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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am about to complete my second year under the Post 9/11 GI Bill program and get my associate’s degree. I want to transfer to a different school to go for my bachelor’s degree (my current school took away their bachelor program) but come this Sept. I will only have 12 mo. left on my Post 9/11 GI Bill. Do you have any idea how I get an additional 12 months? This bachelor program is 2 years total. I am a disabled vet with a disability rating at 80% and I was discharge Dec. 2008.

A: I’m still trying to figure out how you already burnt up 24 months of your original 36 months getting your associate’s degree unless you went the Summer Sessions too, which is not typical.

But anyway, you can’t get any additional months of entitlement once you use up your last 12 months of your Post 9/11 GI Bill. While under the Rule of 48, you are authorized a total of 48 months, that applies only if you have two or more GI Bills.

Your best bet is to start applying for scholarships and grants. Stay away from student loan if you can because they have to be paid back whereas the other two don’t.

One place to start is the Scholarships for Disabled Veterans at Fastweb! Another good place is here. Scroll down to the National Scholarships for Veterans and Veterans Scholarships from Colleges and Universities portions. U.S. Veterans Magazine also has a good list of financial aid resources. Also ask your school about a work-study program that would be within your capability.

The point is there are numerous sources of money available and each year much of it goes unused due to a lack of applications. With some work, you should be able to find the diamonds among all the coal and fund out your last year of school. Good luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I separated out of the Air Force a couple of months ago. Applied for my Post 9/11 GI Bill and was approved for 100% coverage. Just had a few questions. I wasn’t aware, but I applied for a college out of my state of residence. It’s approx. $8,000 for tuition for state residents and approx. $18,000 for out of state residence. Will my GI Bill cover this big difference? Also, I have the option to live in the dorms or live off campus. Both are possibilities. If I lived in the dorm I would like to live in a Single, which obviously would cost more. If I choose to do this would the GI Bill still cover the extra it would cost to live in a single dorm? And since I would be in the dorm would I still get paid the BAH rate for this school? The school I’m looking at going to is The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Thanks!

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to the resident tuition rate if you attend a public school, which is what the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee is. So it would pay up to the $8,000 in tuition. The other $10,000 per semester is out-of-pocket, unless they are a Yellow Ribbon School … let me check.

The U of W at Milwaukee is a Yellow Ribbon School. Right now in their agreement, they can take up to 21 students per year with a maximum payout amount per student/per year of $7,296. So if you happen to snag one of the 21 spots available, that would lower your out-of-pocket costs down to about $2,700 per year which isn’t too bad.

As far as the housing allowance, it is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. In looking up Milwaukee, I see their rate is $1,692 per month. That money is paid to you and you can use it for whatever you want. So you could opt for a single dorm room, but you would not get paid any more for that than you would living in a non-single room, so the choice would be yours as far if the additional cost is worth not having a roommate.

You would also get the book stipend which calculates out at $41.67 per credit per semester. As a full-time student, this amounts to about $500 per semester, however note there is a $1,000 cap per year on it.

As a final note, the U of W – Milwaukee also has a MN Reciprocity Rate and a Midwest Student Exchange Rate that applies to certain Midwest states. While both rates are more than the resident rate, they are considerably less than the non-resident rate. It could be worth checking into if you think you would qualify.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in September 2011 and opted-out of the GI Bill because I chose SLRP (Student Loan Repayment Program). I am getting out in December at 3 years & 90+ days of service due to a service-related disability. I know under the New GI Bill, my first 3 years of service do not count toward the new GI Bill which leaves me at the 90 days/40% bracket. Now for the question: Since I’m getting out honorably due to service-related disability, will I get the 100% of the GI Bill or just the 40% that I get from my 90-days of qualifying service? Thanks for any help anyone can offer me, it is greatly appreciated.

A: You’ll get 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill because your Honorable discharge is a result of a service-connected disability. With service-connected, all you need is 30 days of continuous service, which you have met 3 times over with your 90+ days of eligible service after satisfying your 3-year SLRP commitment.

Your 100% coverage means that the VA would pay 100% of the resident tuition and fees your public school charges; if attending a private school, then it would pay up to $20,235.02 per year towards tuition and fees.

In either case, you would also get the housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take and the book stipend. To calculate your housing allowance, go to the BAH Calculator. Enter in your school zip code in the Duty Zip Code Field. Next select E-5 from the Pay Grade Drop-down menu and click on Calculate button. Use the E-5 with Dependents figure as your housing allowance amount.

For the book stipend, you would get up to $41.67 per credit per semester (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

You would have up to 36 months of entitlement that you could use – enough for a 4-year degree by going to school 9 months per year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like to know how much my GI Bill is worth right now. Also, I would like to know if I can use it to pay off some of what is left on my student loans? And, I would like to know if I can transfer the rest to my son’s education costs for private school education now?

