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Story by: Specialist Jay P. Lawrence - 42nd Infantry Division
Dated: Mon, Mar 25, 2013
If Soldiers want tuition assistance as they go to school, they can find plenty of options.
There are so many options, in fact, that navigating the acronyms and deadlines and forms of the benefit system can be overwhelming - even confusing.
“There’s so many programs,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Landry of the New York National Guard Education Office in Watervilet, N.Y. “There’s a lot of Soldiers who just want to get their college paid for. That’s all the soldier wants, but they’re not quite sure how to get it, or how to apply for it.”
Every day, Landry and his coworkers comes to work and answers calls from National Guardsmen, Airmen and other servicemembers on how to get the most out of their educational benefits. The key is knowing which programs are right for what the servicemember wants to do.
“It’s complicated,” said Capt. Ashlee Coye, Education Services Officer at the New York National Guard Education Office. “But the good news about it is there’s a lot of money out there for soldiers who want to go to school.”
Servicemembers run into problems, Landry said, when they assume their paperwork will just take care of itself. “If you want that money, you’re going to have to learn how to use the programs,” Landry said.
What Landry tries to do, he explained, is to break each program down step-by-step, into small digestible chunks that he compiles in an email and sends to each servivcemember.
If the servicemembers follow the steps, Landry said, they will maximize their chances of tuition aid success. When Servicemembers call him on the phone with questions, Landry makes sure to look up the caller’s information so that he can give more informed advice.
“What our jobs are, and what my job is, particularly, is to understand the benefits of a program as it pertains to what benefits the soldier,” Landry said. “I ask what’s the educational goal? I ask what kind of school they want.”
That’s the first step in the search - knowing what kind of degree one wants, or what kind of time commitment one can make, or knowing if one wants to go to an online school or to a brick and mortar schoolhouse.
These questions and other factors all affect a Soldier’s eligibility. So does whether or not a Soldier has been deployed. So does whether or not a Soldier is an officer.
And each program is different in its requirements and deadlines.
If the Soldier has been not deployed, Landry sends them a packet with instructions on the Recruitment Incentive and Retention Program (RIRP), Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) and the Montgomery GI Bills (Chapters 1606 and 1607).
These and other programs are open to Soldiers as they begin drilling, but Soldiers who have deployed to Afghanistan or to the Persian Gulf are eligible for additional programs.
In this case, Landry sends the servicemembers a Post 9/11 GI Bill handout and a Veterans Tuition Awards (VTA) sheet.
“The general rule is you need to apply for everything,” Coye said. “A lot of these programs are contingent on funds, and by applying for everything the Soldier strengthens their chances of receiving funding.
Many programs will not duplicate each other, meaning if a Soldier attending SUNY is approved for RIRP, and they also applied for FTA - only one program will be applied to cover the bill.
Coye also stresses keeping all tuition assistance paperwork together, staying aware of all deadlines, and staying in communication with the school - even after all the paperwork has been turned in. “Follow-up is absolutely important,” Landry said, adding that the phone numbers and email addresses of those at the NYNG Education Office at available for those who want help.
“I tell soldiers, I don’t mind if you call me 500 times, because that means you care enough to not just let somebody else fill out your applications,” Landry said. “You don’t need to know all the answers, but you need to send them to us so that we can fill in the blanks.”
The NY National Guard Education Office can be reached at (518) 272-6349, at (518) 272-6318, or at email@example.com For Airmen with the New York Air National Guard, contact SMSgt Jim Reeves at 786-4326.
Military Tution Aid at a Glance:
Soldier has not been deployed:
RIRP Must be a NY resident (at least 186 days) attending a school physically in NY Pays up to $2635 a semester (SUNY Tuition) to accredited undergrad schools in NYS Must be in good standing with both military and with school. Must have at least 6 credit hours per semester or 4 credit hours per quarter Can only be used for a first undergraduate degree (up to bachelors). 1. The first step is to complete and submit the DMNA Form 96-1 and the Memorandum of Understanding at a. http://dmna.ny.gov/education/?page=rirp b. Deadlines are 15 Aug for Fall and 15 Dec for Spring. 2. The next step is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) a. The FAFSA is done annually and can be found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ b. Prospective and current students input financial data to determine how much student financial aid they are entitled to. c. Once the FAFSA in complete, you receive a Student AID report, which is a key document. 3. The next step is completing the application TAP at http://www.hesc.com/content.nsf/SFC/Apply_for_TAP_Now a. You’ll receive a TAP Award letter in three to four weeks. 4. The next step is to provide to the NYNG Education Office a copy of a a. Student aid report b. TAP award letter c. College acceptance letter d. There is a 60-day grace period after deadlines if the RIRP application was turned in on time. 5. The next step is to register for FTA
FTA Pays up to $4500 per fiscal year. Can be used for more kinds of degrees than RIRP (Masters, associates, etc.) Must remain in good standing with military and with school (must have GPA 2.0+) Officers must serve additional 4 years in ARNG after using program 1. Apply through GoArmyEd.com before class start date or Aug. 28 for fall Montgomery GI Bill Chapters 1606 and 1607. Chapter 1606 covers Soldiers who have graduated Basic Training and Advanced Individual training. Chapter 1607 covers Soldiers who have served under Title 10 orders in a disaster. 1. Check IPERMS (in AKO). Find your NOBE (Notice of Basic Eligibility) 2. Bring NOBE to Veterans Affairs Representative at your college 3. Fill out a VA Form 22-1990 with the VA Rep. 4. The VA Rep will then fill out a VA Form 22-1999 and send both forms to Buffalo. 5. Soldiers verify their attendance monthly at gibill.va.gov/wave or 1-888-gi-bill-1 Soldier has deployed: Post-9/11 GI Bill 36 months of tuition assistance a monthly living stipend an annual stipend the ability to transfer benefits Tuition assistance is based on days deployed. Three years active is 100%, but most Guardsmen and reservists qualify for 60% tuition assistance “I need to let the soldier know that right off the bat, you’re going to be on the hook for 40%, which means we need to formulate a plan,” Sgt. 1st Class Robert Landry. GI Bill is based on remaining balance, NOT total tuition That means if tuition is $10,000 and the soldier receives $2000 in aid, the GI Bill pays 60% of the $8000 remaining, and not the original total. Go to http://gibill.va.gov/apply-for-benefits/application/ and complete VONAPP. After completing VONAPP, print out Certificate of Eligibility and give it to school representative. Soldiers verify their attendance monthly at gibill.va.gov/wave or 1-888-gi-bill-1
VTA Pays up to $5,595 a year For full-time or part-time study For undergraduate, graduate or vocational Must be in good standing Must be high school graduate Works well with GI Bill, as it is calculated AFTER the GI Bill. 1. The first step is to establish your eligibility by completing New York State Veterans Tuition Award Supplement at https://web1.hesc.org/questionnaire/page.hesc?questionnaireId=14&versionNumber=4 2. Print the Web Supplement Confirmation, sign it and give it to your school’s financial aid along with your DD-214 (The DD-214 establishes eligibility, and it only has to be done once). 3. Submit the Web Supplement Confirmation each year by June 30. Your school’s financial aid office will wait to see if your tuition bill is covered. If it is not, you will be informed that you will be receiving VTA funds.