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FAQ

 
Veteran - Am I considered a veteran?
To be considered a veteran you must have served in the ACTIVE military (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps) and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.
VA – what is the difference between the VA and DVA?
What we commonly refer to as the VA or Veterans Administration is also known as the DVA or Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is under the Department of Veterans Affairs.
School Veterans Offices - Why should we come to you instead of going to the VA?
We maintain close liaison with the VA, but we are unique in that we provide advocacy to the veteran community in federal, state and local benefit programs.
  • Our Responsibility to You
    We will provide all documents and information necessary for you to receive your VA educational benefits. We will process all requests or benefits in a timely and proficient manner. We can certify enrollment to the VA for a maximum of one semester at a time. We recommend that you stop by the VA Office or print out an online application and complete it as soon as you register.
  • Your Responsibility to Us
    Keep us informed! It is your responsibility to request certification for each term. You must request benefits by completing VA Office in-house forms for each term in which you want to receive benefits.

 

Attending College of the Desert
Apply for Admission to COD: See the Admissions & Records web page for details.
 
Assessment & Orientation: All veterans applying for benefits must participate in the matriculation process. This service provides assessment of your reading, sentence and mathematical skills. This will assist your in selecting the appropriate courses to your current skill level and to use in developing your education plan. Visit the Assessment Center web site.

 

 

 

Taxes - Do I have to pay taxes on my GI Bill?
NO - All GI Bill benefits are TAX FREE.

 

 

 

Financial Aid - Am I eligible for Financial Aid?
You will need to check with the COD Financial Aid Office. Usually your first step in finding out if you’re eligible for Financial Aid and the Pell Grant is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

 

 

 

DEPENDENTS OF VETERANS
 
My Dad/Mom/husband/wife was in the military (is a veteran). Do I get any benefits?
If the veteran is 100% permanently and totally disabled or deceased due to service connected injury or death the spouse or child may be eligible for Chapter 35 (Dependent) benefits. The spouse cannot have re-married and there is an age cut off for the children.

 

If you are not eligible for this program you may be eligible for a fee waiver program - the CAL VET program. The veteran must have established a percentage of disability with the VA and in some cases, the child must meet an income criteria. This program waives some (but not all) of the fees for college at the Community College level; the CSU system and the UC system.
 

 

Dependents Fee Waiver/Cal-Vet Fee Waiver Program
The California Department of Veterans Affairs also offers a college fee waiver program for veterans’ dependents. Dependents whose parent or spouse has or had a service-connected disability, or died from a service-related cause, may meet the eligibility criteria for a college fee waiver. Dependents of POWS and MIAS, widow(ers) of deceased veterans and wives of 100% disabled veterans may also be eligible.
 
The waiver covers the enrollment, tuition and registration fees. This program does not waive nonresident fees, nor does it cover the cost of parking, books or supplies.
 
For more information contact your local Veteran Service Officer listed in the phone book under “County Government.” In the Coachella Valley, contact the Riverside County Veterans Services Office at (760) 863-8266.
 

 

Once approved and you have received your letter of eligibility you are required to bring it to the COD Veterans Office and we will help you process the BOG Fee Waiver Application that you will need to submit to the COD Financial Aid Office. The BOG Fee Waiver must be processed or your fees will not be waived.
 

 

How long is the Cal Vet Fee Waiver letter good for? Do I need to reapply?
Your Cal Vet Fee Waiver award letter is good for the academic year indicated on it. At COD, this always starts with a Summer, Fall, and then Spring. You will need to provide a new letter before the start of each Summer to be covered for the upcoming year.

 

 

 

Applying for my GI Bill - How do I get my benefits?
  • Eligibility for the GI Bill: contact your Department of Veteran Affairs for information on your eligibility. They can be reached by calling 1-888-442-4551 or on the web at www.gibill.va.gov.
  • Stop by the COD Veterans Office to pick up our New Student Folder. This has all the information you need to apply for your benefits and other important information/handouts on VA services and COD information. Return the paperwork ASAP to the COD Veterans Office along with a copy of your DD214 (if applicable).
  • Transcripts from other institutions must be on file before the end of the first semester of attendance unless you have completed 30 or more units, then your transcripts are required before we can process your VA paperwork. These transcripts will be submitted to the COD Veterans Office for evaluation of prior credit. All units applicable will be counted toward your declared major/education objective at COD.
  • What do I need to bring with me?
    If you have never applied for Veterans Administration education benefits we need the following:

    DD 214 – Member 4 Copy
    Documentation showing that you enlisted with a college fund bonus (if applicable)
    Documentation showing you contributed the additional $600.00 kicker (if applicable)
  • Contribution information may be noted on your DD 214. If so, no other documentation is required. If not, please provide either a receipt or your Leave & Earnings Statements showing the additional contribution. Note, we can submit your paperwork without this, but it is highly recommended that this information is provided.
  • How does the VA know what I am doing?
    The COD Veterans Office will keep the VA informed of your status. It is imperative that you notify our office of any changes in your enrollment status, address, major, objective etc. in a timely manner.
  • Why do I have to fill out all this paperwork?
    The stack of paperwork we give you as a new student at College of the Desert establishes your veteran’s file at COD and your VA file in Muskogee, OK. There is a reason for each piece of paperwork. Once the files are established you will need to complete one piece of paperwork each semester to keep your benefits going, unless you change your major or have a break in attendance.

