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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband was in the Marines for four years then went into the Army in 2007. Deployed to Iraq and returned October 2009. He is in for seven more years. He has never used his Benefits GI Bill. Can I use them, I already have a Masters but would like to go back to obtain something more useful to find a job. Please let me know. Thank you very much.

A: You can use his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to get another degree, provided he agrees to transfer them to you. It sounds like he has met the six years of Armed Forces Title 10 duty time and he has at least four years left on his current enlistment, which is the second service requirement.

Now all he has to do is go to the Transfer of Benefits website and enter into your record how many months he would like to transfer to you. Because he has never used his GI Bill, he will have 36 months of benefits at his disposal. He will want to be patient though as it can take up to 8 to 10 weeks to get it approved.

Once the request is approved, then you can submit VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website to get your Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when enrolling in a GI Bill school.

Because you did not use the GI Bill to get your Master’s degree, there isn’t a problem using GI Bill transferred benefits for another degree.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a few questions concerning the post 9/11 GI bill. #1. My husband has 18 years of service. His current retirement date is set for Feb 2014. If he transfers his benefits to my son and myself, would he have to extend his retirement date? If so for how long? The entire 4 years? #2. If I attend school part time for 3 years, how many months does that equate to off the GI bill benefits 36 months full time. My son will be using 5 months of benefits for a trade school he is attending. I wasn’t sure how many months would be remaining. I am attending a FNP program which is 24 months full time or 36 months part time. I would prefer to go part time if the benefits will allow that option. #3. If I am going to school while my husband is still active duty, does that take away my housing allowance benefit since he already receives BAH?

A: #1 – If he is retirement eligible (20 years or more) in Feb 2014, no additional time should be required. If not, then he would have to extend for enough time to get to 20 years, but it would be less than four years because he is already within four years of having 20 years of service.

#2 – This I can’t answer without having more information, however, I can tell you how Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement use is calculated and you can figure it out yourself. As a full-time student, you use one month of entitlement for each full month of school.

So let’s say your school uses 12 credits as their full-time mark. If you take 12 credits in a semester, you use up one month of entitlement for each full month of school. However, if you take 7 credits per semester, then you use up 7/12th of a month of entitlement (or about 17.5 days) for each full month of school.

So you can see that if I don’t know how many credits your school considers to be full-time and how many credits you intend to take, I can’t calculate your entitlement use, but now you can.

Your husband originally had 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits provided he did not use any yet, so if your son uses five months, that would leave 31 months left, or more than enough left for you to go to school full-time for 3 nine-month school years.

#3 – Yes, you are correct. If your husband is still serving, you would not get the housing allowance, however, due to a recent change, you will start getting the book stipend paid at $41.67 per credit up to $1,000 per year, which is enough for 24 credits per year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m eligible for the 9/11 GI bill at the 100% rate and the school I will be attending participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program. I’ve also applied for student loans. I’m curious how student loans affect payment of the GI Bill. Will taking out a student loans reduce the amount of tuition paid by the VA (ie: will the school use the student loan funds for tuition fees before using the funds from the GI Bill?).

A: It depends on the type of scholarship and if it is “fenced” money or not. If it is, your school has to apply it according to the scholarship rules. If it is not fenced, then they can apply as they want, however, I would ask them how they intend to apply it and let them know you are a Post 9/11 GI Bill user.

How scholarship money is applied can be important because the VA is the last payer, after all other sources of financial support pays. A new change to the law, the last payer clause now reads:

“The VA will pay the actual net cost for in-State tuition and fees assessed by the insti­tu­tion for the pro­gram of edu­ca­tion after the appli­ca­tion of—

– any waiver of, or reduc­tion in tuition and fees; and

– any schol­ar­ship, or other Fed­eral, State, insti­tu­tional, or employer-based aid or assis­tance (other than loans and any funds pro­vided under sec­tion 401(b) of the Higher Edu­ca­tion Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a)) that is pro­vided directly to the insti­tu­tion and specif­i­cally des­ig­nated for the sole pur­pose of defray­ing tuition and fees.:

So if your money is not fenced or falls under Section 401(b), it can be used for anything. It really wouldn’t make sense to apply it to your tuition and fees if you are attending a public school, being the VA would pay 100% of these expenses. If you are attending a private school, these funds could be used for expenses over and above the $17,500 paid by the VA.

