What GI Bill Doesn’t Pay For

Last week, I received an e-mail from a student veteran who was having a problem with her GI Bill. Specifically, she was using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and VA was refusing to pay some of her tuition and fees. She was unsure about why they wouldn’t pay, nor was she sure how to resolve the situation, as VA was not giving her any information. I decided she probably wasn’t the only student veteran with this problem, so I thought it was probably a good topic to cover this week.

Today, I’ll go over a few things VA doesn’t pay for. Tomorrow, I’ll cover how to track your payments and what to do if VA doesn’t pay for something you think it should. Then, later on in the week, I’ll cover other resources where you can find answers to other GI Bill/VA education benefit questions. If you have other questions that I don’t answer this week (and weren’t answered in some of my previous posts), feel free to e-mail me.

Since the VA has multiple education benefits, each with its different rules, I’m going to focus primarily on rules that apply to Post-9/11 GI Bill students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at an Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) – basically, an accredited two or four-year college. I’ll try to add a few comments about how each section applies to other benefits, if the rules are significantly different. You can find more information on other VA education benefits under the Areas of Interest > “Education and Training” section.

1) Out-of-state tuition/fees: This is a rule that was changed a couple of years ago and largely applies to those using Post-9/11 GI Bill. VA will pay only in-state rates for Post-9/11 users. Any additional costs due to out-of-state status must be paid for by the veteran. Be sure to check out this post about the difference between Residency and Home of Record, as that plays into your in-state versus out-of-state status, and this one on what resources you can use to help cover the difference. Also, be sure to check out Student Veterans of America’s website, which keeps a running tally on which states offer veterans in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency status.

Note: Veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation may be able to get out-of-state fees covered on a case-by-case basis. This decision will be made through the Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. If you’re not sure whether you qualify for Voc Rehab or whether it would be a better option than Post-9/11 for you, you can find more information on Voc Rehab here.

2) Tuition and fees above the national maximum: This is another rule that was changed and then changed again. Post-9/11 used to be a pretty blank check, but there have been restrictions placed on it in recent years to prevent abuse of the benefit by for-profit colleges and other entities. Now, VA pays all required tuition and fees for an in-state student at a public IHL. For those going to a private or foreign school, VA pays the equivalent of the national maximum each academic year. Currently, that maximum is $18,077.50 (this will increase 1 Aug to $19,198.31). Any tuition and fees charged above that amount (including out-of-state fees) are the student’s responsibility to cover and can be paid using the options in my Beyond VA Education Benefits post.

Note: This “national maximum” doesn’t apply to veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation. Nor does it apply to certain students in a few states who have been continuously attending college courses since 2011 (that list can be found here).

3) Classes outside your program of study: VA is pretty flexible about what you can study while using your benefits, but they don’t want to pay for underwater basketweaving if they don’t have to. If it isn’t required for your program or if it doesn’t fill a requirement (for example, audited classes), then VA isn’t going to pay for it – this goes for all VA education programs. There are two main exceptions to this:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation: A voc rehab counselor can authorize additional classes, such as classes that aren’t required for an Associate’s degree, but are prerequisites for the follow on Bachelor’s program.
  • Final Term: If you are in your final term and you have, say, only two classes left, VA will allow you to take whatever classes you want to get up to full time. They only allow this in the last semester of a degree program and they only allow it once per program. So, if you do this and you fail a required class, the following term, you only get to take that required class. This rule applies to all VA education programs.

4) Certain fees: VA won’t pay for a number of fees, such as application to a college, late registration fees, food or lodging, or transportation fees (unless required of every student).

5) Delimiting date: A delimiting date is the date your benefits expire. For Post-9/11 that date is 15 years from your last date of separation. If the date hits in the middle of a semester, for Post-9/11 veterans (this does not apply to those who are using transferred benefits), VA will usually extend the benefit to the end of your current semester, but not beyond that. So it is important to keep track of how many months and days of benefit you have left.

These are the primary things VA doesn’t pay for, based on their laws and rules. It's important to remember that VA (and Congress) can change the rules and laws governing these programs whenever they want to. And, when they do, those who have been using the benefit already aren't always grandfathered in, nor is VA always good about putting the word out about coming changes. So it is important to check the GI Bill website often, as new rules are generally implemented at the start of each academic year, which VA defines as 1 August.

