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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I do online courses do I still get the same money as a full time student attending a school?

A: No you don’t. Under GI Bill 2.0 changes, students taking all their classes online only get up to $673.50 per month in Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance – about half of the on-campus national average. Before GI Bill 2.0 though, online-only students were not authorized any housing allowance.

However, there is a work-around where you can get the full housing allowance authorized for the zip code of your school if you are classified as a full-time student. All you have to do is take at least one course on campus per semester that applies to your degree plan. Your on-campus class can be at any accredited school.

The key to making this work is your on-campus classes have to apply to your degree plan. They can be just a one-credit classes if that is what you need. Why? Because if they don’t apply to your degree plan, the VA will not pay for them or recognize them as being legitimate classes and hence those credits would not apply to the total amount you would need to get the traditional student housing allowance – just the online-only housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Having never participated/registered for the Montgomery GI Bill, am I eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill? How do I go about registering?

A: I’ll give you my standard answer – it depends. If you meet the eligibility requirement of having served for at least 90 days on a Title 10 order after September 10, 2001, then you at least meet the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility tier of 40%. Once you have at least three years of qualifying service, you will be at the 100% level. Anything in between will place you on a corresponding tier.

Your tier percentage makes a difference because if you are at less than 100%, you can’t use the Yellow Ribbon feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

There really isn’t any registering to getting the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you are eligible for it., then send in VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. In return, you will get your Certificate of Eligibility that will show how many months of benefits you have and at what percentage. You will have to hand in a copy of your certificate to your school when you enroll.

Keep in mind this is the amount of service required just for you to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you have plans to transfer any or all benefits to a spouse or dependent, then you need to have served for at least six years, be currently serving at the time of your request and generally have at least four years left on your enlistment at the time you make your transfer request.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in 1988 and ETS’d in 1991. I then used my G.I. Bill / Army College Fund to pay for a Bachelor’s degree. I re-entered service in 1998 as a commissioned officer, and am still serving. Am I entitled to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to transfer to my child?

A: You are, but it won’t be 36 months worth like you had under the Montgomery GI Bill. Under the Rule of 48, if you are eligible for two or more GI Bills, the most combined months of benefits that you can get is 48. So if you used 36 months before, then the most you could get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill and transfer to your daughter would be 12 months.

However, 12 months is better than nothing. To start the transfer process, be sure you have at least four years left on your enlistment. If you have less than four years until you are retirement eligible at 20 years of service, then you could have a lesser amount of additional required time left on your enlistment and still get your transfer request approved.

Once the request is approved, then your child has to request his/her Certificate of Eligibility from the eBenefits website by submitting VA Form 22-1990e. S/he will need to be at least graduated from high school or age 18 before requesting his/her certificate. A copy of it will have to be handed in when registering for school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I don’t know how many active duty months I have all together, and I am needing to figure this out soon so I can figure out what GI Bill I can use. Is there anywhere I can go to see how many months I’ve served on active duty? I am National Guard, and I have Basic Training, AIT, and a bunch of training I did in preparation for my deployment to Iraq. I just need to find out exactly how many months I have, and where I can go to find that. Thanks.

A: No there isn’t a place where you can see how many qualifying months you have for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but I can give you some guidelines and you can figure it out for yourself.

First, your deployment time on Title 10 orders in support of contingency operations count. So assuming you have a one-year tour on those orders, you have at least 36 months of education benefits at the 60% level of repayment.

The time you spent in Basic Training and AIT will not count until you have at least 24 months of qualifying time, and then those months will kick in and add to your eligibility, but for right now they do not count.

As far as your train-up time, it may or may not count – it depends on the type of orders you were on at the time. If they were Title 10 or Title 32 (sec.502f) then the time will count. However if they were just plain Title 32 or some other type order, then most likely that time will not count.

