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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I gave my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my son. Can I take it back from him for any reason and at any time? Or if I give it to (someone being my son) does that person have total control over the GI Bill I gave him?

A: I’m not sure if I totally understand the second part of your question, but by answering the first part, it may answer the second part for you.
As the servicemember, you have total control over your Post 9/11 GI Bill. So regardless if you are still serving or already retired/separated, you can revoke and reallocate benefits “for any reason and at any time” as you wish.

That is a powerful hand you wield, so make your choices carefully. Don’t do something now that you will regret later, although you could revoke your son’s benefits now and give them back to him later (but he only has up to age 26 to use them or he loses them.

One good reason to revoke benefits from him would be if he is approaching age 26 and has not or will not use up his Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits. It makes sense to take them back instead of losing them.

Keep in mind, if you plan on giving them to someone else, the recipient must have received transferred benefits already in order for you to give benefits to that person. For example, if you had a new child after you got out of the service, you could not make a transfer of benefits to that child (because that child would not been the recipient of transferred benefits already). I hope this also answers the second part of your question.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am confused about all the different sources of information about education benefits I am looking through. I have a couple questions that may be able to solve all of my confusion. Tuition assistance and GI Bill are two different things, right? If not, does tuition assistance pay for the schooling and GI Bill help with cost of living expenses? I am looking at enrolling at Ashworth College Online. Now the school is located in Georgia, and I live in Iowa. Do I receive GI Bill benefits for the colleges zip code or my residence zip code? And lastly, what kind of entitlement numbers would i be looking at with 2 dependents.

A: Yes the Tuition Assistance (TA) program and the GI Bill are entirely separate and different programs. TA is for use by armed forces members while they are still serving. The GI Bill of course can be used either while serving or after separating from the military. Active duty members can use both TA and their GI Bill through a program called Tuition Top-Up.

How it works is the service branch pays whole tuition, but bills the VA for the additional amount over the $250 per credit or the $4,500 cap. By law, TA can only pay up to those amounts. The VA then converts that dollar amount they paid into months and days of entitlement and deduct that amount from your unused GI Bill entitlement. While the Top-Up program does use up entitlement, it does so at a much slower rate.

If you are no longer serving, then TA would not be an option. As far as how much your GI Bill would pay, it makes a difference on which GI Bill you have. If you are using the older Montgomery GI Bill, then it would pay you monthly up to $1,473, if you had served for at least three years and are a full-time student. Out of that amount, you have to pay all your education expenses.

If you have 100% the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and Ashford is a public school, then the VA pays Ashford’s online rate of $390 per credit for tuition and eligible fees directly to your school. If you are at a lesser percentage, then the VA would pay the percentage you are authorized of that amount and you would have to pay the difference.

Because you are attending online, you would get a fixed $673.50 per month in housing allowance. With online-only students, state residency, zip codes and the number of dependents are immaterial. You would also get $41.67 per credit each semester in a book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served on active duty from 1998-2002 in the U.S. Air Force. I am currently active Reserve, and I have served three 6-month active duty tours since 2002 (In addition, I was on a 79-day active duty tour in 2011 along with normal reserve duty). Considering my reserve tours, could you please tell me when my GI Bill benefits expire (also – do you have to utilize all your benefits by that expiration date, or do you simply have to begin utilizing your GI Bill benefits by that date?) Lastly, under current regulations, can I transfer my benefits to my dependents? One part of this website says I cannot, and another section says new rules in 2009 allow this. If so, by when do the dependents need to utilize them? Thank you.

A: O.K., lets walk through all of your questions. With your three 6-month and one 79-day active tours, you have about 20.5 months of active duty. If by “active Reserve”, you mean you are in the Army Guard and Reserve (AGR) program, then your AGR time also counts. However, if you are a drilling reservist, that time normally does not count.

As far as your Post 9/11 GI Bill expiration date, your education benefits will expire 15 years from your last date of discharge. To answer one of your questions, yes you have to exhaust your education benefits by your expiration date or you lose whatever unused benefits you have left, but 15 years is a long time.

I can’t tell by your question how many total years you have in, however, the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer rules say you have to serve for at least 6 cumulative years in the United States Armed Forces (active, Guard or Reserve) and agree to serve an additional four years before you can get a transfer request approved, but if you meet those two service obligations, yes you can transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to dependents. The rule actually changed on October 1st that now allow AGR personnel to use their time for Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility and transfer benefits.

