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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I will begin school January next year and I’m really interested in the changes taking place in August. I plan to take as many credits per semester as I can handle and also attend summer school, is there a cap on the amount of credits I can take per semester? If I plan to complete my master’s degree and I’m still within my 36 month window, will the GI Bill cover expensive classes as well? Thank you in advanced for your help.

A: In regard to the number of credits you can take, there isn’t a cap. With the change, the VA says they will pay the resident actual costs for tuition and eligible fees at public schools. For private and foreign schools, they will pay up to $17,500 per year.

In the past, the Post 9/11 GI Bill covered programs up through a doctorate degree, but only paid up to the in-state amount for an undergraduate program at a public school in a specific state. I have not heard of a change to that policy, so I think the VA will pay actual per-credit tuition and eligible costs for a public school’s undergraduate program. While your master degree per-credit costs will exceed that amount, you may want to look into attending a school that has the Yellow Ribbon Program. That would help offset the amount left that you would have to pay. As time marches on, we will get more specific information on the changes happening in late summer, early fall.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I paid into the GI Bill and never used any of it. I need to find out if it is still available for me to use and if so what do I need to do?

A: Each GI Bill has a shelf life called a delimiting date. Being you said you paid into it, I’m assuming you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). That particular GI Bill is good for up to 10 years from your date of discharge. After that, your unused benefits can no longer be used and are lost.

Usually the next question I get asked concerns extensions. Generally, speaking the VA will only extend the delimiting date in three situations:

  • If you were detained by a foreign power and could not go to school.
  • If you were recalled back to active duty.
  • If you were unable to go to school due to something out of your control, such as a temporary disability due to a car accident, or an unexpected change in employment, etc.

Other than those three, your chances of getting an extension are slim to none. If you still have MGIB benefits left to use and you have not yet reached your delimiting date, the MGIB pays servicemembers with three years or more of service $1,421 per month to go to school as a full-time student.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can my husband transfer his GI Bill to put me through school?

A: It really depends on a couple of factors: which GI Bill he has and if he qualifies for the transfer option. If he has the Montgomery GI Bill, then probably not. Most MGIB holders did not buy the transfer option. For many, their service branch did not offer it and for those whose branch did, many didn’t buy it. The Army, for example, offered soldiers the opportunity to buy the transfer option out of their reenlistment incentive money. If your husband did that, he would have remembered it.

The other issue is if he qualifies for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. While that GI Bill does have a transfer component to it, he would have had to serve at least six years on active duty and reenlist for an additional four years. If your husband is discharged, then he can’t make a transfer request.

The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, servicemembers had to be on active duty on or after August 1, 2009 to make a transfer request. If he has the Post 9/11 GI Bill and qualifies for the transfer, then he can go to the Transfer of Benefits (TEB) and make a request.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was discharged with a General/Honorable discharge. What education benefits am I entitled too?

A: None. For all the GI Bills (currently in existence), a fully Honorable discharge is required to use the educational benefits. You may have a couple options though.

If you think your General discharge was unfair and you can prove it, you could appeal to the Discharge Review Board (DRB) and request (with justification) a discharge upgrade, provided it has been 15 years or less from your date of discharge. If it has been more than 15 years, then you would have to go through the Board of Corrections of Military Records (BCMR).

To start the DRB process, fill out DD Form 293. For the BCMR, use DD Form 149. With either board, it can take 6 months to a year for a decision and there are no guarantees, but at least it is an avenue of appeal to make right a wrong, if you were indeed treated unfairly. Just a word of warning – the Board goes in under the assumption your discharge is correct and it is up to you to prove them wrong.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I recently finished a 5-year term in the Navy and want to know the process to change my Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill? I appreciate the help in advance!

A: The process is simple – submit VA Form 22-1990 online from the eBenefits website. However, are you sure you want to do that? Changing GI Bills is a one-way street; once you change, you can’t go back.

Right now, the Post 9/11 GI Bill generally only pays for degree-producing programs or non-degree programs taught at degree producing schools, so if your educational plan is getting trade or technical training, or a license or certification, your course may not be covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but most likely would be by the MGIB.

However, that policy will change in the fall. After that, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will in many respects mirror the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and pay for non-degree courses taught at non-degree schools.

There are two more considerations to think about. If you stay with the MGIB, and exhaust all your entitlement, you can then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get an additional 12 months of entitlements. But if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now, with all your MGIB entitlements intact, once you exhaust your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back as part of your last housing allowance payment.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I have been out of the military since Nov. 2010 and have not yet received my BAH for going to school. I just need to know if you received everything that the VA needed. Thank you.

A: First, just so you know, we are not affiliated with the VA, so I can’t tell you if they received everything they need or not, but I can tell you the steps you should have taken. Did you send in your Post 9/11 GI Bill application? To do this, you should have went to the VONAPP (or now eBenefits) website and submitted VA Form 22-1990. Once your application was approved, which can take 8 to 10 weeks, the VA would have sent you a Certificate of Eligibility. You would have needed that certificate when you registered for school as a GI Bill student.