You could always go to the eBenefits website and request your Certificate of Eligibility by submitting VA Form 22-1990. That will show your months of unused benefits and your tier percentage.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a question about the transfer of benefits to dependents based on somewhat unique circumstances & dates. I’m a commissioned officer, having started OTS on 19 Aug 2002 (my pay date) and commissioning on 8 Nov 2002. However, I am expecting to be involuntarily separated (under honorable conditions, due to failure to be promoted) in 31 Jul 2012 or 31 Aug 2012. So you can see I might make the 10 years of service by about 10 days if I can make it to August. My transfer request date was 30 Nov 2010, prior to any of the promotion boards, and my obligation end date is 29 Nov 2014. Obviously, if I am involuntarily separated, I can’t reach 2014. So my questions are: 1) Based on these dates, if I am not separated until Aug 2012 will my dependents get to keep these benefits? 2) Same scenario, but if I have another child (let’s say in July 2012) after my date of separation is established (let’s say March 2012) but before I leave active duty (on 31 Aug 2012), will I be able to add that child to the list beneficiaries? I can’t find clarification for adding dependents to existing transfers after a date of separation is established prior to the obligation end date.

A: The way the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits rules read, it says if you “had at least 10 years of service in the Armed Forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of your transfer request approval, and are precluded by either standard policy (Service or DoD) or statute from committing to 4 additional years, and agree to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute”, your dependents should be able to keep their benefits.

My concern is the “had at least 10 years of service in the Armed Forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of your transfer request approval . . .” part. Your transfer request date was in November 2010, so your approval date was most likely at the end of 2010 or early in 2011 at which point you only had a little over 8 years of service. Based on this policy, I think your dependent benefits could be in jeopardy, but the final decision will have to be made by the VA.

What I can tell you about transferring benefits to a child after separating is that if you had not previously transferred benefits to that child while still serving, you can’t make a transfer to him/her after you have retired. The way the transfer rules read, to get a transfer request approved, you have to be currently serving at the time you make the request. So if the child has not been born yet while you are still serving, then you can’t make a request yet.

What you can do after retiring though is to manage any transferred benefits you have made while still serving. For example after you retire, if one child will not use the benefits you transferred to him or her, you can revoke those benefits and either use them yourself or transfer them to another child already having received transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

I picked up some more information this morning on VRAP. Here it is – “To apply or learn more information about VRAP or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits, including on how to apply please call 1-800-827-1000 or visit www.benefits.va.gov/VOW and fill out an online application (VONAPP), or Complete VA Form 28-1900, Disabled Veterans Application for Vocational Rehabilitation, and submit it to the nearest VA Regional Office.”

They will start accepting applications starting around May 15th.To apply, first create a VONAPP account. Creating an account is simple and fast. Your account request is approved in seconds and you are automatically logged-in.

If you already have an existing VONAPP account, then log-in. Once in VONAPP, fill out and submit VA Form 22-1990 – the same form used to apply for GI Bill benefits.

To keep up to date on the VRAP program, sign up for their personalized email service. You should start seeing emails around May 15th.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband did 9 years of active duty in the Army. He got out of the Army in 2005. He is now in the Army Reserves after enlisting in January, 2011. We would like some information on transferring his Montgomery GI Bill to the new GI Bill because we are interested in transferring it into our children for schooling in the future. Please provide further information on how we can go about this. Thank you!

A: Based on the information you provided, your husband meets the first Post 9/11 GI Bill service requirement of having served for at least six years of which at least three years had to be after September 10, 2001. Now that he is currently serving “on or after August 1, 2009” in the Army Reserves, he also has to meet the future service requirement of having at least four years left on his enlistment at the time he makes a transfer request.

As far as switching from the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it automatically happens when he submits a transfer request. If he planned on using his benefits to go to school, he would have to submit VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website, but because he is going to transfer benefits and doesn’t plan on using his benefits himself, he doesn’t have to submit the form.

Instead, once he has at least four years left on his enlistment, he can go to the milConnect website and enter into each child’s record the number of months he wishes to transfer to each one. In 8 to 10 weeks, he should see the status change to “Request Approved”.

Once that happens, then each child (after graduating from high school or attaining the age of 18) has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, each will get a Certificate of Eligibility that each child will need when enrolling in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, my name is Victoria and I’m in the Marine Corps stationed in Miramar, California and I’m wishing to move to Nebraska where my fiancé lives. I’m so entirely lost on how to even start applying for schools and using my GI Bill. I don’t receive my DD-214 until July 28, 2012, but I would like to be enrolled in school by fall semester to start attending class right away. I’ve been reading that I need to send in my DD-214 with my school application to the VA office and then I have to wait 6-8 weeks before I get my certification back. Does this mean that I won’t be able to attend school in the fall? And if so, how do I get started?