Once you do transfer benefits to dependents, a spouse has up 15 years to use his/hers transferred entitlements; a child has until age 26. Any unused benefits from either a spouse or child are lost at that time, unless the sponsor revokes the benefits back before they expire.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband is a Texas resident, veteran with service time from 1984-1987. He is currently disabled due to non-military related incident. Our daughter attends a university in Texas and I am trying to determine if she would be able to utilize any education hours that may be still available to him from his military service. Thank you.

A: No I’m afraid any hours he would have had left would have already expired, but it would not have made any difference. Back in that era, he would have had the Montgomery GI Bill and that particular GI Bill did not have and dependent transfer benefits. So even if it was still good, it wouldn’t do your daughter any good. By the way, Montgomery GI Bill benefits expire 10 years for the date of discharge. So if your husband got out in 1987, his GI Bill benefits would have expired in 1997.

However, your daughter may qualify for some of your husband’s Hazelwood Act hours under the Legacy program if both are eligible for the program. To qualify, your husband would have to:
• 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 home of
record at the time of entry into the armed forces as documented on his 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.

For your daughter to qualify to use transferred hours, she has to:
• be a Texas resident and living in Texas during the time she is in school there,
• be the biological child, stepchild, adopted child, or claimed as a dependent in the current or previous tax year,
• be 25 years or younger on the first day of the semester or term for which the exemption is claimed (unless granted an extension due to a qualifying
illness or debilitating condition), and
• make satisfactory academic progress in a degree, certificate, or continuing education program as determined by the institution.

If both meet the eligibility requirements, he has up to 150 semester hours he could transfer to her. Here is how to do it.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I will like to attend a college in NC. I wanted to start using my Post 911 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill. I want to take course and earn a diploma as a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist.
1. Am I able to use the Post 9/11 Bill or Montgomery GI Bill?
2. Is it going to be paid to the school for me or is the payment sent me to pay the school?
3. Can I set up an allotment to the school for payment?
4. Is there a school in Charlotte NC I can attend to take this program and use my benefits? Please Help! Thank you.

A: Being you qualify for two GI Bills, you can use either one, but not both. If you decide to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you give up your rights to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). However, in many cases the Post 9/11 GI Bill is more lucrative than the older MGIB.

The pay structure is different between the two bills. If you choose to use your Montgomery GI Bill, then you will get up to $1,473 month as a full-time student if you served three years or more. Out of that amount, you have to pay your tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses.

If you choose to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, then the VA will pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school and you would get a monthly housing allowance. You would also get $83 per month in a book stipend.
With either GI Bill you will get 36 months of benefits with a combined benefit between the two bills of 48 months, not 36 months from each GI Bill.

If you use the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you would not have to worry about an allotment as the VA pays your school direct. If you use the MGIB, you have to pay for your own tuition and I don’t think you could do an allotment, but I could be wrong. That finance allotment stuff is not my specialty.

Check with your community colleges in the Charlotte area. Both the Central Carolina and Coastal Caroline Community colleges have Medical Billing programs.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am eligible for 50% of my GI Bill and I was recently discharged. My school is an aviation maintenance technical school. The monthly bill for the school is $1,430. How is this paid? Do I pay half of this or does the 50% of the GI Bill provide enough for this? If not, can I use the BAH do pay the difference?

A: Because of your 50% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, the VA would only pay 50% of your $1,430 monthly amount directly to your school. The other half would be your responsibility to pay from other financial sources.

You would also only get 50% of the housing allowance amount calculated for your school’s zip code. As far as using your housing allowance to pay your half of the tuition, yes you can use it for that purpose. Your monthly housing allowance will come directly to you in the form of a check or Direct Deposit, depending on how you have it set up and you can use that money for whatever you want.

If your school is not a four-year degree producing school (and it sounds like it is not), then you would also get $83 per month for books and supplies, instead of the $41.67 per credit in a book stipend, so depending on the cost of your books, you might have some additional money left that you could also use for tuition.

So between what the VA pays, your housing allowance and book stipend, that should cover the majority of your education costs, leaving very little left for you to pay out-of-pocket. The only other consideration is you will have to have money for monthly living expenses also.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Navy 09/1999 and immediately opted for the MGIB. My first reenlistment was 03/2006, at which time I received my first Honorable Discharge. During my second term of enlistment, I was administratively discharged for Failure to Maintain Physical Standards; however, I was given a General Under Honorable Conditions. At that time, my Personnel Department said that regardless of my first Honorable Discharge, I would lose my MGIB. Is this still the case? Or would I still be eligible? And if I am not, are their any waivers that I may seek?