Talk to your school and press them for an answer. If the money in non-fenced or 401(b), then it could also be used to pay for other expenses, such as books, room and board, etc.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello! My husband and I are planning on getting a divorce, but he doesn’t want to leave me ‘hanging’. So he plans on signing over the Post 9/11 GI Bill to me before our divorce. My question is, when we get divorced, will I still be able to use the GI Bill? Or am I only allowed to use it (even if he signed it over) while married? Also, does the GI Bill require me to go to SOME schools or am I able to choose any school I wish? I plan on being a full time student. My husband says he’s eligible for 100% of it because of spending more than 36 months on active duty after 9/11. But he said something about housing allowance. What does the GI Bill pay other than school, books and supplies? Thank you very much!

A: As long as your husband makes the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer request and it is approved before your divorce, you will be able to use your transferred benefits. As far as which schools you can attend, the only requirement is the school you choose must be VA-approved for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This is important because some schools advertise as being GI Bill approved, but they are approved for the Montgomery GI Bill and not the Post 9/11. There is also a difference in how the VA pays depending on if your school is public or private.

With public schools, the VA pays actual tuition and fee charges. With private schools they pay up to $17,500 per year and you will have to pay the rest, unless your school is a Yellow Ribbon school.

You asked about the housing allowance. Being you plan on being a full-time student, you would get the full housing allowance that is authorized for the zip code of your school. You would receive it is monthly paid at the pay grade of E-5 with dependents. You should get your first payment about a month after starting school. Nationwide, it averages about $1,200 with both the East and West Coasts being about double that amount.

You will also get a book stipend towards the beginning of each semester calculated at $41.67 per credit up to a $1,000 per year limit, enough for 24 credits per year.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir, I have a serious question. I have been prompted to take a urinalysis. If my urine were to show positive for THC from marijuana use, could I have my GI Bill taken away? I served four years with a spit shine record, and have maintained a 3.3 GPA, so I would not think that marijuana use would be a disqualifying factor. However, I know there is a zero tolerance policy while in the service. The fact that the “Dangers” of marijuana use has been completely blown out of proportion by our government is a fact, but regardless I would just like to know that I will be able to receive my deserved education without worry.

A: I can’t guarantee you will be able to use your GI Bill benefits. If you come up hot on your urinalysis test, the deciding factor will be if your service branch will keep or discharge you and if discharged, what your characterization of service will be. Anything less than fully honorable and you kissed your education benefits goodbye.

What is interesting to note is that you know the rules – you said yourself,  “a zero tolerance policy while in the service” – yet you chose to roll the dice and now you may have to pay the consequences. Your four years of “spit shine” record and a “3.3 GPA” doesn’t mean squat, nor does your view on marijuana use. Rules are rules and you made the conscious decision to break them.

But the implications could run deeper. If you do get kicked out, you could also lose your enlistment bonus or kicker, if you have either one as wouldn’t be fulfilling your end of the contract if you are discharged early. The other thing is if you were in my squad or platoon, I don’t know if I could trust you to have my back. If you can’t follow peacetime rules, how will you react in combat?

Rules are for the protection of everyone. If you choose not to follow some, because you think they are stupid or don’t apply to you, then you also need to be ready to suffer the consequences for breaking those rules.

So as you can tell, if you are looking for any sympathy from me, you have come to the wrong place. You know where to find it in the dictionary.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am currently active duty with plans of coming off contract in February 2014. How can I transfer what will be left of my Montgomery GI Bill to my sons? Will I be able to do that? Please be as detailed and in depth as possible. Thank you for your time. Good day and God Bless.

A:  The procedure to transfer from the Montgomery GI Bill to the New GI Bill is simple, if you meet the eligibility requirements for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I can’t tell from your question how many years you have in, but there are two service requirements that must be met before you can access the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits option. First, you must have served for at least six years of which at least three years has to be after September 10, 2001.

Next, you have to agree to serve another four years unless you are within four years of being retirement eligible. If so, the four year requirement will be prorated down to a lesser amount.

Once the service requirements are in place, then you can enter into your son’s record from the transfer of benefits website the number of months you wish to transfer to him. Once finished, you will see the Status Block will read “Pending Status”. Keep coming back to the website periodically and look for the status to change to “Approved”. It can take 8 to 10 weeks for the change to happen.

Once approved, your son can submit VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website. In return, he will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that he will need when enrolling in school.

Once enrolled in school, the VA will pay his tuition and fees directly to his school. He will get a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend. The book stipend is paid once each semester at the rate of $41.67 per credit. The housing stipend is based on the zip code of his school, paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents, with the amount he will receive driven by the number of credits he is taking, verses what his school considers to be full-time.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I use the MGIB towards starting my own business?

A: This question is coming up more frequently also. Is it a sign of the times that more poeple are trying to tap any potential source of money? The short answer is yes and no – let me explain.

