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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How many certificates will the new changes in the Post 9/11 GI Bill allow a veteran to complete? I’m interested in obtaining several computer programming certificates and not clear if it pays for just one certificate or multiple certificates over the course of a couple of years? Thanks!

A:  Right now, the Post 9/11 GI Bill only reimburses for one license/certificate up to $2,000 and it normally does not pay for the training leading up to the certificate. With the passage of the GI Bill 2.0, that will change starting this fall.

From the information I have so far, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will still reimburse up to $2,000 per certificate or license, but it  would be limited by only how much you have left for benefits. And the other change is it should pay for the training it takes beforehand to pass the test.

If the Post 9/11 GI Bill mirrors what the Montgomery GI Bill covers in this regard, it will also pay for retesting in the case of failing a test. As time marches on, more (and better) information will come out and I’ll pass that along via this blog.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I currently use the Post 9/11 GI Bill and I was wondering say if I do not use the total 36 months, because I complete my degree in 2 and 1/2 years, Can I then use the remaining months for a separate new degree in whole?

A: You can, but I would consider using your remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for an advanced degree in the field where you already have your bachelor’s degree. If the VA is willing to pay a good portion of a master’s degree or first professional degree, why not make the most of your GI Bill and use it that way.

Otherwise, you will end up with part of another four-year degree and once your GI Bill benefits run out, most likely not finish that second degree. If you have almost two years of GI Bill benefits left, you could complete a master’s degree. What an opportunity that is. Take advantage of it and don’t squander your remaining benefits on something that most likely you won’t finish and that won’t enhance your earning potential even if you did finish. Having a master’s degree will increase your earning potential dramatically.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I had signed up for school, but didn’t get a chance to complete either semester, and had signed up for my GI Bill, but now they are saying that I owe them money…how does that usually work?

A: The way it works is when the VA pays for your schooling, they expect you to finish the term they paid for. Yes, I know they are “your” benefits, but the VA is paying the bill, so you play by their rules.

The VA is very generous in that they have a one-time/first-time policy where you can drop or not finish up to six credits one-time and they will not ask any questions as to why and you will not have to pay them back.

In your case, you used up you one-time/first-time plus you didn’t finish a second semester, which is more than likely where your VA debt is coming from. After your first-time/one-time has been used up and you don’t finish a second semester, then the VA will want to know why.

If the reason you dropped was due to mitigating circumstances (circumstances beyond your control), then you would not have to pay back anything. However, if your circumstances were non-mitigating (as they obviously were in your case), then they will require you to pay them back before they will make any more of “your” GI Bill payments to you.

The purpose to the GI Bill is to train you in a career. The VA is the watchdog to ensure you don’t squander away your GI Bill benefits and end up not having anything to show for them. With two strikes already, it looks like you are one that needs that oversight.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I did not learn about the ability to transfer eligibility of my Post 9/11 GI benefit. I was eligible to retire after Aug 2009 and did retire on 30 January 2010. It was after I learned about the ability to transfer. My dependents are in DEERS as I was active duty. I just recently received my certificate from the VA on my benefits last month after fighting for that where they awarded 70%. My last unit is trying to assist but there has to be an exception process. They are telling me several ANG unit members during this period have filed congressionals because their units did not inform of this requirement to transfer before retiring. I continually check the TEB site and I still see no dependents listed to transfer. Suggestions? The TEB site doesn’t give an email for contact at DoD to contact that I’ve been able to find so far.

A: You are not the only one to have run into this situation. Somehow the word did not get out, especially to those retiring when the Post 9/11 GI Bill went into effect and for the first few months afterward. Just so you know there is not an exemption of any kind to “grandfather” you in.

There was a House bill (H.R. 3557) that would have allowed 20-year plus veterans retiring between December 9, 2001 and August 1, 2009 the option to make a transfer essentially because these veterans are fully Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible, including the transfer option, but because they got out before the New GI bill started, they never had a chance to make a transfer.

Unfortunately, that bill will not apply to those retiring “on or after August 1, 2009” as Congress wrote it. I guess you were suppose to know the rules ( and we know thousands did not) and make your transfer before you got out. Those first few months after the Post 9/11 GI Bill started were filled with either no information or the wrong information as many just did not know the rules yet.

I’m not saying a congressional appeal will work, but it will get your concern heard and if enough of the affected veterans write in, it may get Congress’ attention and they can make a change. They are the only ones who can change the GI Bill rules as they are the ones who initially write them.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I’m planning ahead for the summer, and had a question that I just couldn’t find the answer to on the official VA website. Facts: -Active duty veteran, 100% eligible. -Using CH 33, Post 9/11 GI Bill. -Attending expensive private university with Yellow Ribbon program. -Sophmore. Planning on stretching out benefits to have some left over for eventual grad school. I am considering taking 1 or 2 summer classes, so that I may still receive BAH. If I pursue a summer session, for 1-2 classes, maybe 3-6 credits: How will my benefits be used up? Will I be charged a full month of benefits for going to school less than full time? Will I receive a prorated BAH? Basically, I am trying to maximize my benefits, and get the absolute most (tuition coverage & BAH) for every month I get charged, as well as receive some BAH over the summer. Thank you in advance for your help. It is greatly appreciated. Best regards

A: First, you have to be considered a greater-than-half-time student to be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, which means if your school considers 12 credits to be full-time, you have to take at least 7 credits to get the full housing allowance. That will change in the fall with the passage of the GI Bill 2.0. After August 1st,you will get prorated housing allowance directly based on the number of credits you take. If you take 51% of what your school considers to be full-time, then you will get 51% of the housing allowance. That will be a big change for many who are used to getting the full housing allowance by taking a minimal number of credits.