Active Duty – may I use my GI Bill while on Active Duty?
We recommend you use the Military Tuition Assistance instead of your GI Bill while on Active Duty. If you have used all the Tuition Assistance allowed by your branch of service, we can certify you for the required Tuition & Fees only. Beware, however that this certification will result in your utilizing precious entitlement to your GI Bill.

Tuition Assistance from the Military
Tuition Assistance or TA is approved by your current branch of service. Fees due COD cannot be deferred unless we have an approved TA Authorization form. If the amount approved on the TA Authorization form does not cover all your fees, you will be responsible to pay the remainder of your fees due. Note: TA does not pay for books or parking.
If you do not have the approved TA Authorization form by the time your fees are due you will be need to pay the fees to avoid being dropped from your courses. Your fees would be refunded to you after the TA payment has been received from the military, this can take up to 2 months! Get your TA paperwork approved early to avoid this hassle!

Terminal Leave – can I use my benefits if I’m on Terminal Leave?
We will certify you for the entire semester, however, for the period prior to your discharge we will notify the VA of your tuition and fees (as required by the VA). Once you have been officially separated from the service and provide a copy of your DD-214, the normal amount of benefit will kick in. You are not eligible to receive your full GI Bill rates unless you are a Veteran!

Can I sign up for the GI Bill without my DD214, copy 4?
While we will certify you for benefits without a DD214 we ask that you obtain one as soon as possible. We are required to retain a copy in your file in our office. Also there is always a possibility that not having a DD214 can hold the processing of your benefits by the VA.

NOBE – I’m in the Reserves/Guard - what is a NOBE?
For Reservists utilizing Chapter 1606 a NOBE is a Notice of Basic Eligibility DD Form 2384-1. You obtain your NOBE from your unit and you hand it in with your VA package of paperwork to our office.

Do I have to pay tuition and fees?
It depends on which GI Bill you will be using.
If you are using your Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill, then no, that GI Bill will pay your required fees.

If you are using your Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Bill, Chapter 1606 Selected Reserves GI Bill, Chapter 1607 REAP or Chapter 35 Dependents Education Assistance, then Yes! Students are responsible for their fees, which are due 5 days from the date of their registration. The GI Bill is a monthly allotment that comes to you. You get paid via check or direct deposit. The VA educational benefit is to help offset the cost of tuition, fees, or books.

Advance Pay – what is it and how do I request it?
If you are a first time student using GI bill benefits or have used the GI Bill before and been out of school for a semester you can request Advance Pay. We accept requests for Advance Pay 45 to 120 days prior to the beginning of the semester. The check would contain the first partial month and the next full month of attendance. The VA would send your next check due to you at the beginning of the fourth month of attendance. See our office for the form. The request needs to be processed when we process your paperwork for the semester.

Certification of Enrollment
We can certify your enrollment to the VA each semester/term. It is your responsibility to request to be certified for each term. It is not done automatically without your written authorization. The COD Veterans Office form must be submitted to our office each term so that we can check that your courses are “certifiable” or required for your education objective. Completing this form when you know the courses you are enrolled in or have already enrolled in, will ensure that your benefits will continue in a timely manner. The form is available in the COD Veterans Office or you can download it from the COD Veterans webpage.

Direct Deposit
Chapters 30, 1606 and 1607 recipients are eligible for direct deposit of educational benefits payments; this can speed delivery of your monthly benefit by several days. You can request direct deposit when you apply for benefits either by completing the VONAPP online application at www.gibill.va.gov or by calling the VA at 1-877-838-2778; make sure you have a check or deposit slip for your account information handy when you call.

Award Letters
Award letters are the computer-generated letters you receive from the VA each time we certify you for benefits; they list the award period, your monthly rate, and indicate the number of months of benefits’ entitlement you will have at the end of the period certified. Since the college does not receive a copy of the letter, we strongly recommend that you check your award information for accuracy, and that you save the letter for future reference.

Address Changes
Keep the COD Veterans Office notified of any changes in your name, address or telephone numbers. Changing your address with the COD Admissions & Records Office does not change your address with the COD Veterans Office or the VA automatically. Whenever you change your address, make sure you notify the Veterans Office and leave a forwarding address with your local Post Office. Note, if you received your check by mail and it is lost in the mail, it may take up to three months to clear up the problem and for a retroactive check to be issued to you.
Monthly Verification of Enrollment or how do I get my money? Chapters 30, 1606 and 1607 monthly verification of enrollment.