A: Without more information, such as which GI Bill you have, if you are still serving, and if not when you got out, I can’t give you much specific information. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), and never used any of it, then you have up to 36 months of entitlement that you could use provided you are still serving or have been out for less than 10 years. It currently pays up to $1,648 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc. The MGIB does not have a transfer of benefits option.

If you served after September 10, 2001, then you have some coverage under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. While it does have a transfer option, you can only make a transfer if you are still serving. Once you are out, it is too late. If you are already out, then you have up to 15 years from your date of discharge to use your benefits. And you could have coverage under both GI Bills – 36 months under the MGIB and an additional 12 months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As far as using your GI Bill to pay off student loans – you can’t. The only way to pay off student loans is if you are still serving and opted for the Student Loan Repayment Program.

If you are still serving and can commit to an additional four years of service, you could make a transfer of benefits to your son. Go to the milConnect website and follow the information in the Transfer of Benefits section. To be clear, he could only use those benefits for post-secondary education and not for private elementary or high school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am still active duty (since 2000), and will begin my master’s degree program at Villanova, a private school, in August. I have never used my MGIB, nor did I pay for the Top-Up. Should I pay the $600 Top-up and use the CH 30 benefits, or should I just use the CH 33 benefits? Am I still eligible to receive housing allowance (CH 33) if I’m still active duty? If I use CH 30, how many months will I have benefits for? And then can I switch to CH 33? Can I use either CH 30 or 33 along with tuition assistance? Is that even advised? Thanks!

A: First, you don’t pay for Tuition Top-Up; the $600 program you are referring to is called the Buy-Up program and is completely different than Top-Up. What the Buy-Up program does should you decide to buy into it is give you up to an additional $5,400 worth of education benefits spread over a 36-month period. Do the math and you find it comes out to $150 per month.

Couple that with your Chapter 30 benefits of $1,648 per months and it totals out to $1,798. Out of this amount you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc. Villanova is not a cheap school to attend. As a full-time student, you are looking at tuition of about $46,000 per year.

Now let’s move onto the Chapter 33. Under this GI Bill, the VA would pay up to $20,235.02 per year towards your tuition being Villanova is a private school.

It would pay up to 100% of the resident tuition if you attended a public school. While Villanova is a Yellow Ribbon school, they only accept 14 students per year into their YRP and have a max amount per student of $4,100. Even if you got their YRP funding, that still leaves $21,000 per year in tuition that would come out of your pocket. And because you are still on active duty, you would not be eligible for the housing allowance. Oh … and the Buy-Up program can’t be used with Chapter 33.

As far as entitlement, you would have 36 months under Chapter 30 and once those are used up, you could switch to Chapter 33 and get an additional 12 months.

If you went the Tuition Assistance (TA) and Top-Up route, TA would pay your whole tuition and anything over the $250 per credit amount (up to $4,500 per year). Would be billed to the VA. Under Chapter 30, they would convert this amount into months of entitlement and deduct that number of months from your remaining entitlement. Under Chapter 33, they would deduct a semester’s worth of entitlement at a time regardless of how much or little they had to pay, but remember the cap for private schools is $20,235.02 under Chapter 33, so they would not pay more than that amount.

In your case, TA and Top-Up is probably the best choice, but do you really need to go to this expensive of a school. You could get a worthwhile master’s degree from a good school that would cost you less out-of-pocket. Just my thought.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When it says “The New GI Bill CAN include both a living expense and a books/supplies stipend” what do I have to do to make sure that I get it? Thanks! — Robin

A: Let’s start with the book stipend first Robin. If you are using your Post 9/11 GI Bill, you’ll get the book stipend. However depending on your education plan, it can take a couple different forms of payment. If you are attending a non-degree school, such as a vocational or trade school, you would get paid up to $83 per month. But if you are attending a school that will issue a degree, then it calculates out up to $41.67 per credit and is paid once per semester. In either case, there is a $1,000 annual cap on the book stipend.

Now for the housing allowance. For starters, you have to take at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time to qualify for any housing allowance. Take less than 51%, and you would not get any housing allowance at all.

One other thing that could put you in the 51% or less category is if you take classes not on your degree plan. Not only would the VA not pay for those classes, but those credits come off the total number you are taking, which could put you below the 51% mark. It would also reduce the amount you would get in book stipend money.

Second, if you are a spouse using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and the person you received those benefits from is still serving, then you would not get any housing allowance either. The reason – s/he is drawing BAH on you already and to pay you housing allowance too would be double-dipping – something prohibited by law. However once out of the military, you could use your benefits and you would receive the authorized housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m a Post 9/11 GI Bill participant in graduate school. My school’s certifying official has reservations about letting me take classes that are outside of my degree program. Can I use my benefits to take classes outside of my degree program in order to prepare for a more advanced degree (doctorate)?

