Bill and the $600 Buy-Up Program. Immediately after separating, I joined the Navy Reserve Component and went to school. I used the MGIB and have about 15 months left when I was called back to serve in Kuwait for nearly 14 months. During demobilization we were told that since we were reactivated we would be able to go ahead and start using the Post 9/11 GI Bill and in my case I would be able to combine the 15 leftover months with the additional 12 months for a total of 27 months of the Post 9/11 GI bill. My original plan was to use the remainder of the MGIB and then the “extra” 12 months of the Post 9/11 but after hearing this I had to ask. Thank you for what you do.

A: What you were told at your demobilization was wrong. Surprise huh! The way the Post 9/11 GI Bill works, if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, you have to give up one to use the New GI Bill. So if you switch to the New GI Bill with months of benefits left on your old GI Bill, then all you will get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill are those same number of months and not the additional months.

However, if you first expend all your old GI Bill benefits and then switch, you get the additional 12 months of benefits. But if the only active duty time you have after September 10, 2001 is your 14 months of mobilization, then transferring to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away might not be in your best interest.

If you only have 14 months of Title 10 time after the September date, you would be at the 60% Post 9/11 GI Bill level, which usually means you would earn more money by staying with the old GI Bill, especially since you also have the Buy-Up program. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would lose your Buy-Up. With the Buy-Up and Montgomery GI Bill, you would get $1,621 per month.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is active duty Navy and he wants to transfer his GI Bill to me. If I went to school and the GI Bill is more than the tuition, what happens to the rest of it? Are we allowed to use the rest of that money for a cushion because I will not be working anymore?

A: The only GI Bill your husband can transfer to you is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. But before he can make a transfer request and get it approved, he has to have served for at least six years and have at least four years left on his enlistment at the time of transfer.

So once he has those two requirements in place, he can make a transfer request to you by going to the milConnect website. Once his request is approved, which can take up to 10 weeks, then you have to go to the eBenefits website and request your Certificate of Eligibility by submitting VA Form 22-1990e. You will need that certificate when you enroll as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is unique in the way it works. If you go to school while your husband is still on active duty, then all you would get is your tuition and eligible fees paid and the book stipend. If you attend a public school, then the VA would pay your tuition and fees directly to your school. If you attend a private school, then they would pay up to $17,500 per year. So as you can see, they don’t pay a standard amount and if your tuition is less you get the extra money. The VA only pays actual costs and no more.

If you choose to go to school after your husband is out of the military, then you would also get the housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir – I served in the Navy for 28 years and retired in February, 2009. Since I was already out when the new GI Bill took effect in August 2009 it appears I missed the window to transfer eligibility (TOE) to one of my children. My questions are: Why the Aug. 09 effective date that precluded a lot of people like me from the TOE benefit, and did the GI Bill 2.0 passed in 2011 do anything to grandfather others into TOE?

A: Why the August 1, 2009 for the Post 9/11 GI Bill implementation date? Good question! That was the date chosen by Congress and why they picked it is still a mystery to me. But yes, you along with thousands of other Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible career veterans, were overlooked as far as having the transfer-of-benefits option.

Congress was focused on using the Post 9/11 GI Bill as reenlistment incentive, even though they pushed the eligibility date back to September 10, 2001. The language reads that to make a transfer request, the servicemember had to be serving “on or after August 1, 2009.” It never made any sense to me to limit your options to just using the Post 9/11 GI Bill yourself.

The GI Bill 2.0 did nothing to change the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits issue for pre-August 1, 2009 retirees. However, I have created a petition that if approved would provide for a one-time opportunity to make a transfer request. If you would like to support this endeavor, you can read the petition in whole at the link and then choose to sign it or not.

I created the petition because two previous pieces of legislation never made it to a vote, let alone pass. The support in Congress just wasn’t there. That is why I’m submitting the petition directly to the President at the end of June.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Dear Ron, my father is currently a CMSgt in the Air Force and has 3 years left of his GI Bill, which he says he is going to split between my brother and me. Now that I have a year and a half of the GI Bill that I can use to cover my schooling, I was wondering what would happen to any additional scholarships I have earned. Florida has the Bright Futures program which will cover $3000 of tuition a year- do I lose this when I use the GI Bill, or does it make me ineligible for the GI Bill? I have also earned a $500 scholarship from an Elks lodge and am currently competing for various others. Can I deduct the amount of these scholarships from the GI Bill and use it for other things, such as purchasing food or a car? And if not, what becomes of these awards? Thank you!