The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) can be used to take classes that would increase your knowledge in starting and running a business, but you can’t get money directly from your MGIB for specifically funding a business.

You can use your GI Bill to take approved courses offered by:

  • Any Small Business Development Center (SBDC), administered by the SBA (Small Business Administration) or through,
  • The National Veterans Business Development Corporation (also known as “The Veterans Corporation), a federally chartered non-profit organization.

Course provided by both organizations offer entrepreneurship training to help you start or enhance a small business. They’re generally offered three hours a week. Since this is usually less than half-time training, you would generally receive payment of tuition and fees only, not to exceed the half-time rate, or the quarter-time rate if you’re training at one quarter time or less.

Of course, the other option is to use your MGIB benefit to go to college and get either a BA in Business Administration or Business Management.

There is of course, no regulation governing how to spend your MGIB payments, so if you wanted to save that money and apply it towards starting a business you could, however, with having to go to school to get the money, you would end up trading dollars as you have to pay tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses somehow, unless you have a rich uncle that would pay for school and you could bank the MGIB money.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I entered active duty through California (1985), changed branches in Oklahoma (1989), separated active duty in Texas (1993). Which Hazelwood Act would I qualify for, Texas or California?

A: Neither one. I don’t know where you heard that California has a Hazelwood Act, because it doesn’t. Texas is the only state in the nation with that program and it is specific only to military servicemembers meeting the eligibility criteria.

To qualify for the Hazelwood Act, you have to have lived in Texas prior to enlisting, entered active duty from Texas, and new for 2011, you have to now live in Texas when you start using your Hazelwood Act benefits while attending an approved Texas school. You entered through California, so that makes you ineligible for Texas’ Hazelwood Act.

Those who are eligible, can get 150 semester hours of benefits, which is enough to fund 12.5 semesters of school or enough to get both a bachelor’s degree and most of a master’s degree, if not the whole thing.

Unused Hazelwood Act benefits may also be transferred to a child meeting the dependency qualification definition of:

  • Younger than 26 year old on the first day of class
  • Biological, or legally adopted or stepchild of the servicemember sponsor.

The Act benefit exempts student from having to pay tuition and eligible fees, but it does not include required deposits and service fees and it only applies to state schools; the exemption does not apply to private schools.

Also note the Hazelwood Act can be used with the Montgomery GI Bill, but not with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My son’s father (an active military) transferred his GI Bill benefits to him.   My son received a letter from the VA stating he would receive a monthly housing payment and book stipend.  Are the housing and books stipend automatically transferred to the dependent or is the transfer-or entitled to keep these payments while the dependent attends college?

A: The VA will send the money to wherever his son specifies he wants it to go on his VA Form 22-1990e. If he wants direct deposit, he can enter his routing and account number and the type of account in Block 7 on the form. If not, then he can leave that block empty and hard copy checks will go to the address listed in Block 5.

In return for sending in VA Form 22-1990e, his son will get a Certificate of Eligibility that he will need to take with him when he enrolls in school as a GI Bill student using Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits. In turn, the school will submit a Certificate of Enrollment on his behalf and that starts the payment processing.

At the beginning of the semester, your son will receive his book stipend calculated at $41.67 per credit. The book stipend is capped at $1,000 per year which is enough for 24 credits.

Later in the semester, he start receiving his housing allowance based on the zip code of his school and how many credits he is taking. Nation-wide, it averages around $1,200 with both the East and West Coasts being about double of that amount.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband just recently retired. He served 20 years in the Navy and retired as an E6. We would like to transfer some of his GI Bill to my 23 year old daughter. She is registered on his DEERS. Is this possible and if so how? She is looking to enroll in school as soon as possible.

A: I get this question or variations of it, a lot. Somehow, the correct information is not getting out to servicemembers getting ready to retire. I can’t pin it down to one specific service branch – I get the same question from all of them. I would think TAP would go over this during their briefings, but I don’t think it is happening.

The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the servicemember has to make a transfer request and it have it approved (which can take 8 to 10 weeks) before processing out. Once discharged, it is too late to transfer benefits.

The specific language is serving “on or after August 1, 2009”. Why they wrote it that way, I’ll never know, but when they did that, they kicked thousands of veterans in the teeth who qualify for the transfer process, but either got out before the Post 9/11 GI Bill went into effect, or they never got the word about the transfer process before getting out.

There has been a couple attempts with legislation bills to correct this wrong, but none have ever garnered enough support to even come to a vote, let alone pass (or fail).

For right now, and I don’t see it changing soon, your daughter (or you) will have to find another way to fund her education. Sorry!