Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't keel over yet, I have valuable advice--GI Bill

One thing I have learned through this whole retirement process, is that no one ever gives you the full story.  That's frustrating because you miss out on a lot of opportunities, and also because you have no idea that you are missing out on them!

So here I am to let you know how it really is.  We spent hours upon hours talking to someone from the VA about the GI bill.  Apparently the VA has about 6 positions throughout the US, where they have put someone from the VA into several colleges, so that they can make sure that the Vets are taking advantage of all the opportunities afforded to them.

First.  If you enlisted in a certain state, and currently live there, check for programs that will pay your way through school.  If you enlisted in Texas and retired in Texas (or got out) then you can qualify for the Hazelwood Act.  Unfortunately, even though I had Gunner make Texas his home of record, he enlisted in Indiana.  Who the heck wants to enlist in Indiana?  If we had retired there, then he would have been able to use the program that they have there.  If he had retired there, he would be living alone though.  :)

Second....have your husband run and give your children 1 month of his GI bill.  The beauty of that is, that they can apply for extensions, and he only has to give up one month.  I wish we had known about this, and I am kicking myself that I didn't find out about it sooner.  Set your kids up for the future, and RUN RUN RUN and give them a month!

If you husband is 20% disabled....only 20%.....then he can use the Chapter 31, vocational rehab.  Take advantage of this, without a doubt.  They pay for your books, tuition, and supplies.  As of August 1st, 2011, you can get vocational rehab with your Ch 33 money, which is more.  (For example, Gunner's ch 31 payment if he is full time, is $949.58 because he has 4 dependents.  If he goes under Ch 33 money, he gets $1017.)

If your husband hasn't done all of his disability (read Gunner has not, but thankfully it is retroactive), then you can use your Ch 30.  Ch 30 is good if you are going to a cheap school, like a community college.  They will give you $1473, but you have to pay for everything. 

Ch 33 is the post 9/11 GI bill.  If you are full time, you can get your books, tuition, fees, supplies, etc paid for, plus receive BHA for an E5 with dependents.  So we would get $1017 for this option.  This option is great if your spouse is at a 4 year university, and the costs are a lot more. 

Side notes:
1.  If you start out on Ch 30, then switch to Ch 33, you cannot switch back to 30.
2.  If you go with Ch 31 (voc rehab) you get a counselor, employment help, and can get your credits extended to 48 months.  There are certain circumstances where they can reallocate even more credits.  For example, if you used up almost 36 months of your GI bill, and accomplished nothing, then qualified for the voc rehab track, they can get you requalified for additional credits, if you haven't gotten anywhere, or had a lack of direction.
3.  If you are using your GI bill, you must get certified for every semester.  Make sure that you take your schedule into the VA office and have them certify you, so that you can get paid.
4.  You have to specify a degree plan in order to have the VA pay.  Be careful what you take at a community  college, because it might not transfer to a 4 year college.  The solution is to get a generic degree in Interdisciplinary Studies or General Studies, but take classes that will transfer into the major that you want.  This means you have to go to the 4 year college that you want, in order to secure the degree plan and know what you need.  This will save you time and money.  Trust me.
5.  When they say you get credits for your military experience.  Don't hold your breath, that you are walking out with an associate's like they say.  Try about 12 hours if you are lucky, and they will cover your PE, and your electives.  That being said, if you have college credits that only fall under electives, then they will put those first and not count your military credits at all.
6.  Make sure you register with www.ebenefits.va.gov in order to have access to all the benefits available.  You will have access to benefits by state, compensation, death education, employment, financial services, health, housing, rate table, insurance, retirement, transition assistance, travel & transportation, vocational rehabilitation, calculator, calendar, and prescription refills.
7.  If you are a military retiree, then you can obtain Level 2 access in ebenefits if you register using your DFAS pin.  Retired personnel who have been issued a DFAS pin may apply for access directly and do not have to proof in person. 

Coming up I'll let you know about the additional benefits available for service connected disabled veterans.  I'm on a roll.

If you have any questions, let me know and I will ask the lady who helped us out aka the only one who knows what's going on!