Tomorrow I’ll cover what to do if you think there’s been a mistake in what VA paid or didn’t pay and offer some recommendations on how best to keep track of those payments.

© 2014, Captain. All rights reserved.

16 thoughts on “What GI Bill Doesn’t Pay For

  1. Alexandria Sacci

    I am the dependent of active duty army, and he has transferred his Post-9/11 GI Bill over to me and my sisters. I have a year of college covered by this, of course at the in-state tuition. My question is if after the GI Bill is used, will I still be billed at the resident rate when I am no longer using the GI Bill? In other words, if you are a resident once will you always be billed as a resident?

    Reply
  2. Trifectaus

    Best part — the GI Bill won’t pay for application fees. This is ridiculous! In California, the fees to apply for medical school can top $2,000. The rest of the developed world pays for the fees for any student, not just those who apply to school. What’s worse? In California, if you are the child of an illegal immigrant you qualify for something called the CalGrant for school. They pay ALL OF THESE FEES and, with the pell grant, they get more than you and I get out of the GI Bill. Most of my university was hispanic, and I don’t have anything against hispanics, but it’s so frustrating to have served my country and get less in benefits than an 18 year old from the right background. We need to rally for full coverage of out of state tuition as well. It’s criminal to be stuck in a state we don’t like and then have to pay for that final result.

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Trifectaus,

      This is a common frustration with regards to application fees. The GI Bill is a very generous benefit. However, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can only pay for tuition and fees required for completion of your degree, and application fees don’t count because they come prior to starting the degree, if that makes sense. However, you might consider other options – VSOs may have scholarships or cover application fees or schools may be able to waive application fees for certain individuals. If you are eligible for Vocation Rehabilitation, you could also look into that option, as VocRehab has the option to pay application fees in certain circumstances.

      As for out-of-state fees, if you left the military within the last 3 years, you should be eligible for in-state tuition. This is something that was changed under the Choice Act. If you fall in this category, I would go back to your school’s registrar or admissions department and see what paperwork you have to fill out to be considered an in-state student.

      Best of luck with your education,
      Sarah

      Reply
  3. Rune Juno

    I served 2 years and 9 months on active duty during OEF. At every town hall meeting we had, someone asked whether or not prior service soldiers were eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. EVERY TIME, we were assured that as long as we did our time, we were eligible. We all signed up! Then when it came time for me to use my so-called “benefit,” the VA stopped payments after two semesters. They said I had used up all of my benefits. I used some of the Montgomery GI Bill in 1998 to become a paramedic. We asked this question and were assured that this was a new program, a new enlistment, new benefit. The VA and DOD lie. I am going to every high school that recruiters go to, and telling them the TRUTH about the LIES you tell in order to recruit people. I ended up with college debt that I can barely manage, AFTER going into the military during OIF/OEF specifically for the educational benefits, trying like hell to lift myself and my family out of poverty. Thanks for nothing. I should have listened to my LIBERAL DEMOCRAT friends who warned me away from the military in the first place!

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Jessica,

      It does not. It only covers costs required for completion of the program, not admission to the program.

      To my knowledge, only Voc Rehab can cover application fees and that is on a case-by-case basis.

      Sarah

      Reply
  4. Jessica

    My boyfriend signed up for two classes for his first summer term at college. The VA approved him taking both classes but then halfway through the term let him know they’re only paying for one class because both of the classes fell under the same requirement. Now he has to pay for the second class and won’t receive his housing allotment. Since they approved his classes why will they not pay for them and is there anything he can do about it?

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Jessica,

      VA doesn’t just change its mind about whether classes qualify for GI Bill after a term starts. In fact, VA relies heavily on the schools to determine which classes qualify and report them correctly. If the class was approved at beginning of the term and then VA sent a second notice saying it was disapproved, that change likely lies with the school certifying official. Either:

      1) The SCO changed his certification. This could happen if, for example, he/she made an error on the original certification or he dropped and then added a class and the new class doesn’t qualify or if his transcripts from previous colleges were finally reviewed and he was given credit for a class that fills the same requirement as the one he’s taking, making the current class no longer required.
      2) VA audited the school and noticed one of the above listed things.