A: What many Post 9/11 GI Bill users don’t know is the VA is the last payer when using multiple financial aid, tuition-dedicated programs. So if you have various scholarships and grants that are tuition fenced, meaning the money must be applied towards tuition, then the VA would only be responsible to pay what tuition difference is left and they would not pay as much toward your tuition as they would if you did not use any scholarships.

However, the down side is that you are still getting charged the same amount of entitlement. So for a semester of entitlement, you might only be getting just the housing allowance and book stipend for your benefit use. Is that a good use of your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit? It isn’t in my estimation, but you have to make your own decision.

A better plan might be to use up your scholarship money and then use your Post 9/11 GI Bill after the scholarships are used up or no longer offered. You have up to age 26 to use your GI Bill benefits.

If your scholarships and grants are not fenced, meaning the money is either given directly to you or to your school and put into an account for you, then that ends up being extra money for you to use any way you want. If your non-fenced scholarship money goes to your school, and you are also using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, make sure your school knows to not use the money to pay for your tuition as that is already paid for by the GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If my state of residency is Texas, but I chose a private school in Louisiana, would I still be eligible for the GI Bill?

A: Yes, because the GI Bill is a federal educational assistance program, it can be used at either public or private school, in any of the States, Territories or even at foreign schools as long as the school is VA-approved.

If you choose to attend a private school using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA will pay your tuition and fees up to $17,500 per year directly to your school. Monthly, you would get a housing allowance dependent on the number of credits you take and the zip code of your school. Also once each semester, you would get a book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit, up to the $1,000 yearly cap which is enough for two 12-credit semester per year.

If you plan on using the Montgomery GI Bill, then you would get up to $1,473 per month and you would have to pay all your own education expenses including tuition.

You mentioned your state of residency is Texas, which may mean you could also qualify for the Hazelwood Act. The eligibility requirements are, who, at the time of entry into the U.S. Armed Forces:

  • Are Texas residents
  • Designated Texas as Home of Record
  • Entered the service in Texas
  • Served at least 181 days of active military duty excluding training
  • Received an honorable discharge or separation or a general discharge under honorable conditions.
  • Have no federal veteran’s education benefits, or have federal veterans education benefits dedicated to the payment of tuition and fees only.
  • Are not in default on a student loan made or guaranteed by the State of Texas.
  • Enroll in classes for which the college receives tax support.
  • Live in Texas while using Hazelwood benefits.

If you meet the above requirements, you could get up to 150 hours of education benefits that you could use once you finished using your GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been hearing rumors that veterans who did not use all of their eligibility, but are now past those 10 years of eligibility from the first Montgomery GI Bill, are now being allowed to use up the remaining GI Bill. I don’t believe this is true, but just in case I thought I should ask. I work in a Veterans Upward Bound program and would be delighted if some of our older veterans who used none of their GI Bill due to issues upon discharge – most specifically Vietnam Veterans, could use the rest of their GI Bill benefits now to attend college.

A: What you are hearing is not entirely true in that veterans can’t use expired Montgomery GI Bill benefits. However, there is a new GI Bill called VRAP that may help some of your clients. The VA just started taking applications for the program on May 15th. Basically the eligibility requirements are:
• at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
• unemployed
• received at least 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

However, the program is limited to 45,000 participants during this fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014. If accepted into the program, participants may receive up to 12 months of assistance paid at the current Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty rate of $1,473 per month. The Department of Labor (DOL) will offer employment assistance to every veteran completing the program.

Participants must enroll in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school. The program must lead to an associate’s degree, non-college degree, or certificate, and train the veteran for a high demand occupation.
Hopefully this blog, and VRAP, can be of some assistance to some of your clients.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello! I am stationed in Texas and I am Texas resident. But I have been accepted at Iowa State University and I am really worried and confused about the in-state tuition assistance thing. My question is am I’m eligible to get all the Post-9/11 GI-bill benefits like cost of tuition and fees if I prefer to attend school in another state? Which is out-of-my-state residence?

A: Yes, you would still get all the benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill at your authorized tier percentage regardless of where you go to school in the United States. The issue, if you attend an out-state school, is you most likely would have a difference between the non-resident and resident student tuition rate. Since the GI Bill 2.0 change, the VA will now only pay the resident rate at a public school and up to $17,500 per year at a private school.

However, I just looked and Iowa State University is a Yellow Ribbon school. What that means to you (if your program is included in their Yellow Ribbon Agreement) is they may waive part of the tuition left that you owe (up to 50%). Also as part of that agreement, the VA will pay an equal amount (up to 50%), so in theory that would leave nothing left for you to pay.

In reality, their stated percentage may be less than 50% and therefore the VA would pay less; you would end up owning a little money. But still, this is a great program for students attending a school out-state, going to graduate school or attending a private university. It makes the amount left for you to pay very minimal.