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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When I enlisted I signed up for the Army SLRP, and as per regulation, opted out of the MGIB. My question is am I still obligated to pay into the MGIB for the first 12 months of service to receive payments from the SLRP?

A: No, they are two entirely separate programs. It does not cost you anything monetarily when you opt for the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). What it costs you to use that program is three years of military service. Over those course of those three years, each year the Army will pay 1/3 of each qualifying loan you had at the time of enlistment or up to a certain amount on each loan, whichever is greater. I think that is $1,500 per loan at the time of this writing. Yes it is – I just checked.
Just so we are clear, not all loan will qulaify for the loan repayment program. Right now, only these loans qualify for SLRP:
• Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
• Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS)
• Stafford Loans
• Perkins Loans
• William D. Ford Loans
• Consolidated Loans (loans must be in soldier’s name)

And don’t forget that annually, on the anniversary of your enlistment, you have to send in a DD Form 2475 on each qualifying loan if you want the Army to make payments on them. If you don’t send in the form(s) each year, the Army is not required to make the payments. Sending in the form(s) is a step many on the SLRP miss and then they wonder why the Army is not paying down their loans.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can you tell me the differences between the MGIB and the Post 9/11 and which one would be better for me once I get out the Army.

A: If you had asked this question before August 1, 2011, I would have said it depends on your educational goal. The reason? The Post 9/11 GI Bill would not pay for many of the non-degree programs where the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) would pay.

However, now after the implementation of GI Bill 2.0, the MGIB and Post 9/11 GI Bills almost mirror each other as far as the training each pays. So it basically comes down to what percentage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill you will have. If you serve a normal three-year enlistment, then the Post 9/11 GI Bill will be the better deal.

The other thing that could impact on this decision is if you plan on attending a school in a state that does not charge veterans tuition – there are six of them. A big part of the New GI Bill is the VA pays tuition directly to your school. If you don’t have that, then you are left with them paying you only the housing allowance and book stipend.

Depending on the housing rate for your school’s area, the MGIB could pay you more than the Post 9/11 GI Bill, even if you do have to pay your own tuition.

With the New GI Bill, you still get 36 months of education entitlement just as you would under the MGIB, however, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is free – unlike the MGIB where you have to make a $1,200 contribution. In the end you will have to work the numbers, but in most cases if you qualify for more than 60% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it will end up paying you more.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am serving a 3-year, 33-week enlistment under the Student Loan Repayment Program. After my three-year mark, will I begin qualifying for Post 9-11 benefits prior to ETS? Thank you for your help in understanding my eligibility!

A: Once you signed up for the Student Loan Repayment Program, you incurred a 3-year obligation, as you noted. The issue is you can’t serve your three-year obligation and acquire GI Bill benefits for the same 3-year enlistment period. So in effect, you will only have 33 weeks of Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility at the end of your first term enlistment.

So what does 33 weeks translate to in benefits? Thirty-six months of benefits at 50%. It would take an additional 27.5 months to get you to the 100% mark, and depending on your educational goal, it could be worth it.

Because you had some student loan debt when you enlisted, you have at least some college out of the way. If you already have your BA and don’t plan on getting your advanced degree, then it probably isn’t worth extending your enlistment.

But, if you plan on going further with your education, or plan to transfer benefits to your spouse or dependent children, then it is worth considering, especially with escalating tuition rates.

On the other hand, another way to look at it is at least half of your future education is paid and that is much better than what many non-GI Bill students have. So if you are prepared to pay your half of future education expenses or you don’t plan on transferring benefits, then it probably isn’t worth extending.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I did not use GI Bill before time expired, do I still get the Hazelwood Act?

A: You do provided you meet the eligibility requirements for the Hazelwood Act. They are:“Effective with the fall 2009 term/semester, in order to be eligible to receive a Hazlewood Act Exemption, a Veteran must:
• Have been a Texas resident upon entry into the military, entered into active federal duty in the State of Texas, or declared Texas as his or her home of record at the time of entry into the armed forces as documented on his or her DD Form 214;
• Have a military discharge of honorable or general, under honorable conditions;
• Served at least 181 days of active duty service (excluding training);
• Not be in default on an education loan made or guaranteed by the State of Texas and not in default on a federal loan if that default is the reason the student cannot use his or her federal veterans’ benefits.”

