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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I receive 70% service-connected disability. My son is going to college this year. Is he eligible for assistance?

A:  No he isn’t. According to the rules, you would have to be totally (100%) and permanently disabled for him to qualify for Chapter 35. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), it won’t help your son as it doesn’t have a dependent transfer option.

Depending on when you got out, you could qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. With a service-connected disability you would qualify at the 100% level, if you had at least 30 days of continuous service after September 10, 2001. While this won’t help your son out right now, because you would have had to make the transfer before you got out, it (or the MGIB) could help you train for a career compatible with your disabilities.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Were there changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill? I skipped last semester, but before that I was going half time and collecting the BAH allowance. This semester I am going half time again and now I am not getting the allowance.

A: As far as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, nothing changed between semesters (yet). If you were attending at least one traditional on-campus class and this semester you are taking all online classes, then that is the difference, as online-only students are not authorized the housing allowance at this point in time.

If everything is exactly the same as your last semester, then it probably was an error at the VA as students classified as 50% are not authorized the housing allowance; the lowest percentage is 51%.

One other thing that could have changed is if your school raised the number of credits of what it considers to be full-time. If you are taking the same number of credits as you did last semester and they raised their full-time number, then you would be at half-time or less and not authorized the housing allowance.

With the passage of the GI Bill 2.0, starting in the fall online-only student will get up to $673 in a monthly housing allowance. The other big change is the amount of a housing allowance will be directly tied to how many credits you are taking. Right now everyone between 51% and 100% gets the same for a particular school zip code. The change is if you are taking 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time, you will only get 51% of the full-time housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello I have a few questions about the new GI bill: • If I am a reservist with greater than 1095 days of service (this count includes initial active duty training days, and active-duty days; but excludes drill days and annual training) do I qualify for the 100% benefit of the new GI bill? • Is the housing stipend fixed based on zip code, or does it decrease based on the amount of income you declare on your taxes? (For example, if I earned $12,000 last year would the housing stipend subtract $12,000 from the benefit?) • Does the new GI bill apply to any degree program, including PhD programs? • Is there a lifetime maximum on the amount of money one can receive from the new GI bill? • Is the maximum number of months still 48? Thank you for your assistance.

A: O.K. let’s take your questions in the order you asked them. The whole key to a reservist getting the minimum benefit from the Post 9/11 GI Bill is if you have been on Title 10 orders in support of a contingency operation, such as Afghanistan (although there are other operations that also qualify) greater than 90 days. Three years would get you to the 100% level, however, training days do not count until you reach 24 months of service.

The housing allowance is determined by the zip code of your school and has nothing to do with how much you make. It is paid at the pay grade of an E-5 with dependents. If you are a greater-than-half-time student and not taking all classes online, you would qualify for the housing allowance.

As far as degree programs, yes it applies from an associate’s degree all the way up to a PhD.

No, there is not a maximum limit on how much you can get from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. That is why it is hard to determine what it is worth when asked that question. The only fixed part of the equation is the book stipend which is paid at $41.67 per credit. Otherwise, what you are paid in housing allowance and what the VA pays in tuition/fees is dependent on the school’s zip code and the in-state maximum of the state where the school is located, respectively. Each state uses a different maximum tuition/fees figure.

Under the Rule of 48, yes, if you are eligible for two or more GI Bills, the maximum number of combined months is limited to 48, however, you would not get 48 months under just the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You would have to first exhaust your other GI Bill of 36 months, switch and then you would get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, adding up to a total of 48 months.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired in June 2009 and according to the eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, I’m eligible. I wasn’t aware of the Post 9/11 GI Bill upon my retirement and therefore, didn’t apply to have these benefits transferred to my spouse which I would like to do. All the information I’m coming across says I had to do this prior to my retiring. Is there any way to appeal this so that I can transfer these benefits to her? My current employer will pay for my college education so I would like her to be able to use these benefits.

A:  Nope, there isn’t. The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, you had to be “on active duty on or after August 1, 2009” to make a transfer request.

Because the New GI Bill went into effect two months after you retired, there wasn’t anything you could have done before you retired. Thousands of veterans are in the same boat as you as they are fully eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill including the transfer option, but due to their date of retirement were excluded from making a transfer request.

There was a House of Representative bill (H.R 3577) that if passed would have given 20+ year veterans retiring between December 9, 2001 and August 1, 2009 the option to make a transfer, but it never even made it to a vote and has since died with the last action being on March 4, 2010.

It could be reintroduced, but I wouldn’t hold my breath as it never had much support when it was alive. All the support seem to go to the GI Bill 2.0 which passed, but didn’t include anything for veterans in your group.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was in the Army for 6 years. I got out in June 06. I went to school in 07. I was using the G.I. Bill and the $40,000 college fund that I received while I was in the military. However, the school I went to finished before I could finish paying off my loan, as you know you can’t receive the G.I. Bill or the college fund while you are not in school, and now I currently owe the school about $5,000. I know that you can’t use the G.I. Bill to pay off student loans, but what about the college fund? I don’t think it’s fair that I am now in debt because I am no longer in school and receiving benefits. Also, they have started to take my tax return to finish paying off this debt. I feel that it is my money that I earned with my service to the country and that I should be able to use it however I would like to as long as it is for educational purposes. Are there any other options that I could take advantage of?

