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If I Have to Pay for My First Semester, Will I Get Reimbursed from the VA?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Hi, I was recently honorably discharged from the Air Force 2 months ago and I’ve been scrambling to get my GI benefits for Fall Semester 2011 in order. I’ve read into some of the older posts about how it can take 8-10 weeks for just a claim for education benefits to be processed, but I was curious about how the payment will work. Specifically, if I’m to front the money for tuition for my fall semester this year, and the GI Bill benefits don’t kick in until say a month afterwards, am I reimbursed with a check? It was my understanding that the VA benefits office only cuts a check directly to the school for tuition, so I didn’t know if I’d get the money back that I had provided myself. Thanks for any feedback!

A: As long as you qualified for the Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefit during the period you had to pay for, the VA will reimburse you for those expenses. As a matter of fact, they will go back up to one year and pay back benefits.

What they won’t do is pay for back benefits if you were not eligible for them yet. For example, if you had made a transfer request to a family member, but it had not been approved yet, they would not pay that family member for the money they had to pay out to start school. If the transfer request had been approved before school started, but the student did not have a Certificate of Eligibility yet, then the VA would reimburse the student. It all comes down to if you own the benefit or not at the time you use it.

You would have to claim reimbursement by contacting the VA and submitting the information they request. Your school’s VA Certifying Official could help you with the letter and supporting documentation you would need.

Hopefully, you will get your Certificate of Eligibility in time and not have to go through that headache. If you don’t get your certificate and your school start date is drawing near, contact your Certifying Official. Many times they can certify you on the spot and then your certificate can catch up later.

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