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When Will My Husband Receive His Break Pay from the VA?

Q: My husband receives the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and has received them since September 2010. He was enrolled in school full-time for fall term, took winter term off and is now enrolled in spring term. He signed up for break pay and was told that everything was in and ok and he would receive his break pay on 2/1/11 direct deposit just like every month. So its 2/1/11 and we have nothing. How can we fix this? What happened? If it is just an error on their part, how quickly can it be corrected? Our family uses this money for exactly what it is supposed to be used for “housing” and our rent is due today! We need to get this corrected ASAP. Any advice would be appreciated.

A: First of all, nothing happens ASAP in the VA. It is a large machine that slowly grinds away and there isn’t any changing that, so I would start making some other financial arrangements and talk to your landlord today. See if he/she can delay your rent payment, so you have some time to arrange for some money.

The second thing is he may not be eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill break pay. The rules state that to receive break pay, the “break” has to be 56 days or less and shorter that the length of the term both before and after the break. If your husband is going to school three terms per year, then he is most likely on the quarter term system. That means each term is approximately three months or 90 days in length. If he took a whole quarter off, then he is not authorized break pay because his break was over the 56-day limit and not shorter than the terms on either side of the break. So, the answer is more than likely he was not authorized break pay in the first place and that is why he has not, and will not, receive payment.

Lastly, you said “he signed up for break pay . . .” That part worries me as far as what he signed because if he was authorized break pay, he would automatically have received it unless he tells the VA he doesn’t want it. Some people decline break pay because it uses up entitlement and all the person gets out of it is the housing allowance. That same entitlement could be used during a school session and the person would get tuition and fees paid, along with the receiving the housing allowance and book stipend. It doesn’t sound like the person advising him understands the system and how it works.

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