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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am attending the NASCAR Technical institute, (I guess it would be a trade school). I was wondering how my BAH and stipend are calculated. I go full-time from 6:30 am till 1:00 pm. Our courses are 3 weeks long each and it takes 2 years to become ASE certified. I am 100% eligibility. Will I receive the full amount of BAH, which is $1,247 according the location of my school and the $41.67 per credit stipend? Thank you.

A: As far as your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, it will depend on what your school considers to be full-time. I’m assuming you are attending at that full-time rate of pursuit with your 3-week courses for two years. Based on a change that was implemented in August, the housing allowance, not called BAH as it is much different that active duty BAH, is now prorated based on rate of pursuit and the zip code for your school. It is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents.

So if you are attending at their full-time rate, then you should get the full housing allowance amount based on the zip code of your school, which you have calculated out to be $1,247 per month. If you are attending at a less than full-time rate, then you will get a prorated lesser amount.

As far as your book stipend, you won’t get the $41.67 per credit amount that student get who are taking a degree-producing program. Because you are attending a vocational school, and most of them do not assign a credit amount value to their courses, you would instead receive the $83 per month book stipend amount. This was another change that happened as a result of the implementation of the GI Bill 2.0 changes.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Ron, I am currently in college using my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. If I wanted to take college courses from another school while still attending my current university, will my GI Bill benefits pay for both schools at the same time? Thanks in advance for your time and help.

A: Yes it will. How that happens is the university that will award your degree is designated as your primary school. The other school you will attend is your secondary school. The key to making this work is the classes you take at your secondary school must pertain and be credited to your Post 9/11 GI Bill degree plan at your primary school.

Your primary school will draft a letter to your secondary school as far as which classes you will be taking there. Once you have finished those classes, then your secondary school must create a transcript and send it to your primary school. Your primary school will apply those credits to your degree plan, thus reducing the number of credits you need to graduate.

What won’t work, is for you to take a bunch of non-degree plan related classes at the secondary school. Not only would they not apply to your degree plan, the VA will not pay for them and you in the end, would have to pay for these classes out-of-pocket.

Also, there usually have to be some reason why you need to take classes at a different school, such as filled enrollment at your primary school or they do not offer all the classes you need for your degree plan.

Do what you need to do, but don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I transferred my Post 911 GI Bill to my son this Aug 2011 while I’m deployed here in Afghanistan. He is now in school, but I am told by VA that I only have 305 days of active duty. I enlisted in 1982 thru 1995, got out and then reenlisted Sept 2006. All that time was with PA Army Natl Guard. Then on Jan 2009, I transferred to USAR. I’m told by VA that I don’t get 100% for my son, just 50%, and no living stipend. Just yesterday, I received 2 checks, one for $494 .00 and one for $250.00 and that’s all he is entitled to? Really? I’m an E6 with 22 years of service, Please email me with guidance and direction. I’m very upset.

A: Let’s step through this and see if we can figure out why your son is only entitled to 50% and what he is entitled to.
First, none of your time from 1982 to 1995 will count toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Second, the only PA ARNG and USAR time that counts is the time you were (are) on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Afghanistan. If they calculated your tier level at 50%, then you have less than 12 months of eligible service – your 305 days in Afghanistan. Obviously, you were thinking more of your time would count toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The part I’m not understanding is the “no living stipend” part, unless your son is taking 50% or less of the number of credits his school considers to be full-time. To qualify for the housing allowance, he needs to be taking at least 51% of the full-time credit amount. Because the housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of the school and the number of credits he is taking, he would get 50% of that amount because of his tier level.

Until recently, he also would not have received a housing allowance if he was taking all his classes online, but that changed starting October 1st. Now online-only students get up to $673.50 per month, which is still only half of what brick and mortar students receive.
Regardless of the number of credits he is taking, he should get his book stipend at 50% of $41.67 per credit, up to $500 per year (50% of the $1,000 annual limit).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and I want to transfer all benefits to my wife and the Navy is telling me that I have to have at least 4 years on my contract left in order to transfer it. I have about 3 and a half years left and don’t know what to do in order to transfer it. I asked to reenlist but then in order to reenlist I have to be within a year of separation. Why are there rules like this on transferring my GI Bill I earned? Are there ways around this? And is what they are telling me true?

