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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am a retired SFC retiring after Sep 2001, but before Aug 2009. I am one of many that are highly disappointed that we are not included in the privilege of transferring our benefits to our children. Who in the legislature, i.e. Governor/Senator, do I need to contact reference the new bill (H.R. 1330) that was introduced by Rep Alexander (R-LA)? I would like to start a campaign and get signatures in order to get this bill signed into law.

A: I’m with you. I’ve never understood what Congress was thinking when they excluded all of all of you guys from being able to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.  But then, I never understood why online-only students were not authorized a housing allowance.

They may go to school virtually, but they still have physical needs such as buying food to eat, and needing a place to live. Fortunately, the GI Bill 2.0 changed that and starting on August 1st, at least full-time online-only students will get $673.50 (which is only 50% of what traditional students receive, but still better than what they got in the past).

But, now back to your question. I would start with contacting your U.S. Congress Senators and Representatives asking them for their support on H.R. 1330. Explain how disappointed you are in that you were excluded and they now have an opportunity to right a wrong. Because this is a Federal issue, Governors won’t be much help, unless it gets on their national meeting agenda.

I would encourage all readers of this blog to do the same thing. Legislators listen to numbers. If a few complain, it isn’t a big deal. If they hear from a large number of their constituents (and it has the possibility of affecting their re-election), they pay attention.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I received a letter from the VA stating that after June 3rd, 2011, I would only have 4 days left on my G.I. Bill, but I’m still eligible for the benefits. What exactly does that mean? Also, if I can no longer get in touch with my father to get more benefits, do I have to sign myself up again for the G.I. Benefits?

A: I’m not understanding what you are trying to tell me. Are you saying you disagree with the VA and you think you should have more days left on your Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits? If so, then look at your entitlement usage.

Did you opt for interval or break pay between semesters? If so, that used up entitlement and all you got out of it was your housing allowance. Many students don’t realize this.

It is somewhat misleading the way the VA handles break pay because they will automatically send you your break pay unless you tell them not to. So if you got break pay, you indeed might have used up your entitlement sooner than you expected.

As far as getting more Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement transferred to you, you can’t do that. The benefit belongs to your father and he is the only one who can allocate more months of entitlement to you.

Again, I’m not sure what you mean when you say “sign myself up again”. You did not sign up for entitlements in the first place. Your father transferred entitlements to you and you submitted VA Form 22-1990e to request your Certificate of Eligibility to use those benefits. An analogy would be he put money into an account and you requested authorization to spend the money. But once the money is gone, its gone and you can’t request more money.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m in the Army Reserves and have meet all the requirements for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I was told by an education rep that I didn’t have to apply for the benefits. If I didn’t plan on using them, I could just transfer to my dependents, which I did. With her help, I split the benefits up between my wife and two sons. Do I need to apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill or can I transfer it straight to a dependent? Thanks.

A: What your Education Representative told you is correct. What happens when you make a transfer request is the Army Reserve Representative handling transfer requests will check to see if:

  • you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill by having served after September 10, 2001 for at least 91 days on a Title 10 Order in support of a contingency operation;
  • you have served for at least six years in the Armed Forces of America;
  • you have at least four years left on your enlistment.

If so, then your request will be approved. To see if your requests were approved, periodically go back to the transfer website and look for a status change from “Pending Review” to “Approved”.

Once the status changes, then have each family member receiving transferred benefits go to the eBenefits website and have them submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, each will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that they will need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Just keep in mind that each dependent will inherit the same tier percentage that you have. So if you are at the 50% tier, they will get 50% of their tuition and fees paid along with 50% each of the housing allowance and book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

I’m interested in taking college classes while still in the military. I have prior college and would like to continue on to a bachelor’s degree. How soon can I use the benefits of the GI Bill for myself?

A: I would consider using Tuition Assistance program to take classes while you are in the military and until you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. They are free and will pay up to $250 per credit with an annual cap of $4,500. If you do the math, you will see the $4,500 will cover 18 credits at $250 per credit. If your credits costs less, then you could take more credits before hitting your annual cap.

Once you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill (after serving for at least two years), you can then also use the Tuition Top-Up program, which pays tuition costs over $250 per credit or your education costs over your $4,500 annual cap if you hit your annual cap early in the year.

That money is paid by your service branch and they, in turn, bill the VA. The VA converts that dollar amount into months and days of entitlement and deducts that entitlement from your unused amount.  While it does reduce your GI Bill entitlement, it does so at a much slower rate.

If you don’t take advantage of Tuition Assistance, you are throwing free money away. It is one of your benefits, so use it!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I still use my MGIB today?

A: It depends on two things:

  • when you got out of the military
  • which MGIB you had.

Many people don’t realize there are two Montgomery (MGIB) GI Bills – One for the Reserve and National Guard personnel and another one for the active duty members. Each has their own set of rules. With the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve, your education benefits expire either 10 years from the date of your Notice Of Benefits Eligibility (NOBE), if you stay in the Reserve Components for over ten years, or upon discharge if you stay in less than 10 years.

For active duty members, their MGIB – the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty – expires 10 years from their date of discharge. So if you were discharged from active duty less than 10 years ago, your MGIB is still good. If you were in the Reserve Component, it expired on the date of your discharge.

If you were in after September 10, 2001 for at least 90-days, you may also qualify for the minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Three years after the above date qualifies you for the full Post 9/11 GI Bill. The education benefits of that GI Bill have a 15-year life.

