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Q: I am looking to transfer programs to continue my MBA with a strictly online program. Can I attend any online school or can it only be an in state of Alabama program? Thank you.

A: If you are using Alabama’s state GI Bill, then you have to stay at a school within that state. However if you are using a Federal GI Bill, such as the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you can attend any school you want as long as it is VA-approved.

To find out if the school you are looking at is approved or not, go to the Weam’s School Search website. If you know which school you would like to attend, just enter in the name of your school and click on the Submit button.

Also know that the pay structure of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is different if you attend an online-only program verses one at a brick and mortar school. Online only students get a maximum housing allowance of $715.40 per month whereas brick and mortar students get approximately twice that amount, so that might be a consideration as to whether you want to finish your MBA all online or not. Even just one class on campus would bring you the full housing allowance.

The other consideration with your MBA program is that the VA only pays up to the resident amount at a public school or up to $20,235.02 per year to attend a private school, so you would most likely have some out-of-pocket costs. It could be worthwhile to see if your school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA. That program could help pay the difference.

You would however get the book stipend of $41.67 per credit per semester (with a $1,000 per year limit).

Q: Good afternoon, my name is Erik, and I currently am approaching 9 years active service (Active duty start date 6/6/05). I am interested in transferring my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my wife, however, I have a few questions. First, I am an ROTC graduate, as well as a Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) graduate, and as such, I have 5 years remaining on my service obligation. With that in mind, am I still able to transfer my benefits to my spouse, and if so, at what percentage? Second, if I do transfer the benefits, will the added 4-year service obligation run concurrent with my remaining ROTC/HPSP obligation, or will I incur additional obligation? Thank you for your time and assistance.

A: Right now you can’t transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your wife because you do not have any eligibility to transfer. The way the program works is if you are under an obligation (and you are under two) you do not gain Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility while under those obligations. So in your case, because you have 5 years of obligation left, you wouldn’t start gaining GI Bill eligibility until around 2019.

And then you would have to serve an additional 3 years at that point because as an active duty member, you can’t transfer benefits with less than 100% eligibility and that takes three years to get.

Then at that point you could make a transfer of benefits, but keep in mind, you’ll incur another obligation – this time for four years. The bad thing about obligations is they do not run concurrently but consecutively so you have to finish one before another one starts.

Q: I have just transferred my GI Bill to my spouse. What do I do now? She is to start this fall and there is no direction as to what to do next after the transfer is completed. Please assist!

A: Transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits is actually a two-step process. You have already taken the first step in that you initiated the TEB transfer. At the end of that process, the Status Block should have read “Transfer Pending”. Now the next thing for you to do is to keep going back to the TEB website and watch for the status to change to “Transfer Approved”. Once that happens, your wife has to go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-1990e.

In return, she’ll get her Certificate of Eligibility. It’ll show the GI Bill she has (Post 9/11 GI Bill), the number of months remaining that she has left to use (the number of months you transferred to her) and the date she has to use up her entitlement (that may be blank as you have not gotten out of the military yet. It will be 15 years from the date of your discharge).

Once she has her certificate, she will need to hand in a copy to the Registrar at her school. Her school will then send in a Certificate of Enrollment to the VA which when matched up with her certificate starts the payment process to both the school and her. The VA will pay her tuition directly to her school. The VA pays up to the resident tuition at a public school or up to $20,235.02 per year at a private school.

She will get (once you are no longer serving) the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance. It is based on the zip code of her school and the number of credits she takes. Regardless if you are still serving or not, she will get the book stipend. In a degree-program, it is $41.67 per credit per semester. If she is in a non-degree program, then it is $83 per month. With either type, there is a $1,000 per academic year limit.

Q: I paid in the standard $100 per month my first year on active duty, was released from active duty September 24, 2001, and served in the National Guard (only drills and 5 weeks ADT) until March 24, 2005. I am currently enrolled in one 3-credit course for a 6-week summer semester. I am having trouble figuring out how much reimbursement I am eligible for.

A: Let’s start out by discussing what GI Bills you have to work with. First, you were not in the National Guard long enough to get the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MNIG-SR) – also known as the Reserve GI Bill. You would have had to enlist for at least 6 years to get it.

And you don’t have enough time on active duty after September 10, 2001 to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill; it requires serving for at least 90 days after that September date. Nor does it sound like you had any New GI Bill qualifying time while serving in the National Guard. You needed some mobilization time on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation which is sounds like you did not have.

So the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty that you signed up for and paid in your $1,200 is probably the only GI Bill you have. If you served at least three years on active duty, then you should get $1,648 per month to go to school full-time for up to 36 months. If you did not serve for at least three years, then the most you could get would $1,395 per month.