A: Yes, what they are telling you is true and no there is no way around it. Congress wrote the rules so the transfer option would be used as a reenlistment option, hence the four years future obligation. Just so everyone is clear, you can still make a transfer request with less than a four-year obligation – it just will not get approved.

Just so you know, the other part of the equation is you have to have served for at least six years, in addition to having the four-year future obligation. That can be somewhat mis-leading because as a servicemember, you qualify for 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill with three years of service, but it takes six years before you can use the transfer option.

What is unfortunate is the Navy’s reenlistment policy of having to be within a year of separation. So it will be 2 ½ years before your reenlistment window opens which will delay your wife’s schooling by that number of years. If she could start now, she would be over half done by then.

But, those are the rules and there isn’t anything either one of us can do to change them. Knowing what they are is half the battle.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi I’m planning on getting married in Feb. 2012 and my fiancé is also in the Army. My biggest question is once we are both out, will the G.I. Bill still pay for housing if I am a full time student and married as well? And if so, will it be combined or will she get housing pay from her G.I. Bill also?

A: No, she will get her housing allowance and you will get yours. With each of you having your own Post 9/11 GI Bill, it is as if you are individuals and not as a married couple. The amount each of you get as far as a housing allowance may differ as it is determined by the zip code of the school and how many credits you are taking. So if she is at a different school or at the same school but taking a different number of credits, the two housing allowances will most likely be different. One thing that will be the same is the amount per credit each of you will get paid for in a book stipend – $41.67 per credit.

Also, under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, each of your tuition and eligible fees will be paid for in full if both of you are attending public schools at the resident rate. If either of you are charged the non-resident rate, then be sure your school and program are covered by the Yellow Ribbon Program as that would help pay for the difference between the two rates.

If either (or both) of you plan on attending a private school, then your GI bill will pay up to $17,000 per year in tuition and fees. Here again, ask about the Yellow Ribbon program if your tuition will exceed that amount, because the Yellow Ribbon Program can help pay the difference.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good Evening, I have a few questions regarding my plan to attend the University of Utah. I am currently active duty USMC and a resident of Pennsylvania. I understand it as I am not qualified to receive full coverage of tuition and all due to my residency in PA? What, I’m asking, essentially is what do I have to do to use my GI bill to cover all costs incurred while attending the University of Utah? Would I have to transfer my residency a year prior to enrollment? Is there a simple way to do this as active military? These questions are very prevalent to my current plan. Most of my civilian friends from before the Marine Corps live in the area, and some of my mail gets sent to them, AT&T wireless bill for example. Would that be enough to change my legal residence to Utah and receive full compensation for attendance? Thank you for your time. Respectfully.

A: Actually, depending on your degree major, you may not have to do anything to change your residency. One great feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the Yellow Ribbon Program. It is particularly useful if you have to pay out-state tuition or you plan on attending a private school.

How it works is your Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay your tuition and eligible fees up to the residency rate for the State of Utah. Then, if your major is one of the programs covered by the University of Utah, your school can pay up to 50% of the difference between what they charge and what your Post 9/11 GI Bill pays. The VA can pay an equal amount, so between the two, most of your unpaid difference will be paid, leaving you very little if anything left to be paid out-of-pocket.

As far as your housing allowance, that will be determined by the zip code of your school and by how many credits you are taking, so that has nothing to do with your residency, as does your book stipend. That pays you $41.67 per credit up to a maximum of $1,000 per year, so residency has no effect on that payment either.

So if your program is covered by the Yellow Ribbon Program, your non-residency factor should have very little to do with your Post 9/11 GI Bill payments. Be sure to ask if your program is covered or not, because while the U of Utah is a Yellow Ribbon school, not all of its programs may be included in their Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I joined the Army in Oct 2008 and I was told I was receiving the original GI Bill. I’m getting out in Oct 2012 to go to school. Does my original GI Bill transfer to the New GI Bill?

A: It can if you want it to (and why wouldn’t you). When you signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), the new Post 9/11 GI Bill was not even in existence yet, so that was the only option you had at that time. And before the GI Bill 2.0 significantly changed the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there were some situations where it was better to stick with the MGIB, including attending a vocational or technical school not connected with a degree awarding institution of higher learning.

But since the change, the Post 9/11 GI Bill generally pays for the same type of training as did the MGIB, however, at a much higher rate.