Also, to use your benefits, you must also reside in Texas – that is a new requirement for the 2011/2012 academic year. As you know, under the Hazelwood Act, you get 150 hours of education benefits that you can use at a Texas public school. Your Hazelwood Act cannot be used at any private school at this time. So you should have Hazelwood Act benefits even if your GI Bill has expired.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Retired Jan. of 2000, served 20 yrs in the Navy. My children are interested in going to college. Would they be able to use my GI Bill for that purpose? How do I go about applying that on their college education? Only been out of the military 11 years, what is the time frame to take advantage of that GI Bill for my kids. I guess this is call S.3447/H.R 5933 and H.R 3577. Please provide me with information.

A: Unfortunately none of the above will apply in your case. First, if you retired in 2000, then you had the Montgomery GI Bill and it did not contain the option to transfer benefits to dependent children. The Post 9/11 GI Bill, which does have that provision, would not start for another nine years, so that one doesn’t apply either. Besides, with the New GI Bill, you had to be serving at the time you would have made a transfer. Once retired, it is too late.

Second, as far as a time frame, the Montgomery GI Bill was only good for 10 years from your date of discharge, so it would have expired in 2010. So even if you did have some transfer benefits there, they would have been gone by now.

And then there are legislative bills S3447/HR5933 and HR3577. Since these bills only applied to the GI Bill you didn’t have, none of these would have made a difference in your case. And even if you did have the Post 9/11 GI Bill it wouldn’t have mattered in that not only did none of the legislative bills pass, none even came up to a vote. All have subsequently expired and died in place.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I just got out of the Marine Corps about a little over a month. According to my DD 214, I got honorably discharged and I had served for almost two years. I know I am supposed to be getting 100% of the GI Bill but I don’t know who to send it to in order to get my rate reevaluated. If so, how long would it take for the VA to get back to me? Also, I currently live in California, but I am a resident of Michigan. Does that effect me wanting to go to an online school from another state other than those listed above? Mary

A: My question is why do you think you should get 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill with only two years of service? Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to serve for at least three years to get to the 100% tier or discharged with a service connected disability with at least 30 days of service. I’m guessing that is your basis, but you didn’t say if you discharge was for a service-connected disability or not.

I’m not sure what “it” is that you are referring to. I think your best bet is to contact your State Veterans Affairs Office, go in and have them help you with this. This could get too complicated to try and straighten out through the mail or over the Internet. They can tell you for sure if you should be getting 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and how to fix it, if it needs fixing. By calling them first, you should know what paperwork you have to bring in.

As far as how long it will take? Fixing things when the VA is involved is not a fast process, nor is there anything anyone can do to speed things up. It is a slow moving machine that grinds up anything getting in its way, so be patient. They will get to it when they get to it.

Generally if you intend to go to school online, it really doesn’t make a difference as most online schools, or brick and mortar schools with online programs, have set online tuition rates. If you do run into a school that charges non-resident online rates, you would be responsible for paying the difference between the resident and nonresident rate. That additional amount could be paid for by the Yellow Ribbon Program if you are at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier, which now brings us full circle.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Guard and used one year of my Montgomery GI Bill. I then turned 21 and thought drinking was better than school and now I am trying to get back to school. I was wondering if I have any benefits left since I only went to two semesters of school, however, I have been out of the Guard for two years now? I also did my boot camp and AIT Post 9-11 so do I qualify at all for the new GI Bill with an 8-month long AIT?

A: If the Montgomery GI Bill was the one you had while in the Guard – the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) – then no, you don’t have anything left. The MGIB-SR operates under a different set of rules than the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD), so your Guard GI Bill ended when you got out of the Guard. It would have ended 10 years from your date of Notice of Benefits Eligibility (NOBE) anyway, so depending on how long you were in, it might have already had expired before you got out.

If you have the MGIB-AD and depending on when you got out, you could have some benefits left. The MGIB also has a 10-year shelf life, but it starts on the day of your discharge.