A: Not true. If you qualified for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) at the time your first reenlistment ended, then you have, and can use, your GI Bill.

Should you choose to do so, you would be able to switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, because you had enough qualifying time after September 10, 2001 to establish eligibility at the 100% level – 3 years.

One other thing is if you have not used your Montgomery GI Bill and still have 36 months of benefits left, you could switch to the New GI Bill and after you have used up all 36 months of benefits, get your MGIB $1,200 contribution back. Or you could use up all 36 months of MGIB and get an additional 12 months of benefits, however, in this case you would not get your $1,200 contribution back.

You had asked about waivers in case you did not qualify. While there aren’t any waivers, there is a process to appeal your General Discharge – it’s called the Discharge Review Board. Each military service branch has one.

To get a discharge reviewed and possibly upgraded, you start the process by submitting DD Form 293 to your branch’s Discharge Review Board. It is your job to prove to them why your current discharge is wrong and should be corrected. In the case of the Army, only about 43% are actually changed to Honorable. So there is a process to follow if you think you can support your case for an upgrade.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am planning to move to Dominican Republic and I would like to know if I would be able to use my GI Bill in Dominican Republic to pay for my school. And also, if I would be able to get my housing and book stipend.

A: First let’s address the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and book stipend policy. Because the Dominican Republic is not a possession of the United States, as is Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, it would fall under the foreign school policy.

So you if you were taking at least the number of credits your school considers to be a rate of pursuit of full-time, then you would get the full foreign school housing allowance amount, which I think is now $1,347 per month. If your rate of pursuit was less than full-time, then your housing allowance would be prorated based on percentage of the number of credits taken verses the number of credits needed to be classified as full-time. The book stipend amount remains the same and is paid at the rate of $41.67 per credit.

As far as schools in the Dominican Republic, you have a few VA-approved schools to choose from. The Weam’s School Finder shows eight:

As you can see, there is a mix of public and private schools. If you attend a private school, then the VA would pay up to $17,500 per year in tuition and fees. If you attend a public school, they would pay the resident rate and you would have to make up the difference.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is vocational flight training the same as private pilot flight training? I would like to find out if I enroll in private pilot flight training in order to get me a private pilot license will be covered under my GI bill. I am entitled under Chapter 30 and I have 12 months left of entitlement until 2014. Thanks!

A: In most cases, no it isn’t. If you are planning on only getting a private pilot’s license and fly for the fun of it, then your GI Bill most likely will not cover the cost of the flight training and getting your license.

The GI Bill is meant to train you in a vocation – something you can make a career out of. They view getting a private pilot’s license as an avocation or a hobby, so they will not pay for it.

However, if you plan on flying commercially for a career, then they would pay for additional flight training once you have your private pilot’s license. If you also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, under the current rules, it would pay up to $10,000 per year for flight training, however you would not get the housing allowance or book stipend.

If you took a flight training degree-producing program at a private institution of higher learning (IHL) school, then they would pay up to $17,000 per year and you would be eligible to receive the housing allowance and books stipend, just as you would with any degree-producing program.

If you stay with Chapter 30, paying for flight school can use up your Chapter 30 entitlement at a higher rate because they pay out more than a normal month of entitlement for each month of school.

Some schools include getting a private pilot’s license as part of their flight school and in those cases, because it built-in to the curriculum, it usually is covered by your GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Army National Guard in December of 2006 and I know I signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill. My question is how do I figure out how much I signed up for and where? The only record I have is my DD 214 but that doesn’t say anything. Hope to hear from someone soon.

A: First, we have to figure out which GI Bill you have. If you joined the National Guard, then you should have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). However, because you said you have a DD 214, that leads me to believe that you had active duty time before joining the Guard. In that case, you most likely have the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD).

If you served at least three years on active duty, then you have 36 months of the MGIB-AD. If you did not have active duty time, then you have 36 months of the MGIB-SR. While both provide you 36 months of benefits, the payout amount of each is significantly different. With the MGIB-AD, you would get $1,473 per month to go to school. With the MGIB-SR, you would only get $345 per month in addition to your monthly drill pay.

However, if you served on active duty after September 10, 2001 or had a deployment on Title 10 orders that was in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, then you would also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and it pays significantly more.

But if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, you are limited to a combined total months of benefit of 48 under the VA’s Rule of 48. To get 48 months of benefits, you would have to use up the full 36 months under the Montgomery GI Bill and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you switch with months left under your Montgomery GI Bill, then you would only get the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill as you had left under the MGIB, but not the additional 12 months.