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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was medically retired with 100% disability in Jan 2003. Can I transfer my Post 9/11 GI Bill to my son?

A: I’m sorry, you will not be able to transfer your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your son. The way Congress wrote the New GI Bill rules, you had to still be serving “on or after August 1, 2009” to make a transfer request. So that eliminated you and thousands of others who retired before that “magic” date.

There is a new legislation bill (HR 1130), recently introduced by Rep. Rod­ney Alexan­der (R-LA), that would allow 20-year plus veterans retiring between September 30, 2001 and September 30, 2011, the option to make a transfer request. The language of the bill right now does not include those medically retired – just those serving at least 20 years and having at least 90 days of post September 10, 2001 service (necessary to meet the minimum qualifications for the Post 9/11 GI Bill).

I would recommend you contacting your legislators and ask for their support of this bill and introduce a change to include medically retired with 100% benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I plan on starting school here in the near future. I am wanting to take my gen ED classes online and then take my lab classes at the actual college. My question is will my online classes count towards my percentage for the Post 9/11 GI Bill? Or is it only the classes that I take on campus?

A: Generally speaking, online classes count the same as on-campus classes as far as calculating how many credits you are taking. Where the difference comes in is if you are taking all online courses, then you don’t qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance – at least for right now. Starting in August, that will change.

After that date, full-time online-only students will get $673.50 per month in a housing allowance. Less than full-time students will get a less prorated amount of the base $673.50 dependent on the number of credits they take.

Of course the way around that (and get the full housing allowance) is to take at least one on-campus class each term that applies to your degree plan and take a total number of credits to put you at a rate of pursuit of at least greater-than-half-time.

However, that too will change in August. After that date, the amount you get in housing allowance will be directly tied to the number of credits you take in relation to what your school considers to be full time.

If you are a ¾ time student, then you would get ¾ of the full housing amount whereas right now, a ¾ time student gets the full amount. (Actually you would get 80% instead of 75% as the VA rounds up top the next tenth.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I had the GI Bill from my service from 1988 through 2000. I never used it. Can I get my $1,200 back?

A: I’m sorry, you can’t. Regardless if you used your Montgomery GI Bill or not, the money is not refundable for the time-frame you were in the military. The only instance where some veterans are getting either a partial or full refund of their $1,200 Montgomery GI Bill contribution, is if they qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and switch to it with either all or part of their MGIB entitlements left.

Those who have already used up the MGIB entitlement and switch to the Post 9/11 GI bill to get the additional 12 months, they don’t get any of their contribution back.

Once they use up their last entitlement, they will get either a full or partial refund back included with their last housing allowance check. The contribution refund is calculated at $33.34 per month of entitlement left at the time of conversion.

For the time you were in, you would not qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. To qualify, you would have had to be in for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001 for the minimum benefit of 40%; it took three years to reach 100%.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’ve been attending school full-time, but will be starting a graduate program that will be 9 credits per semester and 6 in the summer. It is considered 3/4 time, even though due to the overlapping courses, there’s no way to do full time. How will this effect my housing allowance and total benefit (rate of pursuit) under the Post 9/11 GI Bill? I’m currently full time and getting full housing allowance. I have 18 months of benefit left for grad school, at 100% and don’t want to run out.

A: Entitlement use and the housing allowance are somewhat two separate subjects, so I’ll address them separately. Right now, if you qualify for 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and have a rate of pursuit of greater-than-half-time (and not taking all online classes), you get the full housing allowance. To get the greater-than-half-time rate of pursuit, you need to take at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time.

So as long as you  are over the 51% mark, you will get the full housing allowance. For right now, either you qualify for it or you don’t; there isn’t a partial payment (generally speaking).

However, with the passage of the GI Bill 2.0, that will change starting on August 1st. After that date, your housing allowance will be directly tied to the number of credits you are taking in relation to what the school considered to be full-time.

As far as entitlement use, it is based on the number of days of school per month at your rate of pursuit. So a full-time student uses one month of entitlement for each full month of school. If you are going ¾ time, then you would use ¾s of a month of entitlement for each month of school or about 22.5 days each month. So with 18 months of entitlement left, and continuing at the same rate of pursuit, you would go to grad school for about 22.5 months before running out of benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: my son was honorably discharged from the Navy. He went to a community college and received a BAH allowance. After 2 and 1/2 months he became seriously ill and couldn’t continue his semester. Now they want to him to send back his bah allowance. Is this right?

A:   It depends on how the situation was handled. Did your son contact the VA to tell them why he would not be able to continue his schooling under the Post 9/11 GI Bill? If not, then the VA only got documentation from the school that he dropped out, but they most likely did not know why. So as a default, they will ask for the housing allowance back.

If he would have contacted the VA explaining his reason for dropping out, it would most likely have been considered mitigating circumstances and they would not have ask for repayment. But, because they didn’t know and no one contacted them, they treated it as non-mitigating which requires repayment.

My suggestion is for your son to contact the VA Debt Management Center (that is who is most likely asking for the money back), explain why he had to drop out of school and ask for reconsideration. They most likely will change it to mitigating and drop the repayment request.

What I have found out is many of the problems students have with the GI Bill could be prevented or rectified by communicating with the VA as soon as the student is aware of a problem or one developing. In situations where the VA doesn’t know, they usually default to asking for repayment. If nothing else, it usually spurs some conversation going between the veteran and them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband and I were both active duty. After this last deployment, he got out and I am staying in. We live in on-post housing, would he still be eligible for the BAH if he decides to go back to school and use his GI Bill?

