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Veteran FAQ’s

Below are some common questions that you may find helpful relative to the college resources and responsibilities, general veteran information, and information specific to the Post-911 GI Bill.

More answers to frequently asked questions may be found through the following resources:


QUESTIONS RELATED TO COLLEGE AND VETERAN RESPONSIBILITIES:

Is the college application process for veterans and military personnel different from the regular application process?

No, all applicants follow the same application procedure.

Who is the Westfield School Certifying Official?

The Westfield State University Certifying Official is Lisa Ducharme (in the CGCE).  Lisa can be reached at (413) 572-8370 Mon 8am-4pm / Tues 11am - 7pm / Wed-Fri 8am - 4pm. She is located in Bates Hall, Room 15.  The Dean of Student Affairs, Susan J. LaMontagne, can also be contacted regarding veteran issues and for assistance at (413) 572-5421 or in Ely Building, Room 208.  

How do I provide my documentation to Westfield State’s VA Certifying Official?

You may mail, hand deliver, fax, or email your certificate of eligibility to the VA Certifying Official.

In person:  Veteran Services Office, Bates Hall, Room 15
By mail: Westfield State University, Attn: VA Certifying Official, CGCE, 577 Western Ave, PO Box 1630, Westfield, MA  01086
Via fax: Attn: VA Certifying Official, 413-572-5227
Via email: lducharme@westfield.ma.edu

What happens if I drop a course during the semester?

If you drop a course you must notify the Certifying Official so she can then inform the VA of a change in training time. This must be done even if you have already notified the VA on the WAVE system. A change in training time will affect your rate of payment, and failure to notify your college's Certifying Official in a timely manner could result in an overpayment.

What happens if I am activated during the semester?

If you are activated during a semester, you have a number of options open to you depending upon the length of the deployment, but the first thing you should do is contact Lisa Ducharme, the VA Certifying Official and Veteran & Military Services Coordinator, so she can assist you. The school has a policy regarding activations during the term and will assist you in anyway it can. Click here to review the policy. You should discuss this situation with your advisor and instructors to help you decide upon a course of action. The options available to you would range from special arrangements for make-up work, to an incomplete grade, to withdrawal from a course or semester.  Depending on the circumstances the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would pay you educational assistance benefits up to the date you withdraw or resign from a course or semester. 

Do I have any responsibilities as a student to notify the college of any changes in my veteran or class attendance status?

As a veteran using your education benefits, you are responsible to notify the Certifying Official immediately of any action affecting your enrollment status – drop, add, or a change of certificate program goal.  Failure to do so may result in an overpayment which you will be responsible for paying back to the VA.

I am eligible for a federal Pell Grant. How does this affect my VA benefits?

Pell Grants are not affected by GI Bill benefits, including the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If you are a Pell Grant recipient, the GI Bill benefits you receive will not count against your aid eligibility. In general, students will be able to keep their Pell grants even if they are receiving GI Bill benefits. For further questions, you should check with the Financial Aid Office in the Horace Mann Building

Do I need enrollment certification from Westfield State University to get my certificate of eligibility from the VA?

You will not need an enrollment certification from Westfield State in order to get your certificate of eligibility, but you will need to have your enrollment certified in order to have your payments processed. To request a certificate of eligibility, visit www.gibill.va.gov.

Do I need to give my VA Certificate of Eligibility to anyone other than the VA Certifying Official?

Yes.  You should provide a copy of your certificate to the Student Accounts office (Day students) or to the Division of Graduate and Continuing Education (Continuing Education students) when you send in your first bill. The VA certifying Official will also need a copy.

How will the tuition payments work? Will I need to pay anything upfront? What happens if the VA payments don't come through?

For the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs will process payments directly to the school. You will need to ensure that all documentation is in place so that the school receives payments on your behalf. In the event you learn that you are not entitled to VA payments, you will be responsible for paying any outstanding charges to the school.

For all other VA educational benefits programs, you will receive funds directly from the VA and will be responsible for submitting all payments you owe to the school.

As with other scholarships, you should anticipate the amount you will receive from the VA and pay only the remaining balance on your student account.  You should not pay upfront the amount that you expect to receive from the VA.  We will ensure that you are not assessed a late fee for this outstanding balance while VA payment is pending.

What if I’ve used VA benefits at another school?

You’ll need to fill out the form VA-1995 “Change of Place of Training or Program” located on the VONAPP website: http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/

Are there any services available to veterans with disabilities?

Yes, Westfield State University and the Department of Veteran Affairs both provide services for veterans with disabilities.  Please consult Westfield State’s Office of Disability Services (Parenzo Hall), the VA website or the Dept. of Veteran Affairs' Vocational Rehabilitation regional office (1985 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103 or call 413-731-6081) for more information.


