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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am veteran reservist of OEF with twelve months active duty time. I enlisted in 2009 with the MGIB and the GI Bill Kicker as incentives. Exactly how much school, book, and housing money am I looking at per month? If I already have scholarships to the university and my GI money covers more than what’s left, can I keep what’s leftover?

A: Being you are in the Reserves, you have the The Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR). Unfortunately, it pays considerably less than does either the Post 9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD).  The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays actual tuition and eligible fee charges, where both MGIBs pay a fixed monthly amount, however, the amounts are drastically different. Out of that amount, MGIB users have to pay their tuition, fees, books, and other education-related expenses, but one advantage of the MGIB is the VA doesn’t care how much or how little that costs.

So in your case, yes you will still get the same amount under the MGIB-SR whether you have scholarships helping pay expenses or not. Right now, your MGIB pays a full-time student a parley $337 per month to go to school. That amount is adjusted annually and on October 1st, it will go up to $345.

As far as how much you will get for your Kicker, I can’t say as every military branch pays different amounts, but you can figure it will be $50 either way from $200. It should say on your contract how much you should get. Figuring $545 per month for 36 months, that adds up to $19,620. It is a good thing you also have some scholarships.

You might also want to look at the Post 9/11 GI Bill. With your one-year deployment, you would qualify at the 60% level, meaning the VA would pay 60% of your tuition/fees, and you would get 60% of both the housing allowance and book stipend – that would be 60% of everything after the scholarships pay. You might actually come out better.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I understand that under the GI Bill 2.0 I will be able to attend the Commercial Diving School I’ve been looking at. It is a 5-month school. After graduation I would like to use my remaining benefits to begin my bachelor’s degree in a traditional college setting. Is this possible? And if so how do I determine what percentage of benefits remain after my dive school?

A: Yes, with the implementation of that part of the GI Bill 2.0 on October 1st, it will pay for your diving school provided your school and program are both VA approved for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I fear that will be an issue in the beginning, because many of the VA schools will have their approval for the Montgomery GI Bill, but may not be yet approved for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, so be sure and ask your school about which GI Bill covers your diving course. I would hate to see you get into a course only to find out the GI Bill you want to use is not approved for that course.

If you never used any of your GI Bill educational benefits before, then you should have 36 months, After you subtract your 5-month diving course, you should have around 31 months left, or enough for about 3 years and 4 months of school.

If your diving school will count toward your bachelor’s degree, then you may have enough entitlement to finish your degree. If your diving course will not count, then you will most likely be those 5 months short of having enough to graduate.

Remember, this part of the GI Bill 2.0 does not go into effect until after October 1st. This can be confusing because other parts of the change went into effect on August 1st.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired in 2008, so I believe that I am under the Montgomery GI Bill, and not the 9/11 GI Bill. I am in the process of registering for a IT certification test. What do I need to do to make sure that I can get reimbursed for this test? Do I request reimbursement in advance, or do I pay for the test, and request reimbursement after I take it? I believe that the GI Bill covers the cost regardless of pass or fail (although I don’t intend to fail). Thanks.

A: You have to request reimbursement after you take the test, because you will have to show proof of what you paid to take it. The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) will reimburse you up to $2,000 of the cost of the test. Anything above that amount, you will be responsible for paying. If your test costs less than $2,000, then the VA will only pay up to the actual cost of the test.

You are correct in saying the VA will reimburse you for the cost of the test whether you pass or fail and they will even reimburse you to take it again if you do fail it the first time.

Previous to the implementation of the GI Bill 2.0, the Post 9/11 GI Bill would only reimburse an individual for one test. Now effective August 1st, it too will reimburse for multiple tests and will also start paying to take tests such as GMAT, SAT, LSAT and CLEP.

To claim your reimbursement, send the VA the following information:

  • Your name, address and Social Security number or VA claim number
  • The name of the test you took and the date you took it
  • A copy of each test results for each test taken, whether or not you passed it
  • The name and address of the organization issuing the license or certificate (not necessarily the organization that administered the test)
  • The cost of each test.
  • This statement: “I authorize release of my test information to VA.”
  • Your signature and date signed.