If you do qualify for the New GI Bill, and you still have 36 months of MGIB left, you can switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and after your use up your 36 months, you can get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back.  Or use up your MGIB 36 months of benefits, switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of education benefits, but not your contribution back. So depending on your situation, you could have some options.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I would like to know how I can apply for 12 extra months of GI Bill benefits. It is my understanding that you can use up to 36 months of one form of GI Bill and a total of 48 months between two different programs. In my case, I used about 18 months of Chapter 1606 & 1607 GI Bill benefits before switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I am currently getting close to exhausting my benefits. I have heard about when you switch from one program to another that you can get an additional 12 months of benefits. Is there any truth to this and if so how would someone go about applying for these additional months of benefits?

A: No, that is not exactly the way it works. Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two or more GI Bills, the maximum number of months of combined benefits is capped at 48 months, however, there is a catch on how to get the extra months.

If you already used 18 months under Chapters 1606 (Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve)/1607 (Reserve Education Assistance Program – REAP) and then switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would only get 18 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits – the same number of months you had left under Chapters 1606/1607.

However, if you first exhausted all 36 months of Chapters 1606/1607 and then switched to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would then get the additional 12 months of entitlements. The key is first exhausting your months of entitlement under your current GI Bill before switching to the New GI Bill.

Do the math though. Financially, you might be better off switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and drawing 18 months of New GI Bill benefits rather than drawing 18 months of Chapter 1606/1607 and 12 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Chapters 1606/1607 don’t pay much in comparison to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, with your tuition and fees paid, your housing allowance and book stipend.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I served 8 years on active duty, and then later signed up with the Reserves for 6 years, what are my education benefits as a reservist considering that I paid $1,200 for MGIB while on active duty prior.

A: It depends on when you served your 8 years and if you deployed as a reservist. Because you made the $1,200 contribution, you have or had the Montgomery GI Bill. It has a 10-year delimiting date calculated on your date of discharge, so depending on when you got it, it could have expired. If you got out less than 10 years ago, then it should still be good.

If you served three years on active duty after September 10, 2001, then you would also qualify for 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you did not qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill through your Title 10 active duty time, you still might qualify for partial benefits if you deployed on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation while in the Reserves. A one-year deployment puts you at the 60% tier, meaning the VA would pay up to 60% of your tuition, fees, book stipend and housing allowance.

Or you could have an amalgamation of Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility time you acquired with some time on active duty and additional time if you deployed while on a Title 10 order while in the Reserves.

Without more information, I can’t give you a more precise answer, however, I can offer this little-known tidbit. If you never used your Montgomery GI Bill benefit and you fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, once you switch from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 GI Bill  and use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlements, you will get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back. It will be included with your last housing allowance payment.

Use up your MGIB months of entitlement and then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill (if eligible) and you can get an additional 12 months of entitlement, but not any of your contribution back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I want to know if i can still use my GI Bill?

A: I’ll give you my standard answer of “It depends”, because as you will  see it does. It depends on which GI Bill you have and how long it has been since you were discharged from the military. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, it has a delimitation date of 10 years from date of discharge, meaning after 10 years from the time you got out, you lose the education benefit if you have not used it all up at that point.

If you have the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve, which is what Reservist and the National Guard members have, it expires 10 years from their Notice of Benefits Eligibility (NOBE) date, if they stay in the Reserve Component longer than 10 years, or it expires immediately upon discharge.

If you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it also has a delimitation date, but it is 15 years from the date of discharge, so the earliest anyone’s New GI Bill will expire is around 2016 as the Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility did not start until 2001.

So as you can see, the answer really is it depends. Every GI Bill has a different set of rules that applies to it. Plus the rules keep changing, especially for the Post 9/11GI Bill, which makes it a real challenge keeping up with the changes.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: What is the fastest way to make sure I qualify and how soon can I transfer it to my daughter. I hit 20 years this July. I paid into the old GI Bill while on active duty Marine Corp 1987-1992. Served with the M-day NG from 1992-2001 and 2005-Present AGR Recruiter for the Army National Guard.

A: Your old GI Bill really doesn’t effect anything as that expired in 2002. The Montgomery GI Bill has a 10-year delimiting date where if you do not use it within 10 years from your date of discharge, you lose the education benefit.

You AGR time only back to August 1, 2009 counts. Until the passage of GI Bill 2.0, none of your AGR time would have counted. So counting from 2009 forward, you will have around 24 months of eligibility on your AGR anniversary, which puts you at the 80% mark. So another year from your anniversary date and you will be 100% vested in the program.

As a Reservist or National Guardsman, you could transfer entitlements to your daughter with less than 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, however she would inherit the same percentage rate as what you currently have.  Just know that she would not be able to start using her transferred benefits until October 1st. That was the “magic” date set by Congress as to when AGR who gain their Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility by serving in the AGR program could start using their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Deployed to OIF 10 Feb 2009 – 10 Feb 2010. AGR T32 11 Feb 2010 to current. When will I be fully vested for Post 9-11 GI Bill benefit? Thanks.

A: It takes three years of eligible service to fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% level. With your one-year of deployed time, you were at the 60% level.

Your Title 32 time back to August 1, 2009 does count right now toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility with the passage of the GI Bill 2.0, however, you can’t start drawing Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits acquired under the Title 32 program until October 1st . That shouldn’t effect you right now as it sounds like you want to wait until you are 100% vested in the program anyway.

So according to my calculations, you should be at the 100% tier sometime around 11 February of 2012. Keep in mind if you plan to transfer benefits to your spouse or dependent children, you need to have served at least six years and agree to serve an additional four years.

Unlike active duty, those in the Reserve and National Guard can transfer benefits with less than 100% eligibility, but the recipient of the benefit inherits the sponsor’s tier percentage.