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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I enlisted in the Army (Active Duty) in July of 2008 and was injured and medically retired in June of 2009. Do you know if a veteran with a 90% VA disability rating (40% disability from the Army, required for medical retirement) is entitled to the full GI Bill benefits or only partial due to the less than 2-3 years served?

A: It depends on whether your medical discharge was deemed service-connected or not. If it is service-connected, then all you had to serve was 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001 and you would get the full 36 months of entitlement at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier.

That means the VA would pay 100% of the resident tuition if you attend a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year if you attend a private school. You would also qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program which would be valuable if you are paying out-state tuition or your private school charges more than what the VA can pay by law. The Yellow Ribbon Program would pick up most if not all of the difference. You would also get 100% of both the housing allowance authorized for the zip code of your school and the maximum book stipend of $41.67 per credit.

However if your medical discharge was not service-connected, then the most you could hope for would be 36 months of entitlement at the 50% tier level.

If you are talking about the Montgomery GI Bill, and your discharge is service-connected, then you would get up to $1,648 per month up to 36 months in education benefits. Out of this amount you would have to pay your own tuition, fees and books. If not service connected, then the best you can hope for would be one month of benefits for each month served or about 11 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am doing on-line courses at American Military University which I would love to do to get my degree. I am about to retire and I am living right now in Kentucky. I am looking at taking a couple of classes in the bluegrass also (face-to-face) to work on my degree plan. Will I be able to get my BAH if I am attending two different institutions and will be courses be paid for with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Thanks!

A: Yes you would be able to get your Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (NOT BAH) and yes classes at both institution would be paid for with the Post 9/11 GI Bill – but only if you go about it the correct way.

First, check with AMU as far as if they will let you take classes on campus at your school in Kentucky. Why is that important? For two reasons. First they have to approve the classes you are going to take in Kentucky as they are the one that have to credit your degree plan with the Kentucky credits. Second, if they do not approve the classes or will not accept the credits, then the VA would not pay for the Kentucky classes.

Here’s how it works when taking classes at two schools. The school issuing your degree (AMU) is called the parent school; the other school (the one in Kentucky) the secondary school. Your parent school has to approve the classes you want to take in Kentucky. If they will not approve any classes, the process stops there.

Assuming they do approve some classes, they send a letter to your school in Kentucky informing them of the classes they have approved you of taking at that school. Once you have completed the classes, your Kentucky school will put the credits on a transcript and send them to AMU. AMU credits your degree plan with those credits and the process is complete.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently an E-2 veteran, who is married to an E-5 active duty solider. He recently PCS’d to Garmisch, Germany taking myself and our two daughters along. Upon arriving, a person from the education center heard I was going to school, and said that I would qualify for BAH. I was not aware of this, and I have not had much luck in my search to understand. We are currently living on-post, and I am not the actual soldier stationed over here, so how exactly would I qualify for BAH? Or is there something else that I would qualify for?

A: I’m assuming you are talking about the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and not BAH for housing. If you have your own Post 9/11 GI Bill, the person at the Education Center was correct. By having your own GI Bill, you are treated as an individual veteran meaning the VA would pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school and you would get a monthly housing allowance.

Each semester you would also get the book stipend that calculates out at $41.67 per credit. There is a $1,000 per year cap on the book stipend, but it is enough for a couple of 12-credit semesters per academic year.

Now let’s talk about how much your Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay. It depends on two things: the fact that your school is overseas and your Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level.

By attending a school in Germany, the VA would pay up to $19,198.31 per year in tuition and fees, assuming you would be going to school full-time and are at the 100% tier. If you are less than full-time or at a lesser percentage, then that amount would be adjusted down accordingly.

As far as the housing allowance, you would get the foreign rate up to $1,429 per month. This amount is also based on a rate of pursuit of full-time and maxed out on the tier level.

As far as the book stipend, it is based on the number of credits you take and tier percentage. If you are at a tier less than 100%, then the $41.67 per credit would be prorated down to your tier percentage.

If you did not have your own Post 9/11 GI Bill, and were going to use benefits transferred to you from your husband, then you would not get the housing allowance, but you would still get the book stipend and get your tuition paid.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I’m taking 14 credits at one campus with my school, but 1 credit at another campus at the same school, which housing will I receive? Is it pro-rated per credit? The difference in housing is substantial, so I wanted to ensure I was making the correct choice.

A: You would get the Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing rate for the campus where you are taking the most credits; the one that will be issuing you your degree. The campus where you are taking 14 credits is known as your parent school; the other campus is your secondary school.

