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What Does This GI Bill Comment from the VA Mean?

Q: Today is Jan 15, 2011. I am enrolled in Bay State College in MA and I start Jan 18, 2011. I have yet to apply for VA because I don’t know which to go with. I need money to pay rent and bills, and I’m unemployed.

I am married with 2 kids (6 yr old and 4 yr old). I will do pre-reqs first then in Sept, I will start my actual program for PTA. VONAPP says ” If electing chapter 33 in lieu of chapter 30, my months of entitlement under chapter 33 will be limited to the number of months of entitlement remaining under chapter 30 on the effective date of my election. However, if I completely exhaust my entitlement under chapter 30 before the effective date of my chapter 33 election, I may receive up to 12 additional months of benefits under chapter 33.” What does that mean? What is the better choice? Thank you.

A: It means that if you switch to Chapter 33 (Post 9/11 GI Bill) with months left on your Chapter 30 (Montgomery GI Bill), all you will get is the same number of months under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, if you first exhaust all your Chapter 30 months before the effective date of your Post 9/11 GI Bill, then you would get the additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

If you have not used any of your Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30) and you don’t plan to go any further with your post-secondary education than a four-year degree, then switch to the Post 9/11 GI Bill right away.

The VA will pay your tuition and eligible fees and you will get a monthly housing allowance and a yearly book stipend. The housing allowance averages $1,200 per month with the East and West Coasts over double that amount. The Midwest is slightly lower than the average. The book stipend is paid at the rate of $41.67 per credit and maxes out at $1,000 per year.

Chapter 30 currently pays $1,421 per month and you have to pay all your own tuition, fees and other education-related expenses, so from a monetary standpoint, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a better deal.

I would normally caution you first to ensure your program is degree-producing, as right now the Post 9/11 GI Bill will not pay for non-degree courses. But after August 1st, that won’t make a difference as the GI Bill 2.0 will allow the Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for non-degree programs also.

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