Also attached a copy of your test result or a copy of your license or certification. The VA will not reimburse students for:

  • registration fees
  • preparation guides
  • processing fees.

If you retired in 2008 with Title 10 time (active duty or Selected Reserve with Title 10 in support of a contingency operation), you probably also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If so, and because it is after August 1st, you could use either program.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired from the Air Force Reserves in October 2008. I spent 10 years on active duty and the remaining 13 in the Reserves. My question: Do I qualify for the Post 911 GI Bill since I was actively participating in the Reserve program. I have been told that my annual training days do not count. What about my Inactive Duty Training (IDT) training days over the course of 7 years? Any help would be appreciated.

A: If you retired in 2008 and spent 13 years in the Reserves, that puts your active duty time back to 1995 and before which means your active duty time does not fall in the “magic” date of after September 10, 2001 for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As far as your Reserve time after that date, it would not count either unless it was  Title 10 time. If you deployed on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, for 90-days or more after September 10, 2001, then  that time would apply to your Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.

A typical one-year deployment would put you at the 60% tier meaning the VA would pay 60% of your tuition and eligible fees along with paying you 60% of your authorized housing allowance amount. Effective August 1st, your housing allowance will be determined by the zip code of your school and how many credits you are taking compared to how many credits your school considers to be full-time. You would also get 60% of the book stipend, up to a maximum of $600 per year (60% of the $1,000 annual cap).

If you never deployed as described above, then all you have is the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) (if you opted for it when you first went in). You also had the MGIB-SR, but that expired 10 years from your date of eligibility for it. Your MGIB-AD will expire in 2018, 10 years from your date of discharge from the Reserves.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

It appears that in order to transfer GI Bill benefits to dependent children, you have to make this election while on active duty – is that true? My husband and I both retired in 2007 after 21+ years of active service. We had no knowledge of making this election. Is that because it wasn’t available then? If so, WHY would the govt “penalize” those that retired before this election was available but who served after 9/11 and a minimum of 10 years?

A: Not only was that election not available yet in 2007, it wouldn’t be available until two years later on August 1, 2009. You and your husband (along with thousands of other veterans) were left out when Congress wrote up the rules for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The way they worded it, you had to be in the military “on or after August 1, 2009” to make a transfer request, along with having served for at least six years and agree to serve an additional four years (unless retirement eligible – then the additional time is reduced).

Yet they set the eligibility date for the New GI Bill back to September 11, 2001. That makes no sense to me why they would have done that.

That meant a large number of veterans, retiring before August 1, 2009 who had at least six years of service with at least three years after September 10, 2001, were taken right out of the picture  as far as being able to make a transfer request, because of the currently serving clause. They are eligible, but they can’t make a transfer.

There have been a couple of legislation bills presented in the past couple of years, but none have gained enough support to even come to a vote, let alone get defeated, so they ended up dying in place without a vote. The voice of veterans up to this point has not been strong enough or organized enough to get this wrong corrected.

Contact your legislators and explain how disappointed you are in that they forgot the pre-9/11 veterans and ask they either initiate or support a bill that would allow you (and thousands of other veteran voters) to make a transfer of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, question about the housing allowances. My husband is active duty Guard and he has transferred part of his Post 9/11 GI Bill to me. I will be doing online courses full-time, am I eligible for the housing allowance? THANKS!

A: I’m not quite sure what you mean by active duty Guard. If you mean he is in the AGR program, then you might not get the online housing allowance, but if he is a drilling traditional Guardsman (drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer), then yes, as a spouse using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you would get the online housing allowance of $673.50 per month.

However, that is half the amount you could get. If you would take just one class that applies to your degree plan each semester on campus, you could get the full housing allowance which averages $1,200 per month across the United States. I don’t know where you live, but the East and West Coast are around $2,400 per month.

Whether you will get the housing allowance or not depends on if your husband draws BAH. If so, then you would not be eligible for the housing allowance.

