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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I signed up for GI Bill when I was active duty in the Navy from 1999-2003. I am now in the Public Health Service, since August 2010. I didn’t enroll in GI Bill because I had previously enrolled while in the Navy. Am I eligible to transfer GI Bill to my dependents?

A: It depends on which GI Bill you are talking about. The GI Bill you signed up for was the Montgomery GI Bill, which does not have a transfer option to it. However, you also have the Post 9/11 GI Bill in which your eligibility started on September 10, 2001.  Depending on when you got out in 2003, you could have two years of service under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As of right now, you can’t transfer the Post 9/11 GI Bill to your dependents, however that should change once the GI Bill 2.0 goes into effect starting this fall. One of the provisions of the change was to allow NOAA and PHS personnel to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill options. The one thing that has not come out yet are the requirements to make a transfer.

If it follows the active duty rules, you would have to be at the 100% tier by serving six years and reenlist for an additional four years. I don’t know yet if that is a combination of active duty/PHS time or not. If it follows the National Guard and Reserve rules, you would still have to have served a combination of six years, but you could be at less than 100% to make a transfer.

The best thing right now is to wait and see exactly what the rules will be. More information will come out as we get closer to the August 1st implementation date. I’ll post updates to this blog as I receive information.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am in a full-time nursing program and the credit hours come out to be 8 hours for the whole semester, the school considers it a full time program because of all the labs and check -offs that are mandatory. Two of the classes are 8 weeks and the one is 16 weeks. How would they calculate my BAH? So far I haven’t seen any money and I am very worried. My VA lady doesn’t seem to help much. I can’t go to school without the BAH, I just can’t afford it. This program was very difficult to get into so I don’t want to quit because of money issues.

A: Depending on how the three classes are broken down credit-wise, you will only get paid the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance for the period of time during the semester that you are carrying at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers to be full-time. So if 8 credits is their magic number, you would only get the housing allowance during the period of time when you are carrying at least 5 credits. Unless the 16-week class is at least five credits, you would only get the housing allowance for the first 8 weeks. If the 16-week class is 5 credits or more, then you should get it for the entire semester.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If an active duty member in the Army served more than 24 months of his current enlistment and is being discharged (honorably), is he still eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

A: Yes, you secured minimum Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits after serving your first 90-days after you completed IADT and whatever other training time you may have incurred, along with your honorable discharge. Training time does not count toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.

What you will not get with 24 months of service is 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill – that takes at least three years of eligible service. With 24 months of eligible time, you will be at the 80% level, meaning you would get 80% of your tuition, fees, housing allowance and book stipend paid instead of 100%. Also, at less than the 100% level, you would not be eligible to use the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Greetings, I am a Title 32 AGR with over 20 years of active service. I enlisted originally with the Chapter 1606 version. Shortly after I became AGR, I paid $100 a month for 12 months for what I believe is called Chapter 30. I am eligible to retire and my question is two-fold: Can I get the Post 9/11 GI Bill immediately upon my retirement? Can I stay in and still draw from the Post 9/11 GI Bill without incurring future obligations? Thank you for your time.

A: Yes, Chapter 30 is the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD). While you could retire now (and have the MGIB), my recommendation is to stay until the end of August 2012. Why? The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill, none of your Title 32 time counts toward the New GI Bill at this time – only Title 10 time.

However, with the passage of GI Bill 2.0 that will change starting on October 1st. After that date, Title 32 time acquired on or after August 1, 2009 will count toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility, so staying until August 2012 would give you the three years of time you need to get to the 100% level. If you retired now, you would get credited with only with about 17 months, which would put you at the 70% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier.

You could start using your Post 9/11 GI Bill starting on October 1st and not incur any additional obligation as you are retirement eligible right now, but it would be beneficial to stay the additional 18 months as they are worth 30% in additional GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I will ETS in 2012. Can I use my benefits if I choose to study and live overseas? Will I get housing allowance as well?

A: Yes, the Post 9/11 GI Bill can be used at many oversea schools as long as your school is VA-approved. The pay structure is different though for foreign school students than it is for student going to school here in the U.S.

Right now, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to $439.69 per credit in tuition and up to $13,713.88 in fees per term. You would get a fixed rate of $1,333 per month in housing allowance. You would also get the book stipend paid at $41.67 per credit hour with a $1,000 per year maximum. Of course, these figures are assuming your will be at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill level with at least three years of service. If you will be at a lesser tier, then multiply the stated amount by your tier percentage.

If the school you are interested in attending is not GI Bill-approved yet, ask them if they want to go through the process to become approved. Generally, it is a simple process.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello! Is there any way to get master’s degree on-line while serving active duty for 4 years and then continue with PhD for free or partially free? I mean with GI Bill, I’ve read somewhere that for 3 years active duty you get about $60,000 for education after demobilization. Or you can finance this amount of GI Bill money to pursue a degree while serving. So my question is: can you achieve master’s degree on-line in the Army and then PhD on campus as a civilian with financial aid? And the 2nd question is: do all schools (even Columbia or Princeton) allow you to finance your education in their walls with GI Bill? Thank you a lot.

