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Do I Have to Use My Post 9/11 GI Bill to Pay Tuition In Order to Get the Housing Allowance?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My father transferred his GI Bill benefits to me last year as I was starting my senior year in high school. By the end of my senior year, I had received a full scholarship to an in-state 4-year university in South Carolina which is 3 1/2 hours away from home. Therefore, I do not need to utilize any of my father’s GI Bill for my freshman year in college. Does this mean that I do not qualify to receive the BAH stipend? I was given the impression that I am not eligible to receive the BAH stipend unless I am actually using the GI Bill to pay my tuition. Any clarification on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: The impression you were given is not correct – you can still get the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance and book stipend without it paying for your tuition. The problem is that is all you would get out of your transferred benefits. In my humble estimation, it would be a waste of benefits.

What many students don’t realize is that the VA is the last payee when other forms of tuition assistance are available, so if your scholarship pays your tuition, there is nothing for the VA left to pay. So all you get is the housing allowance and book stipend, but the entitlement use is the same as if the VA was paying tuition – one month of entitlement use for each month of school.

Because you have up to age 26 to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits, personally I would save them back to use in a year where maybe my whole tuition is not paid or if I don’t get a scholarship for that year.

Or, if you have aspirations of getting an advanced degree, in which the tuition is much more expensive, you could use your GI Bill transferred benefits to pay for that degree and then collect your housing allowance and book stipend.

The decision is yours, but what your father gave you is worth quite a bit of money if you use it wisely.

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