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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I retired in July 1989. Do I have any GI Bill benefits left for schooling?

A: No you would not. Back then you would had the Montgomery GI Bill. That GI Bill has a 10-year shelf life, meaning any unused benefits expired 10 years from your date of discharge. So your education GI Bill benefits expired in 1999. Many veterans are not aware their GI Bill benefits expire and by the time they find out, they either don’t enough time left to use their benefits or they have already expired, as in your case.

From time-to-time, there has been some talk of making GI Bill benefits good for the life of the veteran, but so far, none of the talk has resulted in any legislation making  it to a vote and passing.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Does the GI Bill still pay out BAH benefits during the time that school is out for break, i.e. summer/winter breaks?

A: For right now it does. Post 9/11 GI Bill break, or interval pay, is automatic unless you tell the VA you don’t want it. At first look, that looks like a stupid question. Why would someone not want break pay; it’s free money isn’t it?

The answer is no, because break pay uses up GI Bill entitlement and all you really get for it is the housing allowance. Otherwise, that same entitlement would pay the housing allowance, tuition and fees and the book stipend, if you used it during a term instead of between terms. So, in my humble opinion, it is not a good use of entitlement, but some students would rather have the steady income instead of longevity of benefits.

Just so you know, break pay will no longer be an option as the GI Bill 2.0 will end break pay starting in August 2011. Students will have to make other financial arrangements to replace that source of money, but they their entitlements will last longer.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Sir, I have the Montgomery GI Bill and now I work for the U.S. Navy as a DOD civilian so the Navy will cover my schools. I was in the Marine Corp from 2001 to 2005 active duty then I deployed as an active reserve for about 7-8 months. I was finally discharged in July of 09 and I was wondering how can I transfer my benefits to my son?

A: The reality of it is you can’t for a couple of reasons. First, the Montgomery GI Bill does not have a transfer option, like the Post 9/11 GI Bill, where you can transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent.

Second, the way Congress wrote the New GI Bill rules, the servicemember had to be on active duty, or in the case of the Reserves and Guard, in a drilling status, on or after August 1, 2009 to access the transfer option.

It is a shame that you got out in July 09 because if you would have stayed in for one more month, you would have been able to make a transfer request of benefits to your son. Your Marine Corps years makes make you fully eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which as I said has a transfer option. There has been some talk of making the GI Bill immortal meaning it would be good for the life of the servicemember, but no legislation has been introduced to make that happen.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I recently heard about the GI Bill and I have a few questions. My father is retired military, but my parents are divorced and I live with my mother. How do I receive the benefits, or do I even qualify for them? Would my father have to fill out paperwork? I am interested in attending a community college in the fall, and was interested in knowing if the GI Bill qualified for community colleges or just universities. Thank you for your help.

A: First, if your father is already retired, then he cannot make a transfer to you regardless of which GI Bill he has. If he was still on active duty and had the Montgomery GI Bill, he couldn’t make a transfer either as it does not have a transfer of benefits option.

If he had the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it does have a transfer option, but only if he had served at least 6 years on active duty and agreed to serve an additional four years. The way Congress worded the New GI Bill, the sponsor has to be “on active duty on or after August 1, 2009″ to make a transfer.

The last part is your age. If you are over the age of 26, you could not use transferred benefits even if you had them.

So the short answer is being your father is retired, he will not be able to transfer any benefits to you.

Just so you know, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is generally used to pay for degree-producing courses and non-degree courses taught at degree-producing schools, where the Montgomery GI Bill can be used for both degree-producing and non-degree courses regardless of where they later are taught.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Did the 40k Army College Fund transfer to my spouse when I transferred my GI Bill benefits to her. I have asked VA and Army ED centers but none seems to have an answer – just guesses.

A: No it did not – only the months of entitlement transfer.  So you still have your Army College Fund, but only you will be able to use it.

The 40K amount is misleading in that the amount is a combined total of the Montgomery GI Bill and Army College Fund. Many think they have the 40k on top of the MGIB, which is not true.

The benefits you transferred to your wife were most likely Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits as the MGIB normally doesn’t have a transfer of benefits option. She will get her tuition and fees paid directly to her school up to the in-state amount. That will change in the fall with the passage of GI Bill 2.0. The in-state maximums will be eliminated and the VA will pay 100% of public school tuition and eligible fees.

If you are not on active duty anymore, then she will get the housing allowance also in addition to the book stipend. If you are still on active duty, then she will not get either until the fall. After August 1st, she would be entitled to the book stipend. That was another GI Bill 2.0 change.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I am about to retire from active duty this coming May. I am prior service, served about 4 years, got out for 3, then have been active since that point. I am trying to transfer, what I thought I had left of my GI Bill, to my youngest daughter. But I have been told that my benefits are no longer active. I thought since I came back onto active duty that I would get my GI Bill back. Do you have any answers for this one? Thanks.