Before you take any classes at your secondary school, be sure to get them approved first by your parent school. The way it works is once your parent school approves of the classes you’ll take at the secondary school, they will send a letter to them.

Once you have finished the approved classes, the secondary school will send a transcript to your parent school and they in turn will post the credits to your degree plan.

If you expect the VA to pay for the classes you take at the secondary school, this is how you have to do it as the VA will only allow you to have one degree plan at a time. If you don’t run it through your primary school, the VA would not pay for classes at your secondary school because they would not be on a degree plan from that school.

I’m not sure of your reasoning to take a class at a different school being you are taking the rest of your credits in classroom classes (on campus) at the first school. I could see it if you were taking 14 credits all online from one school and the one credit on campus from a different school so that you could get the full housing allowance, but by the way your question is worded that is not the case.

If it were, then your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance would be calculated off of the zip code of your secondary school instead of your parent school. With all online classes, your housing allowance amount would be maxed out at $714.50 per month instead of almost double that amount by taking one resident class per semester that you can apply to your degree plan.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: What if I have already completed my BS, and have a few days remaining on my Chapter 30? I would like to use the 12 extra months on the Post 9/11 GI Bill for an apprenticeship program. Any advice on exhausting the remaining benefits in this situation?

A: My advice is to start your apprenticeship program using your remaining days of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) entitlement. Then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to use the additional 12 months to complete as much of your apprenticeship as possible.

If you would switch over now, current stated VA policy dictates that all you would get is same number of days under the New GI Bill as you had left unused under the old GI Bill. So you could only expect to get the few remaining MGIB days by converting. But by using up those few days first, you would get the additional time.

The apprenticeship payment programs do vary depending on which GI Bill you use. Under the MGIB you would get $1,236 per month for the first 6 months, $906.40 per month for the second 6 months and $576.80 per month for the remainder of your program.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your payment would be the monthly housing allowance:
• 100% – 1st 6 months
• 80% – 2nd 6 months
• 60% – 3rd 6 months
• 40% – 4th 6 months
• 20% – each month for the remaining months of the program

But because you only have a few days left under the old GI Bill, you your first month would be the prorated amount of $1,236. Then you would switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and instead get the MHA at the appropriate percentages for the next 12 months until your entitlement ends.

The only catch is that some apprenticeship programs may be approved for one GI Bill or the other and maybe not both. Be sure your program is approved for both GI Bills.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I’m a commissioned officer in the Army who is about to ETS. I’m looking forward to continue my studies and looking to get my Masters in International Law overseas more specifically in Iceland, Finland or Norway. Does the GI Bill cover any school in those countries? Thanks.

A: While there are several VA-approved schools in each of those countries – 2 in Iceland, 14 in Finland and 13 in Norway – none of them have a masters in international law. If you do happen to find a foreign VA-approved school with a master’s in IL, then you could use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get some of your education-related school costs paid for.

The amount in tuition the VA pays is the same at a foreign school as it would at a private school – up to $19,198.31 per year. As far as Monthly Housing Allowance, it pays the foreign school rate of $1,429 per month. Unlike the MHA in the United States, where the amount you receive is based on the zip code of the school and the number of credits you take, if you are going to school full-time overseas you get the fixed amount regardless of which foreign school you attend.

However the book stipend is calculated the same as it would be if you attended a U.S. based school – $41.67 per credit up to the $1,000 annual cap.
Keep in mind that if you attend a foreign school, you would not be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Having this program can be an economic boom as your school can pay up to 50% of the difference between what your school charges and what your GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount.

But to take advantage of this program, you have to attend a school here in the U.S. that includes their International Law program in their Yellow Ribbon Agreement. It is something to look into as it could save you thousands of dollars over the course of your master’s degree program.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi Ron, I plan on exhausting my Chapter 30 benefits in 12 months, then applying for the Post 9/11 GI Bill extension. Because of timing, this 12 months will span two different academic years. My question is will the VA pay for both years tuition? Thanks, Greg

A: It certainly will! To transition from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, calculate the date when you think you’ll run out of Chapter 30 benefits. Then go to the eBenefits website and fill out VA Form 22-1990.

In Part II Block 7, put a check before “9F”. To figure out an effective date – when you want your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to start – add about two weeks to the date you calculated when you’ll run out of Chapter 30 benefits. It doesn’t matter if you run out of Chapter 30 benefits before this date – the key point is you do not want to have Chapter 30 benefits left on this date.

