Whenever discussing Chapter 33 – the Post 9/11 GI Bill, one topic that is sure to come up is the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). The book stipend and tuition payments are pretty straightforward, but the MHA confuses people. In particular, I want to address three commonly asked questions.
“How is the MHA calculated?”
While the MHA is based on the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) tables, the calculation uses the ZIP code of the school and pays at the Pay Grade of an E-5 with dependents. That amount is if you are a full-time student at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier.
If you are part-time or at a lesser tier percentage, then your MHA will be prorated down accordingly. Active duty members and their spouses do not receive MHA. However, veterans, their spouses and their dependents may qualify for the benefit, as well as dependent children of active duty personnel. Qualification depends on the student taking more than 50% percent of the number of credits the school considers full-time. Also keep in mind that the VA rounds up or down to the nearest multiple of ten.
“When should I get paid?”
The VA is always at least one month behind when paying the MHA. So the payment you received this month was for last month. Of course, getting paid on time is dependent on two events – when your school submits your Certificate of Enrollment and when the VA processes payment. A hiccup in either and your MHA will be late.
“Why was this month’s payment less than last month?”
Many new students using the Post 9/11 GI Bill do not understand that the MHA is paid based on the number of days enrolled in school. So usually in a semester, the first and last months’ MHAs are less than the middle months. For example, if you start school on January 7, the check you get in February will be for 24 days instead of 30 days. The VA uses 30 days as their standard regardless of the actual number of days in a month. The middle months you would get the full authorized amount, however, the last month could also be less if your semester ends before the end of that month.
Over-payments are another common cause getting less than you expected. This usually is caused by a student dropping classes partway through a semester. Depending on when the drop occurred, and when the school reported the reduction in credits to the VA, the MHA for that month might be for more credit hours than what was actually taken. The VA will make the over-payment adjustment by reducing the following months’ MHA payments until the overpayment is repaid.
Returning students should see an increase in their MHA starting on August 1st due an average 3.8 percent increase in the BAH tables that was approved in October 2012.