A: No you can’t – at least if you plan on the VA paying for them. The VA will only let you have one degree plan in place at a time. If the classes you want to take are not on that degree plan, the VA will not pay for them … period.

Also, the credits for those classes will not count either as far as calculating your Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance and book stipend. To see what kind of effect it can have as far as how much you would get, let’s say your school considers 12 credits as full-time and you are taking 12 credits but two 3-credit classes are not on your current degree plan. Because you are not taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers full-time, you would not qualify for any housing allowance and you would only get $250 in book stipend instead of $500.

Let’s use the same scenario, but this time say you are taking one 3-credit class not on your degree plan and your full-time monthly housing amount is $1,600. Instead of paying you for 12 credits, the VA would only pay you for 9 instead, dropping your housing allowance down to $1,200 instead of $1,600. Plus you would have to pay tuition for the unauthorized class.

Your school VA Certifying Official was wise in having reservations about you taking non-degree plan courses. Now you know the rules and how it would affect your payment, so you can make an informed choice as far as if you want to do it or not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently using my Chapter 30, but it expires (10 years) in November, at which point I plan on using my Post 9/11 GI Bill (60%) to finish my last two semesters…how much should I get roughly?

A: Once your Chapter 30 GI Bill expires, apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Even though the VA policy is that you get the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the Montgomery BI Bill (MGIB), I’m hearing from many veterans that they are getting what they had left under the old GI Bill and their additional 12 months they have coming under the New GI Bill. If you switch before your MGIB expires, then all you would get is that same number of months.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying after it expires – even if you only get what you had left under Chapter 30.

As far as how much you would get under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, without knowing the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking, I can’t answer your question, however you can figure it out for yourself.

Go to the BAH Calculator and enter in the zip code of your school in the Duty Zip Code field. Now select E-5 from the drop-down menu in the Pay Grade field. Click on Submit.

If your rate of pursuit will be full-time, then take the E-5-With-Dependents figure returned and multiply it by .60. That will be about what you’ll get in monthly housing allowance money. If you are less than full-time then take the 60% monthly housing allowance amount and multiply it by your rate of pursuit. For example if your school considers 12 credits as full-time and you are taking 9, your multiplier would be 75% (9/12). In other words, you would get 75% of 60% amount if you were taking 9 credits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good morning! I was wondering if it was possible since I EAS in August of 2014 to apply for my Post 9/11 GI Bill early so I could have everything set up and ready so that I would be able to start school in September directly after I get out?

A: Not really and here is why. If this is the only tour you have had (and I suspect it is), then you don’t have a DD-214 yet which is required before the VA can authorize your GI Bill benefits. They have to know that you have a fully Honorable discharge in order to use your benefits and that information comes off of your DD-214.

However, with that said, you should still be able to request your Certificate of Eligibility once you are out and get it in time to start school in September. Since going to their new software, the VA has gotten a lot quicker at processing GI Bill applications. I think their time is like down to 22 days for new first-time users; about 6 days for repeat users.

Once you get your Certificate of Eligibility, hand in a copy of it when you register for school. That tells the school you are a GI Bill student and gets the ball rolling for them to get your tuition paid by the VA and for you to start getting your housing allowance and book stipend.

The book stipend you should see sometime during the first month you are in school; it calculates at $41.67 per credit with a $1,000 yearly cap. Being the VA pays one month in arrears, you most likely won’t see your first Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance payment until sometime in October. It is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. The U.S. average is about $1,300 per month.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If my old MGIB-AD GI Bill expired after 10 years then I join the National Guard after it has already expired and go on a 90+ day Title 10 deployment, will that start the 10 year clock over again? Or is it gone forever after it expires and I’m only eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: The rules say your Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) will expire 10 years from your last date of discharge and the delimitation date resets with a Title 10 tour of at least 90 days, so yes it would reset your delimitation clock. And with your 90+ day deployment, you’ll also have minimum coverage (40%) under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

When you get back from deployment, be sure to get your DD-214 updated to show your new discharge date. Send in a copy of your updated DD-214 along with VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website to get a new Certificate of Eligibility that you’ll need when enrolling in school.

In case you have not been keeping up with the MGIB payment, it now pays up to $1,648 per month to go to school full-time. Once you have exhausted your MGIB entitlement, you could apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get up to an additional 12 months of entitlement. But know because you only have minimum coverage, it would only pay up to 40% of your tuition and fees and you would get that percentage of the housing allowance and book stipend, but at least it is something and it didn’t cost you anything to get.

If you want to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill coverage, send in a new VA Form 22-1990. Just be sure your effective date is after the date you run out of MGIB entitlement.