A: Yes there is a way to do that – it’s called Tuition Assistance (TA) and Tuition Top-Up.  The way it works is you use TA to pay for your tuition while you are going to school on active duty. The Army will pay up to $250 per credit up to $4,500 per year in TA. Anything over $250 or your annual cap, you can use Tuition Top-Up. How it works is the Army would pay all of your tuition and the amount over what TA would not pay is charged to the VA. They in turn, convert this dollar amount into months and days of GI Bill entitlement and reduce your GI Bill eligibility by that amount. It is a good way to go because it uses your GI Bill at a slower rate.

Then when you get out, you can use what is left of your GI Bill to pay for some of your PhD. When you look at PhD schools, look for one that has your PhD program in their Yellow Ribbon Program. Starting this fall if you go to a private school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will only pay $17,500 per semester in tuition and fees. If your program is covered by their Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, the school can pay up to half of the difference between what they charge and what the GI Bill pays. The VA pays an equal amount, leaving you with less left to pay through other means.

You asked about the worth of the GI Bill.  The Post 9/11 GI Bill is hard to nail down because of the way it pays, but it is at least worth $90,000 for 36 months of benefit and depending on where you go to school it could be more.

As far as school, yes, most schools accept the GI Bill if they are GI Bill-approved school.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How do I know if my GI Bill is still good?

A: It depends on which GI Bill you are talking about. The Montgomery GI Bill has a 10-year shelf life meaning if you do not use the education benefits within 10 years of your discharge date, they expire and are gone for good. If you are talking about the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it has a 15-year shelf life, so the first ones will start expiring in 2024.

Of course, your GI Bill will no longer be any good if you used up all your months of entitlements either. The other factor affecting use of your GI Bill is your characterization of discharge. Anything less than fully honorable and you would not be able to use your GI Bill until you have your discharge upgraded to honorable or served a term of service ending in an honorable rating.

The best way to tell is to contact the VA. Send in VA Form 22-1990. If you have benefits left that you can use, you will get back a Certificate of Eligibility stating so. If not, you will get a letter of denial and why.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is there any way to get the GI Bill back if it was taken because you missed some drills and became an unsatisfactory participant, but made them all up and are now actively participating and in good standing with your unit?

A: I’m assuming you are either a National Guard or Reserve member and you are talking about the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR). When you became an unsat participant, your unit suspended your use of the GI Bill, by notifying the VA of your waning drill status. So you never “lost” it in the sense that it is gone forever; you are just prohibited from using it right now until your unit tells the VA that you are back in good standing again.

The unsat process works on an annual basis. Generally, you lose your GI Bill privileges after 5 unauthorized absences within a 12 month period.

Once your trust factor between you and your unit was broken, it takes awhile to rebuild that trust, so your unit might be sitting back watching if you are back in the game or not before they tell the VA to start letting you use your GI Bill again. Stop in the Orderly Room and ask them when you will get your privileges back. That gives you the perfect opportunity to plead your case and convince them your are back in the game.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I was honorably discharged a year ago and I enrolled full time in August. I applied for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, but so far I haven’t received any BAH, book allowance and my tuition hasn’t even been paid. I’m always on the phone with the call center, but I get a different explanation every time. The online help center is the same. Is there someone/somewhere else I can call to get help with this issue?

A:  If you have been going to school since August and still have not been paid anything, something is seriously wrong. While it does take 8 to 10 weeks to get Post 9/11 GI Bill payments started, it should not take this long.

If I were you, my first stop would be at my school’s VA Certifying Official. Each GI Bill-approved school has one or more individuals and they are there to help students using the GI Bill.

Make an appointment with that person at your school and let them see what they can find out. Most of them have connections at the VA and they can make more headway.

If that person can’t help resolve your issue, then try contacting your VA Regional Office. They usually have less of a workload than the Main VA Center, so they tend to be more responsive. Good luck.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a question regarding my housing allowance. I am currently registered full time. I take 3 classes online and 1 on-campus. I had to drop the on-campus class but registered for another on-campus class. It is still for the same term but starts one month later. So for one month I will be registered with still 9 hours but they are all online. Will I still receive my housing for that month?

A:  No, for that one month where you are not taking an on-campus class, you will not get the housing allowance. Even though you are taking the required number of credits to warrant the housing allowance, the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules are very specific in noting that online-only students are not authorized the housing allowance.

Note this will change starting this fall, with the passage of the GI Bill 2.0. Online-only students will get up to $673 and some change in a monthly housing allowance. While it is only half of what an on-campus or on-campus/online student gets, it is far better than the nothing they get now.