Instead of getting a fixed monthly rate of $1,473 per month as a full-time student, and you having to pay for your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses, now you get your tuition/fees paid in full directly to your school (public) and you get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend each semester, up to $1,000 per year.

If you plan on attending a private school, then the VA will pay up to $17,000 per year in tuition and fees and you still get your housing allowance and book stipend. With either type of school, it is a lot better deal than using the MGIB for the same type of training.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been in the Army since this past February. I am currently in AIT, but have graduated. I was hurt in April while training. I have had treatment for the injury but no progress and they said they are going to med board me. Expected date of my last day of service is sometime in April 2012. Giving me about 14 months in service, all of which were in TRADOC. Is there any way I will be eligible for the Montgomery G.I. Bill? Do I have to do anything to secure that I get it if eligible? Thank you for your time. Hope to hear back soon.

A: If your injury was deemed service-connected (and it sounds like it should be), then you should qualify for 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The requirements for service-connected incidents are 30 continuous days of Title 10 service. If you are unsure whether your Medical discharge will be with or without benefits, ask your Command, however, the ultimate deciding body will the be the Medical Board and Physical Evaluation Board.

You made reference to the Montgomery GI Bill, but I’m not sure why. Did you sign up for the MGIB? Since you have been in 9 months, I know you have not completed making your $1,200 contribution (the $100 per month for the first 12 months you were in). Anyway, you would most likely be better off with the Post 9/11 GI Bill when you get ready to request your Certificate of Eligibility by submitting VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. With the implementation of the GI Bill 2.0 changes, the Post 9/11 GI Bill almost mirrors the MGIB and it pays a lot more.

If you do not get a service-connected medical discharge, then most likely you would not get any GI Bill. Another option you might get is a month-for-month GI Bill entitlement, meaning you would get one month of entitlement for each month you served, or about 14 months of entitlement.

There are too many variables right now to know exactly what you will get. If you end up going through a Medical Board and a Physical Evaluation Board, their findings will in the end determine your GI Bill outcome.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am using my father’s Post 9/11 GI Bill to fill in what my scholarships do not cover in school. I received 21k in scholarships and the tuition is 31k. My school just took an entire semester’s tuition out of the GI Bill and did not use my scholarships. What is the order of use for GI Bill benefits and scholarships?

I also am qualified for the Yellow Ribbon program? I was originally told by the VA coordinator at my school that my scholarships are supposed to be used first, then the Yellow Ribbon program, and that what ever tuition that is left unpaid would be covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I got a bill in the mail the beginning of October and saw the entire mess unfold that I explained above. I am trying to get this settled with my school but they will not give me any straight answers about it.

A: It sounds like your school doesn’t know the rules of order for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA is the last payer, so your school should apply your scholarships first, which would have reduced your tuition bill to $10,000. If you are attending a public school and paying resident tuition, the VA would pick up the rest of the unpaid difference. If you are paying out-state tuition, then the VA would pay what is left up to the resident tuition amount unless your scholarships paid it all.

If you are attending a private school, then the VA would pay the $10,000, but then it would only pay up to $7,000 the next semester as under the new rules, it will only pay up to $17,000 per year for attendance at private schools.

However, this is where the Yellow Ribbon Program would kick in, Your school could pay up to half of the amount left that your scholarships and GI Bill would not pay and the VA would pay an equal amount.

Now would be a good time to get your VA certifying Official at your school involved. S/he almost got the order right in that the person knew the scholarships should have been used first. However, s/he had the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program order reversed.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have the student loan repayment program and it will finish paying after my third year of service. I have a four-year contract and want to know how much of the GI Bill I will be eligible for if I do not reenlist.

A: It won’t be much. As a matter-of-fact, you will be at the 60% tier, if you have a full 12-months of service after your three-year Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) obligation is paid off. However, if you have less than a full year, then you will only get 50%.

Why so little with four years of service? Because you can’t start accruing Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility time until your three-year SLRP obligation is paid off. By law, you can’t use the same time period for both programs.

So, if you choose to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you would have 36 months of entitlements at 50%, meaning half of your tuition and fees would be paid for if you attend a public school. If you choose to attend a private one, then the VA would pay up to $8,500 per year (50% of $17,000). Regardless of which school type you choose, you would also get 50% of both the book stipend and housing allowance.

Hopefully, you already had your four-year degree before you came into the military and you won’t need to use your GI Bill.