GENERAL VA BENEFIT INFORMATION

How do I determine if I am eligible for VA Benefits?

Benefit programs change frequently, so it’s important to go directly to the VA for questions about the programs. The toll-free VA Education telephone number is: 1-888-442-4551 (hit 1 for touchtone and then 0 to reach a counselor).  OR, go to the GI Bill web site to read about VA benefits and education programs: www.gibill.va.gov .

How do I apply for Veteran Benefits?

You have two options: You can make an application for education benefits online through VONAPP, the VA’s electronic application web site, or complete a paper application, FORM VA-1990.  For more information, go to http://www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/How_to_Apply.htm  

You will need to apply to Westfield State University and pre-register for your classes before the school can certify your enrollment.  Start by applying to the college via the online application at www.westfield.ma.edu.   You should also apply for Financial Aid through the FAFSA web site at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Once you are registered for classes, stop by the Certifying Official’s office.  

How long will it take to receive my benefits?

First-time applicants should expect to have to wait at least 6 to 8 weeks from the time the enrollment certification is sent before payment is received. Continuing students will be processed quicker provided there have not been any changes in program or address.

Are VA educational benefits taxable?

No, veteran's benefits, paid under any law and administered by the VA should not be reported as income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

I receive Chapter 30 or Chapter 1606 educational benefits and have to verify my enrollment each month. How do I do that?

Anyone receiving Chapter 30 benefits (MGIB- Active Duty) or Chapter 1606 benefits (MGIB- Selected Reserves) must verify their enrollment each month to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in order to receive payment for that month. Your enrollment can be verified on the last calendar day of the month by using the Web Automated Verification of Enrollment (WAVE) system or by calling the toll free, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone line, at 1-877-823-2378. 

Do students receiving Chapter 35 educational assistance need to verify their enrollment each month?

No, dependents or spouses receiving educational assistance under Chapter 35 do not have to verify their enrollment to the VA each month.

Can I arrange for direct deposit at any time?

Yes, all GI Bill recipients may request the direct deposit option by completing VA Form 22-0296 or calling 877-838-2778.

How can I update my address or financial institution information for direct deposit?

If you are currently receiving benefits, or have received benefits in the last year, you can use the WAVE system to update your address or your financial institution information. Visit the G.I. Bill WAVE page, and follow the instructions to log-on to WAVE. Follow the links to change your address and your direct deposit information on the "Main Menu" page of WAVE.

How do I decide between the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

The Montgomery GI Bill (Ch. 30) and the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Ch. 33) have different eligibility requirements and offer different educational benefits.  Some excellent resources for evaluating your options and making a selection are:


POST-911 GI BILL

I still have not received my GI Bill payment. What do I do?

The most frequent question we receive is, “when is my payment going to arrive?” If you are concerned, first check with the Certifying Official to make sure that your certification has been processed. If it has, call the VA at 888-442-4551 and confirm that they’ve received your certification. If they have not, contact the Certifying Official again and ask that we resubmit your certification. If they have received your certification, unfortunately there’s not much we can do to expedite the processing and disbursement of funds on the VA end. If you have financial concerns, you should contact your school’s financial aid office for assistance. Central administration cannot address individual student financial issues.

Can I transfer my Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to my spouse or child?

The Department of Defense allows individuals to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a family member if they are a member of the Armed Forces on or after August 1, 2009, have served at least six years in the Armed Forces, and agree to serve at least another four years in the Armed Forces. Up to 36 months of benefits may be transferred to family members in numerous combinations to multiple dependents.  To learn more about transferability of benefits, visit the GI Bill website.

How do I find out if I am eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits?

Please visit www.va.gov  and submit an application for a Certificate of Eligibility.

What fees are covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

Only those fees that are considered mandatory and/or charged to all students in your school or program are eligible to be covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  This includes fees to all students in your school and the basic level of the Health Insurance plan.  It also includes course fees, such as language fees, and any other fee that is required for your course of study.

No fees associated with room or food are covered, including the dining plans. Any penalty fees, additional printing fees, and other such expenses are not eligible to be covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

If you have a question about a specific fee and whether it will be covered, please contact the school Certifying Official.

How long does verification of my Post-9/11 GI Bill certificate take?

Once the Certifying Officer receives the information regarding the amount of credits you are taking, it may take a few days to certify your enrollment.

When can I expect GI Bill benefits to show up on my account? Also, will I be charged late fees due to an outstanding balance prior to my VA payment?

At the moment, we do not know specifically when GI Bill benefits will be processed.  The average wait time between certification and processing is 6 to 8 weeks. If VA payment is pending you will not be charged a late fee. If you do have a late fee, please contact the Veteran Service Office, Student Accounts (Day students), or the Division of Graduate and Continuing Education (Continuing Education students).

Do I have to verify via WAVE for any parts of the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Yellow Ribbon Program?

