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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can I use my Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay back my wife’s student loans?

A: For some reason, this question is coming up a lot lately. While it is possible to have both the GI Bill and Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) for two different qualifying periods of service, it is not possible to use the GI Bill to directly pay off your student loans let alone someone else’s. The reason – they are two separate programs managed by two separate agencies. SLRP is managed by the individual service branch offering the program, while the various GI Bills are administrated and managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs therefore different pots of money are involved.

Also, not all student loans qualify for SLRP, so your wife’s loans might not qualify for repayment anyway. Generally only Federally-backed loans qualify.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I just started using the benefits of my Post 9/11 GI Bill. I received a letter a few days ago regarding my BAH. I just recently started the Spring semester at my school last month in January. It is now February and I wanted to know when exactly I will receive payments on my housing allowance. In the letter I received, it stated that I will be receiving the monthly housing allowance every month, of the prior month that I am enrolled in the school. I am still awaiting my first payment of my housing allowance. I was told that you receive payment on the 1st of every month. I was wondering if there is an exact date that I can expect the housing allowance to show up in my account, or if the date and time of the payment varies. Please let me know any information that I need. Thank you very much. Very respectful.

A: What you were told is correct – but only after you receive the first payment, which can take 8 to 10 weeks. So if you started school in January, don’t expect to see any Post 9/11 GI Bill money until around the middle of March. If you haven’t received anything by then, call the VA.

As far as when you should receive money, it should come during the first part of each month, but not necessarily the 1st of each month. And yes, what you receive will be for the previous month as the VA is always one month behind in paying. Once you start receiving money, you should see a deposit around the same time each month – at least within the span of a few days. Federal holidays and storm closures can affect the payment schedule like any other Federal agency.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband receives the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and has received them since September 2010. He was enrolled in school full-time for fall term, took winter term off and is now enrolled in spring term. He signed up for break pay and was told that everything was in and ok and he would receive his break pay on 2/1/11 direct deposit just like every month. So its 2/1/11 and we have nothing. How can we fix this? What happened? If it is just an error on their part, how quickly can it be corrected? Our family uses this money for exactly what it is supposed to be used for “housing” and our rent is due today! We need to get this corrected ASAP. Any advice would be appreciated.

A: First of all, nothing happens ASAP in the VA. It is a large machine that slowly grinds away and there isn’t any changing that, so I would start making some other financial arrangements and talk to your landlord today. See if he/she can delay your rent payment, so you have some time to arrange for some money.

The second thing is he may not be eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill break pay. The rules state that to receive break pay, the “break” has to be 56 days or less and shorter that the length of the term both before and after the break. If your husband is going to school three terms per year, then he is most likely on the quarter term system. That means each term is approximately three months or 90 days in length. If he took a whole quarter off, then he is not authorized break pay because his break was over the 56-day limit and not shorter than the terms on either side of the break. So, the answer is more than likely he was not authorized break pay in the first place and that is why he has not, and will not, receive payment.

Lastly, you said “he signed up for break pay . . .” That part worries me as far as what he signed because if he was authorized break pay, he would automatically have received it unless he tells the VA he doesn’t want it. Some people decline break pay because it uses up entitlement and all the person gets out of it is the housing allowance. That same entitlement could be used during a school session and the person would get tuition and fees paid, along with the receiving the housing allowance and book stipend. It doesn’t sound like the person advising him understands the system and how it works.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I see if I can still use my GI Bill?

A: There really isn’t anyway to “see” your GI Bill, as in going to a website or anything, but I can go through the rules and you should be able to determine if your GI Bill is still good or not. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill, it has a 10-year shelf life, meaning it is only good up to 10 years from your date of discharge. So if you are beyond that 10-year mark, it has expired.

If you have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it has a 15-year shelf life and it is still good because the earliest expiration date would be in 2016. Under either GI Bill, you could have up to 36 months of benefits. If you qualify for both GI Bills, then your combined maximum months of benefits is capped at 48 under the Rule of 48.

So, the next item would be if you have used any months of benefits before. If you are still within the shelf-life of either or both, then submit VA Form 22-1990, which is an application for GI Bill benefits and see what you get back. If your application is denied, then you know either your benefits have expired or have been used up. If you still have benefits left, then you will get back a Certificate of Eligibility showing how many months you have left to use. You will need the certificate when you enroll in school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband passed away while on active duty on 9/24/10. My husband’s daughter and my son lived with the two of us. His daughter (Katie) was taken by the ex-wife home to Texas as I was just a step-mother. My son still lives with me and goes to college full-time and hasn’t worked while going to school as he needs full time to study. I know Katie is taken care of, but I really would like help with my son’s schooling as this is very expensive and get no help with even his bills or living expenses. He and I filled out the necessary forms and sent them in for help with his schooling, but we are still waiting for an answer. The letter said no need for us to call them, they will notify us. Please just let me know where to go from here. Thank you so much.

A:  First of all, let me say I’m sorry for your loss. You can take comfort in knowing he served his country well.