If all that is in place, then there could be two other reasons why you are not getting your housing allowance: either you are taking all online classes or you are not taking enough credits.

Online-only students right now are not authorized the housing allowance. Of course, the way around that is to take one class per term on campus at a school near you. The trick is to ensure the class(es) you  take apply to your degree plan. That will change in August, however, as online only students will then be authorized up to $673.50 per month in a housing allowance. This change happened as a result of the passage of the GI Bill 2.0 legislation.

Another rule of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is you have to be a greater-than-half-time student to get the housing allowance, so unless you are taking at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time, you aren’t taking enough. If you are doing all these things, then call the VA and ask why.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I understand that starting in August, the revamped Post 9/11 GI bill will pay partial bah for online students. I did not know that people were taking one on-campus class to get the bah if they were taking the bulk of theirs online. My question is if I take one on-campus and the rest online, does it have to be at the same school as I am taking online? If I am taking at least 1/2 time online and sign up for a class at the local college, will that get me the regular bah rate? Or do all my classes have to come from the same school? Thanks for your time.

A: No, not all of your classes have to come from the same school. As a matter-of-fact in many instances, online schools don’t have a brick-and-mortar campus where you could take an on-campus class.

The real key to taking one on-campus class per term and getting the full Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, is the class has to count toward your education goal or degree plan. The way it usually works is you designate your online school as your “parent school”. Your on-campus school is designated as your “secondary school”. Once you decide which class will qualify, your parent school contacts your secondary school telling them which class you will take. You enroll in your secondary school for that class. Once the class at your secondary school is done, they send a transcript of the class to your parent school where it gets posted to your parent school degree plan. If the class will not count toward your degree, then the VA will not pay for it.

Just so everyone is clear, the VA uses a BAH calculator to establish housing allowance amounts, but the Department of Defense is the only one actually paying BAH. They are different in that the VA pays everyone eligible at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Will VA Chapter 30 reimburse a student who needs to take an online calculus course? Will the online university need to be an approved school?

A: By saying “a student who needs” I’m assuming you are in a degree plan now and either your school doesn’t offer calc or you need it as a prerequisite for your degree plan. If either case is true, then yes Chapter 30 should cover it. If the class is not part of an educational goal or degree plan and you just want to take it to learn calc, then most likely it would not be covered by the Montgomery GI Bill.

The whole purpose of the GI Bill is to get you an education that you can use to establish a career, so your classes have to contribute toward that goal. This upsets many people who take the attitude that the benefits are “their’s” and they want to spend them how they wish. Those are the same people that end up expending their 36 months of benefits on avocation or “fun” classes and in the end do not have anything they can use for a career.

As far as if the school needs to be approved, yes, it (and the course you take, because it has to fit into your degree plan) must approved by the VA before you take the course.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My oldest son is 23. It says N/A beside his name. Why is it he cannot receive my GI benefits?

A: Do all your children have N/A or only your oldest son. If they all have N/A, then you are not eligible to make a transfer of benefits. There could be a few reasons for that:

  • One, you might not be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill you can’t make a transfer in that it doesn’t have a dependent transfer option.
  • Two, if you are still serving, you might not qualify yet for the transfer option. You need to have at least six years of qualifying service and reenlist for an additional four years before getting access to the transfer option.
  • Three, if you are discharged, you are not eligible to make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer. Once retired, it is too late.

If it is just your oldest son, then the possible reasons are:

  • His DEERS record is not set-up correctly.
  • He is no longer listed as one of your dependents.
  • He is no longer considered one of your dependents due to his age. I think this is most likely the reason as this is right out of the Transfer Process document on the VA’s website: “If a family member is not eligible for DEERS benefits, and thus is not eligible to receive transferred benefits, an N/A instead of a Yes link appears in the Transfer column for that family member.”

So he is not eligible to receive DEERS benefits which is most likely due to him being over 21.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have split service. I got out in 1996 with honorable discharge and earned the GI Bill. I reentered service in 2000-2003, and was discharged with other than honorable. I tried to use the rest of my GI Bill but was denied because of the type of second discharge. Is this an error? I thought once I had earned my GI Bill they couldn’t take it away. I know that it has been over 10 years since the original discharge but I had been told that once I had reentered the service my time was reset.

A: Each type of GI Bill has shelf life in that they are good only for a specific length of time. If your first term of service was in 1996, then you had the Montgomery GI Bill. That has a shelf life of 10 years from your date of discharge, so it would have expired in 2006.

As far as resetting your date, what you were told would have been true had your second term of service ended in an honorable discharge. But because it ended with an other than honorable, it did not count for resetting your shelf-life date of the GI Bill you earned from the first time you were in.