And the news isn’t any better for the Post 9/11 GI Bill either. While you only need 90 days of Title 10 duty to establish eligibility, under its rules, training time does not count until you have at least 24 months of eligible Post 9/11 GI Bill time. Then you can pick up that training time in your eligibility.

So unless you deployed on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, you don’t have any Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits you can use.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was just disability retired on 29 January. I’m trying to start college this semester which starts on 13 January so I will still be on active duty for 2 weeks of the beginning of the semester. I have swapped over to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and I’m wondering if I will be entitled to the housing allowance for the rest of the semester. The only answers I can seem to get is that I will get tuition paid for but no one knows if I will get the rest of the benefits. I really hope that 2 weeks doesn’t knock me out for the whole semester. Please help! Thanks

A: The Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance is based on both the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking, and paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents.

For example, you’re a full-time student and your full monthly housing rate calculates out to $1,200 per month. That amount is divided by 30 days and the result is your daily rate – $40.00. Depending on when your semester starts and ends, your first and last monthly checks during a semester may not be full checks anyway. So if you miss the first couple of weeks of a semester, your housing allowance will be smaller – that’s all.

Your checks can also be smaller if you are not taking a full credit load. As I said, your check is based on you being a full-time student. If your school uses 12 credits as their full-time amount and you are taking 9, then you would get 9/12th or ¾ of $1,200, which is $900 for each full month that you are taking 9 credits, but you would also use up only 22.5 days of entitlement instead of the full 30 days.

You would also get the book stipend for the semester, which calculates out to $41.67 per credit.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently finishing my associate’s degree at the University of Northwestern OH with my Post 9/11 GI Bill. I am hoping to use it for their CDL course, but I’m not sure if this can be done because it’s a certification at a degree producing institution. I am just hoping for a solid answer.

A: This would have been a problem before the GI Bill 2.0 change, because the Post 9/11 GI Bill generally did not cover the training leading up to a certification or license. However, they would reimburse you one-time for the cost of such a test. But if you didn’t pass it, they would not pay you to take it again.

But now after the change, not only will the Post 9/11 GI Bill will still reimburse you up to $2,000 for the cost of the test (and cover more than just one test), but they will pay for your CDL training leading up to the tests.

The one thing that will be different though is you will get $83.00 per month for books whereas a credit-based degree-producing course would pay $41.67 per credit. Not a big deal though as you should still do well on $83 per month for books.

For your CDL test and endorsements, you will have to pay up front out of your pocket and then request reimbursement from the VA for the costs of the tests. Be sure to keep receipts that clearly explain what each test and endorsement costs you, so there isn’t any question about it that could hold-up your reimbursement money. Your VA Certifying Official at your school can help you fill out the reimbursement paperwork and submit it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served Army Active Duty from 1998 – 2000 and paid in the $1,000 dollars to MGIB and had the Army College Fund for $26,500 in my contract. After my ETS, I joined the National Guard and have deployed for a total of 5 years and 4 months of Title 10, several trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. I was unable to use the ACF or MGIB benefits. Are they now gone and how can I maximize the use of the benefits or transfer them to my children?

A: No they are not gone, but you have a much better deal you can use – more on that in a minute.

The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) has a 10-year delimitation date or a shelf life, if you will. But the time starts from your last date of discharge. Since you are still serving in the National Guard, your date of discharge has not started yet.

But since you have deployed on Title 10 orders in excess of three years, you are fully vested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill. That is a much better GI Bill than the MGIB and ACF combined.
But let’s digress for a minute.

What most people don’t know about the ACF is the dollar amount includes what you get from the MGIB too, not the amount you will get in addition to the MGIB. So in reality, you didn’t have all that much in just the ACF.

Now let’s talk about the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You will still have the 36 months of benefits, but the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays better. The VA will pay your tuition directly to your school and you will get a monthly housing allowance that averages across the U.S. at $1,200; double that amount if you live on either the East or West coast. Plus once each semester, you will get a book stipend that pays you $41.67 per credit (up to the $1,000 per year cap).

And you have transfer-of-benefit rights with the New GI Bill, meaning you can transfer any or all of your 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your spouse or children or both if you want (as long as you are still serving – Once retired and it is too late to transfer benefits). So forget the MGIB and ACF and say hello to the New GI Bill.