A: The issue with the Army College Fund (ACF) is you have to use the GI Bill to get the college fund payment. The way the rules are written, the ACF can’t be used by itself.

Also, just so you know, you don’t really have $40,000 in your Army College Fund. That amount also includes your Montgomery GI Bill amount. In many cases, that was not clear at the time of enlistment, so people think they have $40,000 in addition to their MGIB, which is not true.

While you may think it is “your” money, there are very specific rules on how “your” money can be spent – most of which you have little to no control over. As you are finding out, student loans in that aren’t being paid down connect to the IRS, so your loan will eventually be paid off through your tax refunds – again something you have no control over.

If you want control back (and your tax refund), pay off the loan or contact your college and set-up a mutually agreed upon payment schedule and stick to it. That way you have a say in how it is paid off; right now you do not.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have an educational loan that I’m paying for right now (I borrowed from an overseas bank as I was an International Student in the US before I joined the Army.) I just finished my paying for the MGIB this month and would like to know if I can use to Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay off the loan. Please advise. Thank you.

A: No, the Post 9/11 GI Bill (or any GI Bill for that matter) can’t be used to directly pay off student loans. If you just finished paying your $1,200 Montgomery GI Bill contribution, then you have only been in the Army for around 12 months. With that little amount of time, you would only be at the 60% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier level.

One option though is if you stay for three years, you would be at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill level. Once you convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and use up your 36 months of benefits, you will get your $1,200 MGIB contribution back, which you could then use toward paying off your loan. Until then, you would have to make at least some type of minimum payment so the loan doesn’t go into default.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have been using the MGIB for about two years for part time school and now have 22months left on it. I plan to attend school full time this summer and would like to switch to the new GI Bill because I will no longer be working full time. I wanted to know if the 22months left on MGIB will be transferred over to the new bill or lost? I was active duty for 4 years after 2001 so I know I qualify. Also if I exhaust the 22months on MGIB and then switch to the new one, will I get the full 36 months of benefits under that bill?

A:  The way switching to the Post 9/11 GI Bill works is if you switch with months of entitlement left, you get the same number of Post 9/11 GI Bill months as you had left under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). If you exhaust your MGIB months first, and then switch, you get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

In your case, when you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you will get just the 22 months you have left and not the additional 12 months. Also note, if you switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, when you exhaust your months of benefits, you will get a prorated amount of your MGIB contribution back. With 22 months left you would get about $733 back. It would come as part of your last Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Do I have any benefits left if I left active duty in 1984 and the Reserves in 1986?

A:  No from that long ago, your benefits have expired. You would have had the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty back in 1986. However, the MGIB-AD has a shelf life meaning it is only good for a certain number of years from the date of your discharge. Your active duty GI Bill expired 10 years from your date of your last discharge or in 1996.

If you MGIB would not have expired yet, you could have went to school either in a degree or non-degree  program such as a trade, technical, certification or licensure, and collected up to $1,421 per month for up to 36 months. It is too bad that you did not take advantage of your GI Bill benefits being you contributed $1,200 to the program, but as you know, time marches on and pretty quick 10 years have passed before you know it.

Unfortunately, unless your were recalled to active duty, detained by a foreign power or temporarily disabled and could not attend classes, there isn’t any recourse to extend or reinstate your benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I served 6 years on active duty and then later on signed up with the reserves for another 3 years, what are my educations benefits as a reservist? Considering that I paid $1,200 for MGIB while I was on active duty prior.

A: You have the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD), but not the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR) because you did not sign up for a six-year Reserve enlistment. The MGIB-AD would pay you $1,421 per month up to 36 months for you to go to school.

Depending on when you were on active duty (or if you deployed as a Reservist), you might also qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under this GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and fees and you get up to $1,000 per year in a book stipend and a monthly housing allowance. As a note, if you give up your MGIB-AD benefits and switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, once you use up your 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you get your $1,200 MGIB-AD contribution back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have not used my MGIB since I got out. I got an OTH after reenlisting in 01. When do my benefits run out and can I extend them.

A:  Your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits are good for 10-years from the date of your last discharge. Assuming you got out in 2001 or 2002, your benefits will expire this year or next.

It is too bad you did not use your benefits before now, as you don’t have much time left to use them. As far as extending your benefits, the VA will do so only in three situations:

  • Recalled to active duty;
  • Detained by a foreign power;
  • Temporarily disabled to the point of where you could not attend classes.

If any of these apply to you, of course you will have to be able to provide proof of the situation. If none of these apply, then you are pretty much out of luck as far as extending your GI Bill benefits.