If you choose to go to school less than full-time, then you monthly amount would be prorated accordingly. In other words, if your school used 12 credits as their full-time mark and you were taking 9 credits, then you would get 9/12ths or 3/4th of the total authorized amount.

Because you are in a summer session, the number of classes required for full-time status is usually cut in half. So if your school uses 6 credits as their summer session full-time status and you are taking one 3-credit class, then you would get half of the monthly amount or about $824 per month. Out of that amount, you would have to pay tuition and buy books.

Q: I have 2 months and 4 days left of my Chapter 30 GI Bill, so that means that it will end in the middle of the fall semester. Will I continue to get the Chapter 30 benefits until the end of the semester or middle of the semester? If it doesn’t continue until the end of the semester, can I just switch over right away to the Post 9/11 GI Bill? Because I know I would get 12 additional months of Post 9/11 benefits once I exhaust my Chapter 30. Oh and my delimiting date is up in 2017, so I have plenty of time for that.

A: If that was the only GI Bill you had, yes your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefit would continue to the end of the semester. The VA would not leave you hanging with no benefits mid-semester, unless you reached your delimitation date mid-term. Then it has no other option but to cut benefits the day after they run out. That is mandated by law. But if you still have time left on your MGIB, but run out of entitlement, then they will continue paying you to the end of that semester.

Because you also have the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your situation would be handled a little differently. Once you run out of MGIB benefits, the VA will start drawing off of your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

If you want to continue using your GI Bill benefits, then you’ll want to switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill by submitting VA Form 22-1990 from the eBenefits website. In Part II block 9f mark the Chapter 33 block and put in an effective date after you are sure you will be out of MGIB benefits. Also mark the Chapter 30 block as the GI Bill you are giving up even though it has no education benefits left to use.

When you get your new Certificate of Eligibility, it will show you have less than 12 months left to use because the VA deducted the time from when you ran out of MGIB until the end of the semester.

And don’t try to game the system by waiting until the end of the semester to switch over to the New GI Bill thinking you’ll get those last two months free – you won’t, they will still be deducted from your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Q: I was wondering what the minimum credit hours that are needed to get the GI Bill. Also, is it possible to start using your GI Bill while still AD. I am wondering because I am about to get out at the end of the year and am trying to plan ahead. I know I can use TA while I’m still in but I just wanted to know if it’s possible to start using my GI Bill and how I go about starting that paper work. Thank you for your time.

A: If you are talking about the Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance, you have to take at least 51% of the number of credits your school considers full-time. So if that full-time number is 12, then you would have to take at least 7 credits to qualify for the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA).

However, while you are on active duty, you not get the MHA anyway until after you get out.

As far as using your GI Bill, there really isn’t a minimum number of credits you have to take; you can take one 3-credit class per semester if you want. But the VA does have the requirement that you must matriculate (choose a field of study) by the end of the second semester.

Also remember that the amount you get paid is directly related to your rate of pursuit. It stands to reason the VA isn’t going to pay you the same for taking 3 credits as they would if you take 12.

To start using your Post 9/11 GI Bill, just go to the eBenefits website and fill out VA Form 22-1990. In return, you’ll get your Certificate of Eligibility that you’ll need when registering for school.

Be sure to send in a copy of your final DD 214 once you get out so you’ll start receiving your MHA.

Q: I have just finished my first year, both fall and spring semester, and everything has been going great. My question is about summer school. If I go to summer school as a full time student do I still get the kicker money that I have been receiving? Also how will going to summer school effect that final semester that the Post 9/11 GI Bill would pay.

A: I get questions on summer school a lot and I’m not sure why. Generally speaking it is no different than other semesters other than it is usually broken down into two 8-week sessions instead of one long 16-week semester for example. In the end, it comes out the same. Most of the schools drop the number of credits required for each session and still be considered full-time students.

For example if a school requires 12 credits per semester to be considered full-time, they usually drop each summer session to 6 credits and maintain that same status. So for a summer session, you get the full housing allowance by taking 6 credits as you do in a full semester where you take 12 credits, but you will only get it for two months instead of four. In the end it comes out the same.

The VA gives you 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits – enough for a four-year degree if you use them wisely. Whether you use them for two semesters per year over the course of four years or go straight through, it is up to you.

As far as your kicker, yes you would continue getting it in the summer. The VA breaks down the amount you are authorized into 36 equal monthly payments – one for each month of entitlement so your pay for the summer session would not change.

