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Being I’m Eligible for Both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Hazelwood Act, What is the Best Plan to Use Them?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good morning, I’ve got a small situation. I’m coming up on my ETS next year and trying to plan accordingly. I am looking to become an Endocrinologist using the education benefits I’ll receive from the Post 9/11 GI Bill and through the Hazelwood Act, being that I’m from Texas. I know that I’m eligible for both, but what would be my best course of action? My plan now is to ETS from the service, (hopefully) land a job as an Air Traffic Controller in Texas to supplement my income (using the Hazelwood Act for undergraduate study) and once I complete those four years, use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to have a steady source of income while completing graduate school, residency, etc. I am an ATC in the service so I don’t see it being TOO difficult, but would it be the best way for me to go this route? Or should I use the Post 9/11 first and then go to graduate school in Texas? I assume that graduate school is more expensive, but I’m not sure if that is a factor in either case. I guess I’ve got a lot of research to do but I was hoping that you’d be able to give me better insight. Thanks in advance for the information provided.

A: I think the best plan would be to use up your Post 9/11 GI Bill right away for your undergraduate studies and use your Hazelwood Act for your advanced degree. You could still work as an ATC while working on your Bachelor’s degree so that you could bank some money that you could use while working on your advanced degree using the Hazelwood Act.

Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and fees directly to your school. Monthly you receive a housing allowance based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking. Once per semester, you would also get the book stipend, which calculates out at $41.67 per credit. Note, there is a $1,000 annual academic year cap, but if you are going to school full-time, it is enough for a couple of semesters of school per year.

Once you exhaust your Post 9/11 GI Bill, transition over to the Hazelwood Act. You would have up to 150 hours of exemption that you could use for your advanced graduate degree at approved institutions of higher learning in Texas. The Hazelwood Act does not pertain to private schools.

While you don’t get a living expense with your Hazelwood Act exemption, if you banked money while you were working as an ATC, you should have a reserve built up to help pay for some of your living expenses.

I suggest doing it this way as it gets kind of muddy trying to use the Hazelwood Act exemption while you still have Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits left to use. Using up your GI Bill entitlement first and then going over to the Hazelwood Act is a lot “cleaner” way to do it and with less hassle.

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