Once his transfer request is approved, if it isn’t already, then you have to submit VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website to get your Certificate of Eligibility. You will most likely have to send a copy of it in when you register online for school as a student using Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I started school on August 1st and applied for my GI Bill in June, I was told that my GI Bill money wasn’t going to be available until October 1st and that I was going to get back pay is this correct?

A: Without more information as to exactly what you are talking about, I don’t know if I can answer your question. Of the changes taking place on October 1st, you could be referring to”

  • Using Title 32 time for Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility
  • Being able to attend non-degree courses regardless of where they are taught (as long as the school is VA-approved)
  • Being able to collect a housing allowance for online courses only
  • Book stipend being authorized for active duty spouses and servicemembers using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As far as backpay, it could be true. The real determining factor is if you were eligible for the benefit during the period of time you are requesting reimbursement for. If so, then you most likely will get reimbursement as long as it has been less than one year from the time period you are claiming.

If you were not authorized the benefit at that time, then most likely you would not get reimbursed. I wish I could be more helpful, but without knowing more of the specifics, that is about the best I can do. Send me more information and I can give you a better answer.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q:  If my wife went to school, are there any benefits I can use to help pay for that?

A: If you are still serving , have served for at least six years of which at least three years were after September 10, 2001 and you agree to serve an additional four years, you could transfer part or all of your unused Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlements to her.

If you are already separated, then there isn’t much you can do to help her. However, if you are still serving, in a lower rank and don’t qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer-of-benefits option yet, your wife might be eligible for the MyCAA program.

Under MyCAA, she could take a technical, trades, certification, licensure or AA degree program and get up to $4,000 to pay for school. She is limited to a two-year program and has up to three years to complete it.  In addition, there are many service-branch related scholarships under the Spouse Tuition Assistance program and numerous non-service related scholarships. Many colleges offer their own scholarships and some have work-study programs available.

My point is where there is a will, there is a way. Thousands of spouses go to school each year and many of them do not go under Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits. The best place for your wife to start is by first filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). She may be presently surprised at how much financial aid she can get.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: When my husband enlisted, he signed on receiving $72,000.00 for college. I am currently in college now on student loans. My question is can he transfer me money for school and if I complete school can he transfer me the money to pay my student loans. NO ONE on post can seem to help us answer this question and we are getting aggravated! Please help!

A:  Before you husband can make a transfer request of entitlement (different than money), he has to serve for at least six years and agree to serve for an additional four years. Once he meets that service and future service requirement, he can then make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer request in the form of months of benefit. He will have 36 months and he can transfer as much or little to you as he wants.

What he can’t do is use his GI Bill to pay off your student loans. He couldn’t use his GI Bill to pay off his own student loans if he had any. The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is a separate program from the GI Bill. As a matter-of-fact, you can’t get SLRP and the GI Bill for the same period of time. Once signed-up for SLRP, the servicemember incurs a three-year obligation, so GI Bill eligibility does not start until after that three year period and then takes an additional three years to get to the 100% tier of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

So while you will have to find another means to pay off your student loans, he can transfer you Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlements once he meets the transfer-of-benefit qualification requirements.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good Afternoon Sir, I am about to be other than honorably discharged from the military. I intend to challenge it after six months and hopefully have it changed to general under honorable conditions. If I am able to do that is there any way i would be able to regain my GI Bill? Thank you for your time.

A: No, getting your characterization of service changed to a general under honorable condition will not allow you to use your GI Bill. It has to be fully honorable.

I don’t know why you are waiting six months before you try an upgrade though. Do it right away.

The process starts by you submitting DD 293 to your military branch Discharge Review Board. If can take up to a year to get a decision and there are no guarantees they would change it to honorable, but it is the avenue of appeal. If the Discharge Review Board does not upgrade your discharge or you have been out more than 15 years, then you would use DD 149 and submit it to the Board of Corrections to Military Records. This board is also the end of the line as far as appeals. There isn’t anything higher.

In both boards, the outcome of your appeal will largely be determined by how well you can support your request. You can either request a paperwork review or a personal appearance either by you or a lawyer you hire that has military discharge upgrade experience.  Cases where the individual or representation make a personal appearance have a higher outcome of getting upgraded verses going just the paperwork review route.