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Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: This is confusing to me. This is my situation. I have not used any of my MGIB benefits, but they will expire next month (10 years from my DOS). If I switch to Post 9/11 won’t that extend my time to use the benefits by 5 more years since the MGIB is good for 10 years and the Post 9/11 GI Bill is good for 15?

A: I don’t know why it is confusing to you when you just explained it as well as I could have. Yes, by converting to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can extend the time you have to use your benefits by an additional 5 years.

Keep in mind that you would only get the 36 months you have left to use under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and not get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. However in most cases you would enjoy a higher rate of pay from the Post 9/11 GI Bill than you would under the MGIB.

For starters, your tuition would be paid for up to the resident tuition rate at a public school or up to $19,198.31 per year at a private school. If your school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA, and you have to pay out-state tuition, they could pay up to 50% of the unpaid tuition and the VA would pay an equal amount leaving you with little left to pay.

Monthly you would get a housing allowance that averages $1,300 across the United States. Since it is based on the zip code of your school and the number of credits you are taking, yours could be more or less. Also, once per semester you would get a book stipend that calculates out at $41.67 per credit. There is a $1,000 per year cap, but it is usually enough for a couple of semesters.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My school factors in my VA benefits as if they are a scholarship and takes 100% of it even though my family has a 0 EFC according to the FAFSA. I having nothing to buy books with or live off of. Are they allowed to do that, or is that money supposed to be used at my discretion?

A: I’m not sure how your school is “taking” all of your VA benefits. If you are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and fees directly to your school. The school is supposed to keep 100% of what they get.

However, monthly, you should get a Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance that averages around $1,300 per month. If you are a full-time student, then once each semester, you should also get around $500 in a book stipend. All of this money is slated for you to live off of and buy books. What is happening to this money?

The VA will either make a direct deposit into the account they have on file – the account information that was entered in Block 7 of VA Form 22-1990e – or send a hard copy check to the address listed on the same form, if Block 7 was left blank. So my question is whose account information or address is on your 22-1990e? If it is not yours, then that is where the money you are supposed to get is going.

If you are talking about any other GI Bill, the payment from the VA comes directly to you and you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc. The school would not be in a position to “take” any of that money.

This may also help explain it – The GI Bill is not considered Financial Aid in the traditional sense. College and University financial aid departments do not consider the GI Bill financial aid because it is normally paid directly to you, not the school. Most schools will require you to sign a promissory note or apply for student loans to pay them upfront. You will then be required to pay on the loans – hopefully with your GI Bill payments.

This also means that you are eligible for student loans, scholarships, and Pell Grants along with the GI Bill, however GI Bill benefit payments reduces the amount of student financial aid you are eligible to receive.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have a General Under Honorable Conditions discharge on my DD-214 from active duty service. Several years later I joined the reserves and received an honorable discharge. Does that allow me access to my GI Bill benefits?

A: Most likely not. Usually to use your GI Bill benefits, you have to have earned the GI Bill benefits during the period you received your Honorable discharge. So if the GI Bill benefits you are trying to access were earned during the period you received your General Under Honorable Conditions discharge, then you would not be eligible to use them.

However, if you deployed during your time in the Reserves, you could have earned some Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits from your deployment(s). A one-year tour would put you at the 60% tier. Deployments totaling three years would put you at the 100% mark. Because you would have earned these benefits during the period of time your received an Honorable discharge, you could use them. See the difference?

One other point – if you think you did not deserve your General discharge, you can file an upgrade appeal using DD Form 293 to the Discharge Review Board of your military branch. The address where to send it is on the form.

If an upgrade is granted (and it can take up to a year to hear back with a ruling), then you could also use the GI Bill benefits you earned while on active duty. There are no guarantees, but if you can prove you should not have received that discharge, it could be worth the time to fill out and submit the form. Good luck!

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: To be considered a full-time student at my school for the summer, I need 4 credits for Session A, 6 credits for Session B and 4 credits for Session C. Session B overlaps Sessions A and C. I am enrolled with the maximum required credits to be considered full -time for all three sessions but BAH check was just slightly more than half of what it was for spring semester. What went wrong? Who should I contact to get the full rate of BAH for going full time?

A: The VA counts the number of credits you are taking on a daily basis. I’m guessing you only got paid for the 4 credits you were taking when Session A was in class and before Session B started. During the overlap, of Sessions A and B and Sessions B and C, you were getting paid for 10 credits. Once Session B ended, then your credits taken dropped down to 4 again.