Otherwise, you won’t get your additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill. However if you run out of MGIB benefits before this date, your Post 9/11 GI Bill will kick in before your estimated effective date – as a matter of fact, the day after you run out of Chapter 30 benefits it’ll start.

As far as the boxes below the effective date line, check the Chapter 30 box as the GI Bill you are giving up. Yes, I know you don’t have anything left under that GI Bill, but that is the block you have to check.

In return, you’ll get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) that you’ll need to hand in a copy when you register as a Post 9/11 GI Bill student. On your COE, you’ll notice you will have an additional 5 years of time to use your 12 months of benefits. So spanning two academic years is no problem.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My girlfriend’s son was kicked out of the service for drug use. His DD214 under character of service says under honorable conditions (general). He was in for over 2 years, and paid his $100 a month for the first year. Is he still eligible for his GI Bill and VA benefits?

A: I’m not an expert in VA benefits, other than education and the GI Bill, so I can’t say if he is eligible or not, however, with that type of discharge I can tell you that he would not be able to use his GI Bill. If he paid his $1,200 contribution fee, then he has the Montgomery GI Bill. And if he served for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001, he would have some coverage under the Post 9/11 GI Bill – in fact 36 months at the 80 % tier, if all of his two years were after the September date.

But he threw that all away. With a fully Honorable discharge, he could have received a four-year degree of his choice and over ¾ of it would have been paid for. Plus he would have been paid up to 80% of the Monthly Housing Allowance and book stipend. In the end, he threw away about $72,000 because he couldn’t stay away from drugs.

They are the scrounge of the 21st century and I have seen them ruin many servicemembers – your girlfriend’s son is a perfect example.

And it is too bad. There are thousands of students who do not have the GI Bill that are struggling to get through school – many of them building up mounds of student debt. Most of them would give anything to get $72,000 of their school costs paid for.

He had it good and lost it all – too bad.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, Here is my question. I’m currently on active duty and I owe 2 more years of service as an Officer in the Army. I signed up and was given the MGIB. I paid the $1,200 fee. I want to go to law school back in Ohio when I get done. Can I switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill? Should I switch? I think the University of Cincinnati Law School is a Yellow Ribbon School, is that correct? How do I know what benefits I am entitled to? Thank you in advance. Josh

A: Let’s answer your first question Josh – yes you could switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and in your case it is probably the right thing to do. Under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), you would get $1,648 per month to go to school. Out of that amount, you would have to pay your tuition, books fees, and any other education-related expenses.

However, under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school. Attend a public school and it pays 100% of the resident rate; attend a private school and it would pay up to $19,198.31 per year. And you are smart in checking to see if your school is a Yellow Ribbon School or not.

Under that program your school could pay up to 50% of the difference between what they charge and what your GI Bill pays; the VA pays an equal amount. This can greatly limit the amount left for you to pay out-of-pocket.

To answer your second question, yes your school is a Yellow Ribbon School. The University of Cincinnati limits the number of students in their College of Law program to 5 per year with a maximum contribution to each student of $9,192. Because the school is listed as a public school, the VA would pay up to about $5,392 in tuition.

In looking at the school’s College of Law website, they charge $24,010 for Ohio Residents so after the VA paid their share, you would still have $18,618 left to pay. But under the Yellow Ribbon Program, the school could pay up to $9,192 with the VA paying an equal amount. As you can see, this would wipe out the $18,618 that was your responsibility to pay. Sweet!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: We will have three kids in college at the same time. We have given each of them 12 months of benefit. Can they each collect housing, even though they are all living in the same household?

A: Yes they can. That is where the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits differ between dependents and spouses. If you had given your wife benefits, she would not have qualified for the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). However each of your kids can collect their own MHA while still living under your roof (even if they don’t pay any room or board)!

The VA will pay each of their tuitions up to the resident rate if they attend a public school, or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school. Each semester, (up to the $1,000 per year cap) each kid would get a book stipend that calculates out at $41.67 per credit. If each kid is attending full-time, then the book stipend is enough for two semesters per academic year of school.

As far as the MHA, the amount each would receive is based on the zip code of each of their school, and the number of credit each one takes. To give you an idea of what the average MHA is across America, it is at $1,300 per month right now. To see exactly what each on would get, go to the BAH Calculator. Enter in the school zip code in the Duty Zip Code field and select E-5 from the drop down Pay Grade menu. Click on Calculate.

Once the results comes up, use the “with dependents” figure, even though none of them have any dependents – everyone gets the “with dependents” amount.