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Should My Husband Transfer GI Bills Now or Wait Until Right Before He Gets Out?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My husband will unfortunately be getting out of the AF next year with 15 years in service. He currently has the Montgomery GI Bill. He will be taking classes this year until he gets out and needs to look into the Top-Up program to cover the amount left after TA. I’d also like to start taking classes towards my Master’s degree and we’d like to use his benefits towards paying for my classes, too. I’m not sure if I will be able to start before he gets out of the Air Force though. My question is, should he transfer over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill now or wait until right before he gets out of the AF so that he’s using his Montgomery for this year?

A: If he plans on using the Tuition Top-Up program, then he should stay with the Montgomery GI Bill and here’s why. Under Top-Up, the Air Force would pay his whole tuition bill. Then whatever is left over after Tuition Assistance (TA) pays its portion is billed to the VA. They convert that amount into months and days of entitlement and deduct the amount from his remaining MGIB benefits.

Using the same program under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA deducts a full semester’s worth of benefits (usually four months) regardless of the amount of money they had to reimburse the Air Force. If it is a small amount that TA won’t pay, he would be better off paying it himself instead of losing four months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

As far as when he should convert to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, he can do that anytime … even after he is retired. All he has to do is go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990 when he is ready.

However, there is one thing he should know; if he uses up his MGIB benefits first and then switches, he would get an additional 12 months of eligibility. If he switches with MGIB benefits left, he only gets that same number of months he had and not the additional eligibility. That could be of importance depending on his education goal.

Also, I couldn’t get a feel from your question if you were expecting him to transfer benefits to you or not, but he would most likely not be able to. As of August 1st, all personnel incur an additional four year service obligation if they transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent child.

The only way he might be able to do it would be if he is getting out due to a statute that is preventing him from extending for four more years. If he is volunteering to get out, then he could not make a transfer request and get it approved.

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