During Sessions A and C pure, you were more than likely only getting paid a percentage of the full-time rate (a part-time student) because you were not taking enough credits to show a full-time rate of pursuit. This would affect your Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance in the manner you describe.

You most likely did have enough credits to qualify as a full-time student over the course of the whole semester, however because they were broken down into three sessions, you didn’t have enough at the beginning or the end.

Without having more precise numbers, such as the number of credits you school uses during the Summer Session to qualify as a full-time student, it is hard to make a better determination.

If you do want to pursue getting your full Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowance next summer, schedule an appointment with your school’s VA Certifying Official before registering for the sessions in that semester. In retrospect, that would have been something you should have done before the Summer Sessions started, so you would have knew better what to expect.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: If I bought into the “$600 Buy-Up,” am I still eligible to receive the extra money originally promised if I elect to utilize the Montgomery over the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

A: Yes you are eligible to receive the additional monthly payment. How it works is your Buy-Up amount of additional benefits is divided by 36 and that amount is added each month to your Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) payment.

If you paid in the full $600, then you have $5,400 of additional money. Divide it out and you’ll see it amounts to about $150 per month extra. That would be added to your MGIB payment of $1,648 for a total of $1,798. Out of that amount, you have to pay your own tuition, fees, books, etc.

Even though you can’t use your Buy-Up with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, it might be a better deal. Under this GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition directly to your school and you get a monthly housing allowance that averages $1,300 plus a book stipend once per semester of $500.00.

Over the course of a 4-month semester, the MGIB would pay you a gross amount of $7,192 (before expenses). Using the average amount under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you would get $5,700 net over the same period of time and your tuition and fees would already be paid. The breakeven point is $1,492; if you have to pay more than that amount in tuition by using the MGIB, you would most likely be better off with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

As I said the $1,300 monthly housing allowance is an average; you would have to run the zip code of your school using the BAH Calculator to see what your real number would be. It could be higher or lower, thus impacting on your bottom line.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Good afternoon, I’m having issues getting a straight answer regarding what my eligibility percentage is for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Based on training and deployments listed below, I have accumulated 40 months and 63 days of active duty time as a member of the National Guard:
• Basic & AIT – 6 months; 14 days
• Iraq Deployment – 11 months; 23 days
• Special Forces Qualification Course – 15 months; 10 days
• OEF Deployment – 8 months; 16 days.
Shouldn’t all of these “active-duty” times be considered? It’s very, very misleading if notÔǪ I really appreciate your help!

A: I understand your frustration, however the bottom line is no, not all of your active duty time counts toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility. Right now as a National Guardsman, only your Iraq and OEF deployments would count toward GI Bill eligibility; so with 19 months of eligible time, you are at the 70% tier level.

According to the rules for Reservists and National Guardsman, only Title 10 time in support of a contingency operation, count toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
Still at 70%, you are much better off than many Guardsman. If you have at least six years of service, currently serving and have at least four years left on your enlistment, you can make a transfer of benefits to your spouse of dependent children. Just keep in mind they inherit the same 70% tier percentage.

When you use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, the VA would pay up to 70% of your tuition and fees to attend a public school or up to 70% of $19,198.31 per year to attend a private school.

In addition, you would also get the same tier percentage of the housing allowance and book stipend. So all-in-all, you have a pretty cool benefit that you can use or possibly pass on. Keep in mind another one-year deployment would bring you up to the 90% tier level.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Can someone with 100% permanent and total disability that has a brilliant and disciplined child expect to receive full tuition, room &board, books & supplies as a needs-based scholarship to an elite Ivy League type of college, but otherwise has no other money for any other expenses, receive Chapter 35 to cover anything else, like spending money? Would such a college drop their full tuition needs-based scholarship if they discover that the incoming student has Chapter 35 benefits? What if the student starts school on their 18th birthday, completes their undergraduate degree in 36 months, and then decides to take 9 months of graduate school, would Chapter 35 be used for those costs? Thanks.

A: From the VA standpoint, your child could receive Chapter 35 benefits, however, I don’t know that is a good idea. Depending on the rules of the needs-based scholarship, s/he could indeed jeopardize his or her scholarship, especially if the Chapter 35 benefits was not disclosed in the application and one of the requirements is declaring other forms of monetary assistance. To me, it wouldn’t be worth taking a chance of losing that kind of scholarship for some spending money.

But if there isn’t anything in the application process that specifically prohibits using GI Bill benefits in conjunction with the scholarship, then why not. Because the scholarship is needs-based, my hunch is your child might not qualify for the scholarship if s/he were to disclose Chapter 35 eligibility.