A: Yes, he would. Being he has his own Post 9/11 GI Bill, he can receive the housing allowance, provided he qualifies for it. He would need a rate of pursuit of greater than half-time and not take all online classes. As far as how many credits he would have to take for that rate of pursuit, it can vary by school.

Each school has a number of credits they consider to be classified as a full-time student. He would need to take at least 51% of that number to get a rate of pursuit that qualifies him for the full housing allowance. The other caveat is he won’t qualify for the housing allowance if he is taking all online classes. He would need to take at least one on-campus class applying to his degree plan.

Those are today’s rules. With the passage of the GI Bill 2.0 legislation, starting in Aug online-only students can get up to $673.50 in a monthly housing allowance – right now, they get nothing. The other change happening is the housing allowance will be directly tied to how many credits you are taking. So if he is taking 75% of the number of full-time credits, he would get 80% of the full housing allowance. The VA rounds up to the nearest tenth.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m currently Title 32 AGR and have been since 1988. I did one tour in Iraq from Feb 2009 to Feb 2010. My one-year deployment provided me eligibility for 60% Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit. Now that 2.0 has passed, and T32 AGR time is counted, at what point will I be fully vested for 100% benefit? And will my GI Bill benefits still be transferable to my dependents? Thank you.

A: According to the GI Bill 2.0 rules, Title 32 time only counts from August 1, 2009 and forward. Since it takes 36 months to be fully vested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and you have already served 12 eligible months, you would need an additional 24 months for full vestment. Since you had six months of eligible T32 time before you deployed and 12 months of Title 10 time during the deployment, you would need an additional 18 months of eligible T32 time to get you to 36 months. That should make you fully vested somewhere around August 2012. But, you would not be able to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits acquired through T32 time until after October 1, 2009 anyway– crazy huh?

As far as transferability of benefits to your dependents, you can make a transfer request once you are fully vested in the Post 9/11 GI Bill. As far as the exact mechanics of how that request will happen, I have not seen anything on it yet. For military personnel, they access the transfer option through the TEB website. Keep reading this blog as I will post the instructions as soon as I know what they will be.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I use my fiancé’s GI Bill, if we aren’t married yet?

A: No. According to the GI Bill rules, you have to be listed as his dependent in DEERS. If you are not married yet, you will not be in DEERS under his name.

The other caveat is the rules for the transfer of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. To make a transfer request, your future hubby has to serve at least six years on active duty and agree to serve an additional four years. Once he meets those two requirements, then he can make a transfer request to you.

Once the transfer request is approved, then you can go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. You will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when enrolling in school as a student using GI Bill transferred benefits.

Once in school, the VA will pay your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school. While you will not get the housing allowance, because he is drawing BAH for you already, after August 1st you would get the book stipend, which is paid at the rate of $41.67 per credit up to $1,000 per year. If you waited to go to school once he was out of the military, you would get the housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My dad has been in the military for a little over 20 years. He has served two deployments and is an E-6. When he transfers his GI Bill to me, do I get housing allowance & everything else?

A: It depends. Whether you get the housing allowance or not is driven by two things. One, if you are taking all online courses or not. Two, by the number of credits you are taking per term.

Right now, online-only students do not get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance. So the work around until August 1st, is to take at least one on-campus class and enough credits to qualify for the full housing allowance.

As far as the number of credits you must take, you must take enough so your rate of pursuit is considered greater-than-half-time. As far as how many credits this is, I can’t tell you as it depends on the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. For example, if your school uses 12 credits as full-time, then you need to take at least 7 credits to get the full housing allowance.

Keep in mind with the passage of GI Bill 2.0,  these rules change starting August 1st. After that date, the online-only student will start receiving $673.50 per month in housing allowance. You can still get the full amount if you carry a full-credit load and take at least one class on campus.

The other change is your housing allowance amount will be determined by the number of credits you are take. So while now you get the full allowance by taking as little as 51% of a full time load, after August 1st you would only get 60% of the full allowance with that number of credits (because they round up to the nearest tenth).

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have used up all my college TA for the fiscal year. Is there any way that I can get a wavier or get more money without it having to come out of pocket. I have 4 months into my deployment and 8 more months to go. My goal was to work on getting my associate’s degree while deployed.

A: Yes there is, provided you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It is called the Tuition Top-Up program. As you already know, Tuition Assistance (TA) will pay up to $250 per credit up to an annual cap of $4,500. If your per credit tuition rate costs more or if you reach your annual cap early in the academic year (such as you have done now), then the Top-Up program can help you.

How it works is your service branch will still pay all of your tuition costs, but the amount not covered by TA is sent to the VA. They reimburse your service branch for the amount not covered by TA and then convert that amount of money into months and days of entitlement. This amount of time is then deducted from your unused months of entitlement.

While the Top-Up program does reduce your GI Bill entitlement, it uses it up at a much slower rate than using the GI Bill alone. The TA/Tuition Top-Up combination is a great way to maximize your GI Bill benefits.

If you don’t qualify for the GI Bill, because you opted for Student Loan Repayment Program instead for example, then you are out of options, unless you pay for it yourself. The TA annual cap amount is not waiverable.