A: Don’t feel bad Victoria about being confused about your GI Bill benefits. It is very confusing as each GI Bill has a different set of rules. You didn’t say if you had the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill, but regardless, the process to start using your GI Bill benefit is the same.

Generally speaking if you have the time, you would use the process you described above, but because you will be pressed for time, I’m going to suggest you use a different route. Each GI Bill-approved school has a VA Certifying Official. This person’s function is to help you get started using your GI Bill or to help you if you run into any issues while using your GI Bill. That person can also certify that you are eligible to use your GI Bill right on the spot.

So when you go to enroll in school, bring your DD-214 with you and see your Certifying Official. With that person’s certification, it will allow you to enroll as a GI Bill student even though you won’t yet have your Certificate or Eligibility. You will still have to submit VA Form 22-1990 to get your certificate, but you will receive that document after the fact and you can hand in a copy to your school at that time. Using this process, you can start school on time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How can those of us who retired prior to 1 Aug 09 keep an eye on your petition to allow us a one-time opportunity to transfer our benefits to one of our children? Does the Post 9/11 GI Bill have the same 10-years from retirement restriction as the Montgomery GI Bill? Thank you!

A: As far as my petition, I want to gather as many signatures as possible before submitting it to the President. The more signatures we have, the stronger the voice. So I don’t plan on submitting it until around the June time-frame, so that everyone that wants to support it can have a chance to read and sign it. Once submitted, I’ll keep everyone informed through this blog as to the progress of it.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill has a different delimitation date than does the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). As you stated, MGIB benefits expire 10 years from your last date of discharge. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the delimitation date is 15 years from your last date of discharge.

The last date of discharge means that your delimitation start date is reset if you were in the military, got out and then went back in for at least 90 days or more. That scenario happened more frequently because of Iraq and Afghanistan where former servicemembers were recalled to serve on active duty.

For those with unused benefits left and approaching their delimitation date, switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill can be a real boon for them. Now they have more time to use up their benefits and either finish that degree started so long ago or train for something entirely new.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served on active duty from 1997 to 2002 and I was honorably discharge. In 2003, I used my GI Bill (or a portion of it) for an apprenticeship as an electrician. In 2004 while being an electrician, I joined my local Reserve unit. In September of 2005, I was activated and did a tour in Iraq. I returned home in November of 2006 and my service time was completed. My question is even though I used the Montgomery GI Bill (or a portion of it) for apprenticeship, do I have more GI Bill available for school now and/or do I now qualify for Post 9/11 GI Bill. If I do, how much, and how do I start going to school now?

A: Yes you do qualify now for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 60% tier, due to your 14-month tour in Iraq. As far as your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), it is good for 10 years from your last date of discharge, so what benefits you have left under the MGIB after your apprenticeship was complete will expire in 2016.

Because you are at the 60% Post 9/11 GI Bill level, you can be on the edge as far as which GI Bill would serve you best. Under the MGIB, you would get $1,473 per month to go to school, Out of that amount you have to pay all your own tuition, fees, books, etc. However, once you exhaust the MGIB benefits you have left, you could switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of benefits paid at the 60% rate.

Or, you could switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now and get the same number of months you had left under the MGIB, but not get the additional 12 months of benefits.

Let’s look at the pay side. So assume you are taking 12 credits at $250 per credit, the full housing allowance is the $1,200 average, have book costs of $300. At the 60% level, the VA would pay $1,800 of your tuition and fees directly to your school. You would get $300 in book stipend and $720 per month in housing allowance. So under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would net $1,980 for the semester.

Under the MGIB, you would get $5,892 for the semester and after expenses net $2,590. So money-wise, you would be better staying with the MGIB and after exhausting your current benefits, get the additional 12 months of benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If the housing allowance for your school is significantly higher, then it could end up being almost a wash between the two GI Bills.