However, I’m with you on the second part of your question – using Chapter 35 benefits to help pay for graduate school. Right now, Chapter 35 pays up to $1,003 per month to go to school full-time. While that is not a lot when looking at graduate school tuition rates, it would certainly help.

Your child has up to 44 months of Chapter 35 benefits s/he can use, but they have to be used by age 26.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I served from Jan 2000 – Jan 2005 on a 5-year contract. I used all but 8 months of my Montgomery GI Bill entitlement and I’m coming up on the 10-year deadline. I want to seek a Master’s degree and/or some professional certifications but that won’t happen until after the expiration of the 10-yr. mark for the Montgomery GI Bill. Is it correct that if I convert now to Post 9/11 that I’ll get a 5-year extension and my remaining 8 months of entitlement only? Contrarily, if I let it lapse/expire before sending in Form 22-1990 I’d get 12 months of additional payout instead? I’m interested in maximizing my benefit but I don’t want to lose remaining entitlement entirely. There’s a lot of conflicting “advice” out there and I really need to avoid losing out on any further entitlement. Thanks in advance for suggestions!

A: Yes it is true that if you convert from the Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill with unexpired benefits left, all you would get under the New GI Bill is the same number of months as you has left under the old GI Bill. The advantage of course would be the additional 5 years of time to use your remaining 8 months of benefits (along with a more robust pay structure).

As far as the number of months of benefits you get if you let your MGIB expire, officially all you would get is the 8 months you had left under the MGIB.
However, more and more veterans are telling me that when they convert from the old GI Bill to the New GI Bill after their old one has expired, not only do they get the number of months they had left, but they are getting the additional 12 months also. I have not been able to confirm with the VA if this is a change in policy or not as their old policy is still in effect in everything that I read.

So at the least, you would get your 8 months of remaining unused benefits and you may get the additional 12 months bringing your total up to 20 months.

Otherwise the only way to get the additional 12 months of benefits would be to exhaust all of your MGIB and you don’t have enough time left to make that happen.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: How can I transfer the remaining balance of my GI Bill to my son who’s going to be a sophomore in college? My daughter already used my GI Bill, but she still has a remaining balance of 6 months according to the last statement mailed to us. As of now my son is using the Calvet. If ever my son can utilize the remaining months of my GI Bill, can he switch back to Calvet after?

A: Whether or not you can transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to your son or not depends on two things:
• If you are still serving or not.
• If you are not still serving, if you had made a transfer of benefits to him while you were serving.

Let’s take the first one. If you are still serving, then it is possible for you to go into your daughter’s TEB record and change the number of months of unused benefits to “0″. Then you could go into your son’s record and change his number to “6″.

If you are not still serving, and had not previously given your son at least one month of benefits while you were still serving, then you would not be able to make a transfer of benefits to him now.

But, if you had previously given your son benefits, you could make the transfer even though you are no longer serving. Just submit a letter to the VA indicating what you want to do (revoke the 6 months of unused remaining benefits from your daughter and give then to your son). Just be sure to include full names, SSN and other pertinent information, so the VA can determine who to take from and give to.

I’m not familiar enough with Calvet to know if he can stop using it and restart it or not. If you are able to make a transfer of benefits, your son should talk with the Calvet people as far as if he can restart their program later if he stops now to use transferred GI Bill benefits.

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: Is it possible to expend GI Bill benefits one semester at a time vice “expend all remaining”? Specifically, I’d like to use my daughter’s 12 months of transferred benefit by paying for one semester (4 months) in each of her first three years of college. Is there a way to do this without manipulating her total months of eligibility in the system (i.e., reduce from 12 to 4 prior to start of school year)?

A: Yes, veterans or dependents using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits can start and stop at will. I don’t know where you are getting the “expend all remaining”, unless it is from the school, but it is not something the VA forces you to do.

If you are going to help your daughter use her GI Bill benefits intermittently, then it is critical her school knows which semesters she is on the GI Bill and which ones she is not. Why? Because for the school to get paid by the VA for her tuition and fees and for her to get paid her housing allowance and book stipend, her school has to send in a Certificate of Enrollment. That gets the payment process started for all involved.

And the way to ensure her school knows if she is on GI Bill benefits or not for a particular semester is to hand in a copy of her Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for the semesters she wants to use GI Bill benefits when she registers and for her to inform the school that for the next semester she will not be on the GI Bill even though she has benefits left to use.

Otherwise, her school may just assume she will be using her GI Bill benefits as long as she has some left. Although they shouldn’t do that if she has not turned in a COE for that semester.

The key here is communication with the school.