Unlike for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), for the Post-9/11 GI Bill you do not need to verify your enrollment via WAVE. Our certification of your enrollment at the beginning of each term is the only necessary step.

When can I expect to receive the books and supplies stipend and my BAH housing allowance?

The book stipend will normally arrive in your account or in the mail 2-3 weeks prior to classes beginning. BAH won't come until the first day of the month after classes begin (i.e. if classes begin September 5th you won't see your first BAH payment until October 1st). You will not begin to receive any benefits until your enrollment has been certified. Also understand that VA pays no housing allowance under the Post 9/11 GI Bill if the student is not more than half-time (i.e. more than six credit hours in a normal semester). Please note that there may be a delay between the certification of your enrollment and the VA's processing and distribution of your payments.  Please ensure that you are prepared to cover your living expenses in the event of a lengthy delay in VA payments.  If you are concerned about your ability to do this, please contact your school's financial aid office or your Dean of Students.

When can I apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

You are able to apply for the new GI Bill at any time, the sooner the better considering how long processing can take.  The VA is accepting paper (postal mail), fax and VONAPP (online) applications for this benefit (website: http://www.gibill.va.gov/apply-for-benefits/application/).  It is recommended that you apply online as this can save 2-3 weeks of application processing time and allows you to have a confirmation of your application submission. 

What does the Post-9/11 GI Bill cover? Do I need to pay my bill if I am eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

The Post 9/11 GI Bill includes payment for your tuition and fees directly to the school, a monthly housing stipend and an annual book/supplies stipend (both stipends paid directly to you).  In order to determine how much of these benefits you are eligible for, you will want to find out what percentage of eligibility you have (for example:  an individual with at least 36 months of active duty after 9/11/01 will be eligible for 100%, an individual with 90 days to 6 months of active duty would be eligible for 40% of the benefit),   Finally, the selection of online/distance education courses can affect your eligibility for the Housing Allowance, specifically.  You should determine whether or not online courses are right for you.  In order to receive the Housing Allowance, you must be enrolled at a "rate of pursuit" of 51% or more, and in at least 1 "in residence" (in classroom) course.  

If you are eligible for 100% of the benefit, and a full-time student, for example, 100% of your tuition and fees will be paid to the school.  Additionally, you will receive 100% of the monthly Housing Allowance and 100% of the $1,000 annual book stipend (paid per credit, per term, up to $1,000 annually).  

I am currently on Active Duty.  Can I use the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

Yes, you can use the Post 9/11 GI Bill on Active Duty. Your percentage will be determined by the amount of time you have served the same as all other veterans. Note that basic training and advanced individual training are not calculated into the percentage until after 24 months of service. Also be aware that because you already receive a housing allowance (or it's equivalant) you will not receive a housing allowance from VA, but you will get the book stipend.  

I have a service-connected disability.  Should I use the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Vocational Rehabilitation?

If you are eligible for both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Chapter 31), you should speak with your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to determine which benefit is most beneficial to your situation. 

Will I receive retroactive payment under the Post-9/11 GI Bill for classes I am taking before August 1, 2009?

No.  The Post- 9/11 GI Bill only covers classes taken on or after August 1, 2009.

I received my Certificate of Eligibility after the term began and my courses were certified later.  Will I receive “back pay” for the months in between the start of the semester and when the VA knew I was attending courses.

Yes.  As is always the case, the VA will provide you "back pay" for time you have been enrolled, even if your course certification takes place after the term commences.

I receive a National Guard Tuition Waiver.  Will I receive a refund of the money given to the School for my tuition?

No.  If you use a National Guard Tuition and Fee Waiver we can only certify the fees you would normally be responsible for that are not covered by the waiver.  These fees will be paid to the school by the VA.

I am not sure which option is best for me.  Who can I talk to?

You can always call the Westfield State Veteran Service Office for advice. The VA has also provided a variety of resources for students to make the best decision about their options.  Remember, the new GI Bill is not for everyone, and for some students the current GI Bill may provide them with more benefits.  You should read the information posted on the GI Bill website at http://www.gibill.va.gov to first determine the percentage of the benefit you are eligible for.  Not everyone is eligible for 100% of the benefits, and your Active Duty time on and after September 11, 2001 will determine your eligibility.  Additionally, you should consider whether or not you plan on taking credits that total more than 1/2 time, and if you plan on taking Distance Education courses.  Being enrolled at or less than half time, and taking all online courses, or 1/2 time (or less) ”in residence" courses (can be combined with online courses) will make you ineligible for the housing stipend.

After reading the information provided on the GI Bill website, should you have more questions about your options, please contact the GI Bill Hotline at 1-888-GI-BILL-1

Please call the Westfield State Veteran Service Office at 413-572-8370 to discuss your options before you make any final decision.

Veteran FAQ's