You had asked how your last semester would be affected if you took a summer session. As long s you have at least one day of entitlement left at the start of the semester, you would get paid for the whole semester even though you ran out of entitlement early in the term. However if you reach your delimitation date during the semester, your benefits stop the day after your delimitation date. That is the difference between running out of benefits and them expiring.

Q: I’ve been in the Navy since Aug, 2001. In boot camp, I declined the MGIB but I didn’t know I could use it for a technical school like UTI. I’m still active duty and will probably stay until I retire, is there any way I can sign up for the MGIB still? And what would that require?

A: If you were to sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill now, you would have to pay the $1,200 contribution fee, but there is a much better deal for you called the Post 9/11 GI Bill – and it is free.

By serving your country after September 10, 2001 for at least 3 years, as you have done and more, you are entitled to 36 months of entitlement that you can use for a non-degree program such as the ones taught at UTI. Or you could choose to take a degree-producing program at any VA-approved college or university.

Or do both; take a vocational program like marine or motorcycle mechanics and use the rest of your Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to get an associate’s degree in business; then you would be set to open up your own repair business.

Or if you are married, you could transfer some of your entitlement to your wife and she could go to school – something you couldn’t do with the Montgomery GI Bill. If that is something that interests you, make sure you make your transfer request in time for it to get approved before you get out.

The point is you can do so much more with the Post 9/11 GI Bill that you could not do with the old MGIB and this New GI Bill doesn’t cost you a dime. One other benefit of it is the length of time you have to use your benefits – 15 years from your date of discharge instead of 10 under the MGIB.

And the pay structure is better under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under the MGIB, you would have received a fixed amount monthly – $1,648 – and you had to pay all of your education expenses. With the New GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school and you get a monthly housing allowance based on the zip code of your school. In many cases it is more alone than you would get under the MGIB.

Because you are planning to go to a vocational school you would get $83 per month in book stipend money instead of the $41.67 per credit per semester that students in degree-producing programs get. So actually by declining the MGIB when you first came in, you are now coming out better and you didn’t have to pay anything monetarily to get it.

Q: Hello, I am veteran of the first Gulf War (6 months). I served active duty from Sep 89, to Sep 92. I used some of my GI Bill benefits, but don’t think I used all of the benefits. Now I have read a few of your responses to the same question, but is there “anything” I can do to regain any benefits whatsoever? Do they expire if you don’t use them at all, or does it not matter how much or little you’ve used? Please help?

A: The short answers to your questions are no, yes and no. There really isn’t anything you can do to regain your Montgomery GI Bill benefits short of getting back in for at least a 90-day period. That would reset your delimitation date to a new 10-year period from your new date of discharge.

MGIB benefits expire 10 years from your date of discharge so yours ended in September 2002 regardless if you used all, some or none.

But getting back in would also provide another GI Bill benefit – partial coverage under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. A 90-day period would give you an additional 12 months of entitlement at 40% eligibility that you could use after exhausting your 36 months of MGIB.

While the MGIB pays you a fixed amount and you have to pay all of your own educational expenses, under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays 40% of your tuition directly to your school. You would get 40% of both the monthly housing allowance and book stipend.You would be responsible however, to pay the other 60%, but in the end it would give you 48 months of coverage instead of just 36.

Short of enlisting for active duty for at least 90 days, there isn’t anything else you could do to regain your GI Bill benefits.

Q: Mr. Kness, I enlisted in May of 1997, still serve on active duty, and elected for some odd reason not to sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill when I enlisted. I read that even if I didn’t sign up for the MGIB, I may be eligible for the new Post 9/11 GI Bill, due to it not requiring any election when enlisting, or any contribution. Is this true Sir? If so I hope to not make the same mistake I made while younger if I can take advantage of this benefit. Thank You, Micah.

A: The good news is yes you are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, even though you did not sign up for this one. It is free to you just from your service to your country of at least 90 days or more after September 10, 2001. Because you have more than the required three years after the September date, you are at the 100% tier meaning your tuition, housing allowance and book stipend would all max out as far as what they will pay for up to 36 months while in school.

Under this GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school. If attending a public school, in your home state, your tuition would be paid in full; attend a private school and it could pay up to $20,235.02 per year.

Additionally, you will get a monthly housing allowance which is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you take. The average across the U.S. is $1,300 per month. However, note that if you take all online classes, your housing allowance would max out at $715.40 per month. Of course the way around it is to take at least one class on campus.

Also once per semester, you’ll get a book stipend that calculates out at $41.67 per credit. However there is a $1,000 per year limit on it, but at least it is enough for a couple of 12-credit semesters per academic year.

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