You didn’t say which “forms” you filled out, so I’m not sure what kind of help you requested, but I can tell you what your son may qualify for. If your husband formally adopted your son, though the legal system and he is listed as one of your husband’s dependents in DEERS, then he should be able to get 45 months of education benefit through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance program, also known as Chapter 35. Currently, for a full-time student, that pays $936 per month. The form to apply for Chapter 35 benefits is VA Form 22-5490.

Also, if your husband had six years of service or more, and had signed up for an additional four years, he would have had access to the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option. He could have made a transfer of up to 36 months of education benefits to your son, again only if he legally had adopted him. If he did make a transfer, I would assume he would have told you about it, but one way to find out is to submit VA Form 22-1990e. If it comes back denied, then you know he did not make a transfer.

Sometimes it can take 8 to 10 weeks to hear back from the VA. If you are past that point already, don’t hesitate to call and ask about the status of your son’s application.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I don’t understand maximum total fees. If I go to a private school in CA and the tuition is $1,245.60 per credit hour, total fee of the term will be $18,684.00. Does VA cover $2,264.75 or $5,876.25? What is maximum total fee about? That doesn’t make sense to me at all.

A: Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA will cover up to $2,264.75 in fees, but that maximum fee figure does not include tuition. If your eligible fee amount is less, the VA will pay less; they pay based on what the school charges, but only up to the maximum amount allowed in the fees chart.

Eligible fees include the normal fees all students that participate  in a particular program pay. Nurses and engineering students usually have higher fee amounts due to the extensive labs they have to take, so their eligible fee amounts are higher than for non-lab programs, such as teaching or a business.

Tuition is in a separate column and not included in the maximum fee column amount. In California, the maximum tuition amount the VA will pay is $391.75 per credit hour. Because you are paying $1,245.60 per credit, the VA is only paying about 1/3rd of your tuition unless your school is has a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA. In that case, your school can pay up to 50% of the difference between what they charge and what the GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount. This reduces the amount left in which you have to pay.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I used all but 12 months of my active duty GI Bill. I have since served 26 months on active duty in support of overseas contingency operations. Does this recharge/renew or add time back to my GI Bill benefits?

A:  Because the clause “on active duty in support of overseas contingency operations” usually pertains to a Selected Reservist, we could be mixing apples and oranges. As a Reservist or National Guardsman, to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you have to serve at least 91-days on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, after September 10, 2001. If you are normally an active duty servicemember anyway, then whether you are supporting a contingency operation or not is inconsequential, because you are always on a Title 10 order.

Under the Rule of 48, if you qualify for two or more GI bills, the maximum combined number of months of entitlement is limited to 48. If you have used 24 months of your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) already, then the best you can hope for is the additional 12 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The only way to get those additional months is to first exhaust your MGIB, then switch to the New GI Bill. If you switch with MGIB months left, then you do not get the additional months; only the same number of MGIB months you had before the switch. With 26 months on a Title 10 contingency order, your additional 12 months of benefits would be at the 80% tier as far as a payment percentage.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If an undergraduate degree was paid for through an ARMY ROTC Scholarship, is one still eligible for GI Bill benefits in order to obtain a master’s degree?

A: Yes, provided you served long enough after your ROTC obligation was complete. Depending on the scholarship, generally an Army ROTC scholarship incurs a four-year obligation. During those four years, you can’t acquire eligibility for the GI Bill, so you would have had to serve enough time after your ROTC obligation was done to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You would have needed at least 90 days of active duty time after September 10, 2001 for the minimum benefit of 40%. The full benefits would have required three years. So if you have served seven or more years, (with at least three of them after the September date) you most likely qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% tier.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I get my $1,200 dollars back since I did not use my GI Bill?

A: The short answer is you don’t. Your service branch fulfilled its obligation by making the 36 months of the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) available to you to use in exchange for you signing up and making your $1,200 contribution. Whether you ever used it or not, is not their problem. It is similar to putting escrow money down on a house and then backing out of the deal. Normally, you don’t get your money back.

The long answer is there is one way to get your money back, but you had to be eligible for, and switch to, the Post 9/11 GI Bill with your 36 months of Montgomery GI Bill benefits intact. Once you use up all 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement, you get your $1,200 contribution back as part of your last housing allowance payment. If you switch with less than 36 months of MGIB benefits left, then you get a prorated amount of your $1,200 contribution back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was active duty for ten years then I separated from the USA and I joined the USAR. Does it mean that I am entitled to two different types of GI Bills, the active and the SR? If yes, can I transfer the SR GI Bill to my son and use the active myself?

A: It really depends on how long of an enlistment you signed up for in the USAR. To get the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) you would have had to sign up for a six-year hitch. As far as transferring either the MGIB-SR or MGIB-AD GI Bill to your son, that’s a no-go. Neither, have a transfer option.

However, if you had a Title 10 tour in support of a contingency operation while in the USAR or you served on active duty for at least three years after September 10, 2001, you could be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill which does have a transfer option. Make the request while you are still in the USAR as once retired or discharged, it is too late.

If you are eligible, go to the TEB website and make a transfer request. Once approved, your son can go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return he will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that he will need when he registers for school as a GI Bill student.