As far as entitlement usage, if you are considered a full-time, you use up one full month of GI Bill benefits for each full month you go to school. If you are a less-than-full-time student, you use up entitlement based on a percentage of full-time. Let’s use that same example of your school considering 12 credits as full-time. If you are only carrying 7 credits, then you use up 7/12ths of a month of entitlement for each months you are in school or about 17.5 days for each month.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: With the change in the Post 9/11 GI Bill that certain Title 32 time will now count is great for National Guard folks. The new law states the change is effective 1 August 2009 but not payable till 1 October 2011. I transferred the benefit to my son and he is attending college now as a Freshman and his current eligibility is 70% based on my Title 10 time only. If I have plenty of qualifying Title 32 time that I served before 1 August 2009 that will put me at the 100% mark, I’m sure the VA will come up with a process to re-determine the percentage in the next few months. But what I’m wondering is since that T-32 time is actually effective before he started his 1st semester in August 2010, then on 1 October 2011 will the VA go back and pay any back pay that would have been paid if T-32 time was initially covered? It would be nice for him to be able to pay off his student loans that, in reality, he now shouldn’t have had. Thanks for helping.

A: I think your issue will be your Title 32 time before August 1, 2009. Only Title 32 time on August 1st and later will count toward eligibility toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The way I understand that provision in the GI Bill 2.0 change, you can go back to August 1st to claim Title 32 time for eligibility purposes, but they will not start paying for Title 32 time until October 1, 2011.

I’m thinking they may go back and pay back-pay on Title 32 time, but one of the VA rules is they can only go back retroactively one-year, so they could only go back to October 1, 2010. There will be more specific information coming out in the future that will better explain the exact process and rules for Title 32 time usage. Keep watching this website for more information on the GI Bill 2.0 changes.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: May I apply to start using the Post 9/11 GI Bill in the middle of a semester? My semester starts tomorrow and I have already paid for tuition and books. May I “activate” my GI Bill now to begin receiving the BAH, or is it too late since the semester will have already started.

A: It is “cleaner” if you start using your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits at the beginning of a semester. Also, just so you know, it can take 8 to 10 weeks for your get your GI Bill application approved, so you probably wouldn’t draw much for benefits this semester anyway.

My concern is you saying “to begin receiving the BAH”. If that is all you are going to get by using your GI Bill entitlement, I have to question whether it is a good use of benefits. I would rather see you wait and get the “full” benefit by starting at the beginning of a semester. That way, your GI Bill benefit will pay for tuition and fees (directly to your school) and you get a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 per year book stipend.

You can go back up to one year and submit a claim for benefits, which you could do if you start drawing benefits mid-term. Then the VA would send you a reimbursement for tuition and fees you paid and $41.67 per credit for books. Like I said it is cleaner to do the other way. Because this is not the “standard” way of doing it, it also may take a long time to get your money back.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I don’t want to use the benefit now, but I may want it later for my kids. I have 5 yrs left before I’m eligible to retire. How do I “sign up” now so I can serve my last 5 years and fulfill the GI Bill commitment at the same time?

A:  First, you may have to reenlist for enough years to bring you to the 20-year mark, if your current enlistment doesn’t do that. If it does, then you should be O.K. with the first step.

Next, go to the TEB website. There you will find a record on each of your kids (and spouse). Enter in the number of months you want to transfer to each child. You will notice when you are done the Status block says “Pending Review”. Periodically watch the website and look for the status to change to “Approved”. Sometimes it can take up to 8 weeks for the transfers to get approved. If you can’t enter months into any of the records, then there is an issue with your enlistment time left.

Once approved, and when  your kids are ready to use their transferred benefits, each of them will have to go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. In return, each will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that they will need when enrolling in school as a GI Bill student using transferred benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hello, I am currently on active duty serving in Afghanistan. I have the option of joining the reserves next year. As a reservist can I transfer my remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my son? Thank you.

A: Yes, you can, if you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option by having served at least six years in the Reserve and if you sign up for at least four more years. Just know that you have to make a transfer request to your son while you are still in the Reserves; once you are out, it is too late to make a transfer.

Also the percentage tier that you are at at the time of transfer will also transfer to him. For example, with a one-year deployment you will get up to the 60% tier. So when he starts using his transferred benefits, 60% of his tuition and fees will be paid for by the VA directly to his school. He will get 60% of the monthly housing allowance as well as 60% of the yearly book stipend.

Because you are not at the 100% level, he would not be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.While your transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits will not pay for all of his school costs, it will certainly help.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can retirees transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill to dependents since President Obama signed S.3447 Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 into Law? I retired May 1, 2006 after 22 years of active duty service and a OEF/OIF vet. Does this new law allow retirees who are 100% eligibility for the program to be able to transfer the benefits to their dependents?

A: The Improvements Act of 2010 you are referring to, also known as the GI Bill 2.0, has many provisions to it, but allowing retired veterans to transfer benefits was not one of them. That provision was in another bill called H.R. 3557, but that bill did not even make it to a vote this year.

H.R. 3557 would have allowed veterans with 20 years or more of service, and retiring between December 9, 2001 and August 1, 2009, the opportunity to make a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits request.

If you are interested in making a transfer, let your legislators know by contacting them and asking for their support on this important issue. Numbers talk and if we can get every veteran who would be affected by this legislation to voice their concern, we could be a powerful voice and maybe get this accomplished, but it will take the effort of everyone involved and not just a few of us.