A: I think it may be a procedural error, but in the end it will not make any difference. They way the Montgomery GI Bill rules read is your GI Bill is good for 10-years from your date of discharge and your original discharge was over 10 years ago. The system should reset when you get out again.

If your only concern with your MGIB is transferring education benefits to your daughter, then I wouldn’t be too concerned with it as the MGIB doesn’t have a benefits transfer option to it, so there isn’t a way to transfer benefits to your daughter anyway.

The good news is, you qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill which does have a transfer-to-options benefit to it. I caution you to start the process now as it has to be approved before you retire; once retired, you can’t make an initial transfer request.

Start the process by going to the TEB website and enter in the number of months that you want to give to your daughter from your unused education benefits. The interesting part will be how many months it will let you enter. The system may only allow you to transfer what you have left from your MGIB or it may show you have a full 36 months, if it does not pick up your prior use.

Once your request is approved, then she can go to the VONAPP website and submit VA Form 22-1990e. She will get back a Certificate of Eligibility that she will need when enrolling in school as a student using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I’m getting medically discharged with a general under honorable condition after 20 months of service. Will I rate the Post 9/11 GI Bill? Will I rate if after 6 months when I send in an appeal?

A: First, why are you going to wait six months to send in an appeal? Waiting six months is an old myth that just won’t die as is the myth that discharges will be automatically upgraded after six months. Neither is true. If you have the justification for an upgrade, then send it in as soon as you are discharged. It can 6 to 12 months to get back a decision.

Start your appeal process, by applying to the Discharge Review Board. On your DD Form 293, you can indicate whether you want just a records review or a personal appearance hearing.

If that Board does not upgrade your appeal, then you can apply to the Board of Corrections of Military Records. That process starts with filling out DD Form 149. This way you get two different Boards looking at your upgrade appeal. The last Board is the end of the road if neither upgrades your appeal.

After 20 months of service, you would have 36 months of education benefits at the 70% Post 9/11 GI Bill rate, but as you know, if your upgrade request does not go though, then you most likely will not be able to use your GI Bill education benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Under the new proposed Post 9/11 GI Bill, will benefits be back dated?

A: The only one I know of that will be back dated is the Title 32 time that will now count for Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. For National Guardsmen, they can start using their Title 32 time for New GI Bill eligibility as soon as October 2011 and they can go back as far as August 1, 2009 on their Title 32 orders and pick up that time.

This is the latest as far as GI Bill 2.0 changes effective August 1st:

  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay 100% of the tuition and eligible fees at public schools; this includes both undergrad and grad training. Eliminated was the in-state maximums.
  • For students attending private or foreign schools, tuition and fees reimbursement is up to $17,500 annually. And you can still use the Yellow Ribbon Program.
  • Multiple licensing and certification test reimbursement is covered. That is a change from covering just one test.
  • National exams fees are now covered, such as SAT, LSAT, ACT, GMAT, etc.
  • VocRehab participants can choose higher Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance if otherwise eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • Break or interval pay is no longer payable under any VA education benefit program.
  • NOAA and PHS personnel are now eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer-of -benefits-to-dependents option.

Changes effective on October 1st:

  • Housing allowance is prorated directly to the number of credits you are taking.
  • Distance learning students can get $673.50 per month in housing allowance.
  • Non-college degree programs, OJT/apprenticeships, and flight training programs are covered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • Active duty members can get the book stipend.
Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I was awarded 12 months of benefits under the New GI Bill last week. But I took classes during the spring using no MGIB benefits. Will I be able to apply some of those months retroactively? Thanks!

A: Yes you should be able to apply some of those months retroactively. Under the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, benefits can be back-dated up to one year back providing you were eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the time you took the classes, which I imagine you probably were.

But with spring approaching, I would not delay in sending in your paperwork as once you are past the one-year mark, you would not be able to claim any benefits for that term. Give the VA about 8 weeks to process your claim and you should see some money.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I just started school this semester and I found out I’m taking a class that I don’t need. If I drop the class, it will put me at 9 credits for the semester. Would I still be covered? Are there any penalties for dropping a class?

A: If you drop a class within your school’s drop period, then there isn’t any penalties, however, if you wait and drop it after the official drop period, you may have to pay back the VA for the cost of the class. If this is the first time you will be dropping a class and you are past the drop period, you can use the VA’s one-time/first-time drop where you could drop up to 6-credits with no questions asked.

However, if you have to drop a class again outside of the drop period, then the VA might have you pay for the course depending on the reason for the drop. It sounds like you are most likely still within the drop period, so you should still be O.K.

As far as your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance,  if you drop to 9-credits you should still be considered a greater-than-half-time student, so you would still get the full housing allowance.

Just so you know, starting in August your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance will be prorated according to how many credits you take. If your school considers 12 credits to be full time and you are taking 9, you would get 9/12ths of the full housing allowance.