      There are a couple of other possibilities – such as a catalog change at the school, which made the class no longer required for his degree. Without the details on what VA listed as the reason for the change, his degree program, his transcripts, etc., it is very difficult for me to know for sure. The best option would be for him to first speak to his SCO about why his certification was changed. That might clear things up. If it doesn’t, he might also speak to his academic advisor and ask him/her to print a degree plan for him. This should show him which classes are required for his degree, which of the required classes he has already taken or been given credit for, and which classes he still needs to complete. It is best if he requests a new one of these every semester to make sure he’s on track and nothing has changed.

      VA is not allowed to pay for any classes which are not required for the degree (with a couple of exceptions). The SCO should only be certifying required classes and the academic advisor should only be advising students to sign up for required classes. However, ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility, and to their financial benefit, to make sure he/she is taking only those classes required for his/her degree.

      If you would like to e-mail me the details – the letters from VA, his degree plan, etc. – I’d be happy to take a look. However, the best person for him to talk to is his SCO (the person who handles his VA benefits at the school), since that it likely where the change originated. I hope this helps.

      Best,
      Sarah

      Reply
  5. Eric Nuss

    I built a program for dentists to help them with business development. I was asked recently if the GI bill covers it. I told the prospective student they would need to follow up with the VA- My program is not supported by any accredited school, and is vocational in nature. How should I guide my prospective student with a GI benefit?

    Eric

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Eric,

      Unless you have applied to VA to have your program approved for GI Bill benefits, it isn’t approved. If you would like to try to get your program approved, you can find more information here- http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/docs/factsheets/Approval_of_OJT.pdf – and here – https://gibill.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1481/ .

      If you aren’t interested in the process of getting your program approved, then I recommend you refer the student to VA’s WEAMS Institute Search, where he can search for programs that are approved: http://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/buildSearchInstitutionCriteria.do;jsessionid=qtMbSxQFpzyL7GpnQrtnNGv6G9CGQQvb2YqM9Cvw3vB2pv2lXhfJ!-1531379871

      I hope this helps,
      Sarah

      Reply
  6. Eric Nuss

    I built a program for dentists to help them with business development. I was asked recently if the GI bill covers it. I told the prospective studfent they would need to follow up with the VA- My program is not supported by any accredited school, and is vocational in nature. How should I guid my prospective student with a GI benefit?

    Eric

    Reply
  7. TK Moyer

    I have been accepted into a school in the UK. Before I can actually attend, I have to pay a deposit. I was wondering if the Post 9/11 pays that deposit or if I have to pay out of pocket? It is required of every student to pay a deposit but, overseas students have to pay more.

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      TK,

      Foreign schools have special considerations and not all of them are approved for GI Bill benefits. The first thing I would suggest would be to read this information on attending foreign schools using GI Bill: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/foreign_school_information_for_students.asp

      In answer to your specific question, no, the VA pays “in arrears,” meaning they pay for schooling you have completed, not schooling you are going to complete, so they don’t pay deposits since you won’t have started class yet. However, many schools have waivers or deferments or something similar for GI Bill students that they can use in place of deposits so that veteran students don’t have to come up with deposits, etc., ahead of time. I would see if the school has a School Certifying Official or Veterans’ Representative or something similar to find out what the school might offer and what the process is.

      Hope this helps and let me know if you have any further questions,
      Sarah

      Reply
  8. Jonathan Tamayo

    I have a question, I am currently using my HUD-VASH voucher, and I am also currently enrolled in college. I also collect 1900 for serviced connection. Ok my question is how can housing authority count my GI Bill money (Chapter 30) as income, suggesting that part of that is for housing. It is clearly not, the post 9/11 pays for so much more directly to the school, with chapter 30 I have to pay tuition and books, and other fee’s. They did not count it as income for 2 years now all of a sudden they do, they said it is close to the chapter 31 gi bill, also my housing authority worker said that she called the VA and they told her that 1200 of my monthly GI Bill is suppose to be for housing, I know she is lying. please help me, my rent went from $15.00 to $900 and now I have to drop out of school cause i cannot afford it and i only have a semester to go.

    Reply
    1. Captain

      Post author

      Jonathan,

      Let’s keep our offline conversation going and see if we can’t find a solution, or at least an explanation, to this problem.

      Sarah

      Reply

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