Students receiving benefits under Chapters 30, 1606 and 1607 must verify their continued enrollment on or after the last calendar day of the month to receive payment for that month's attendance. If there is no change in enrollment, you may call 1-877-823-2378 (toll free, 24/7) to verify by touch-tone phone. You may also verify on the Web at http://www.gibill.va.gov by following the links to WAVE-Web Automated Verification of Enrollment; you may use this option whether or not you have changes in enrollment.
 
  • How long does it take to get my check after I verify enrollment?
    The quickest way to receive your payment is by using direct deposit. Your benefit can be deposited into your checking or savings account in 5 to 7 working days. If you choose to have a check mailed (not recommended due to delays or losses, which can occur), you can expect payment in 14 to 21 working days. If you are a Serviceperson, Veteran or a Reservist, your Direct Deposit can be started or updated by using the WAVE system on the VA’s website at www.gibill.va.gov or by calling 1-877-838-2778.
  • Chapter 35
    Note: if you are receiving Chapter 35 benefits, your checks are sent automatically once your paperwork has been processed - you do not have to verify your attendance. You will receive a hard copy check sent to the address you have provided us with.
 
Concurrent Enrollment
Concurrent enrollment is when you decide to enroll at two colleges for one semester. One college is your Parent Institution or Primary college for veteran benefits. This will usually be the school you have been attending and are completing your program at. This college will process all your paperwork for certification of benefits at your primary school and upon your request send a Parent School Letter to the Secondary School authorizing the course you are taking to be certified. Note the Secondary School may still need you to complete paperwork at their institution.

Degree Requirements – does it matter what courses I take?
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are meeting the requirements for your degree objective. VA benefits are authorized only for courses which apply as degree requirements for the current degree objective you have reported to the VA. The VA will only pay for classes that are required in your SEP – Student Education Plan or Evaluation.

Majors and SEPs - What is a Student Educational Plan?
A Student Educational Plan is a listing of courses approved for your declared major. The COD Veterans Office will process your SEP and have it in your file. Please see our office for a copy. The courses listed on your SEP are approved for payment by the VA.

How do I change my major?
You complete and submit Form 22-1995 or if using Chapter 35 benefits, a 22-5495 to our office. If you are taking classes in the new major we will change your major. If you are still taking classes which fall under the major you have declared we will not change your major until such time that you begin taking the classes under the new declared major. An education plan will be completed for the new major. You will also need to change your major with the COD Admissions & Records Office, we can assist you with this process.

Why do I have to declare a major?
The VA requires you to declare an objective or goal. At COD that can be an AA/AS degree or certificate from our catalog. It can also be a transfer program for a BA/BS degree program through the CSU system or UC system, or Loma Linda University. See our office for more information on a transfer program.
What am I paid for under a major/goal at COD?
You are paid for the General Education classes, Major Classes and Electives (if needed) for that major/goal. You are not paid for classes you have already completed with a passing grade, or those not required for your declared major.
Why am I not getting paid for all of my current classes?
Only classes, which are major classes, general education requirements or electives as needed, are payable classes. An exception to this would be required prerequisite classes and remedial classes such as MATH 57 or ENG 50, which are shown to be needed through assessment testing. Repeating classes (any class you have previously taken with a passing grade) or a class outside of your major requirements are not payable. Be sure to have your classes approved each semester before the semester begins.
Internet/Online Classes – can I get paid for them?
Yes; if they are required for your major.
F Grade or what happens if I fail a course?
Your VA benefits will not be affected if you receive an "F" grade, unless you received the "F" due to non-attendance or are placed on academic probation. Please remember, you must notify the VA Office if you stop attending a class, even if you do not officially withdraw or it was past the last date to withdraw with a “W”. This also includes “NC” No-Credit or “IF” Incomplete/F grades.
You will be sent a letter by the COD Veterans Office regarding any course in which you receive an “F”, “NC” or “IF” grade. It is imperative that you respond to the letter to inform us if you quit attending the course and the date you quit or if you did complete the course, but fail to pass it successfully.
You can repeat a course in which you did not pass if the course is required or a pre-requisite to your declared education objective/major. Check with our office for more information before you repeat a course!

Repeating Courses
Students may receive benefits when repeating courses in which a grade of "F" or "NC" was received if the course is required or a pre-requisite to a required course. In some instances, a grade of "D" may be repeated if it is noted that a grade of "C" or better is required in the catalog. If you receive a grade of “F”, “NC”, or in some cases “D”, for the 2nd time at COD, then we are required to notify the VA that the first term in which you received the unsatisfactory grade has now turned into a “Non-Punitive Grade” since the first grade has now been taken out of your GPA calculation and you did not pass it when you repeated it. This will result in an overpayment and you will be contacted by the VA regarding the overpayment. Please check with the COD Veterans Office if you are repeating any courses in which you received the unsatisfactory grade at COD.

Dropping a Course(s)
You are required to notify the COD Veterans Office when you drop (or add) a class. You may be required to pay back any benefits received for the dropped course(s). The VA can reduce your benefits retroactively back to the first day of the term. The VA will consider “Mitigating Circumstances” surrounding the reduction. If the VA accepts your “Mitigating Circumstances” they will reduce your benefits as of the date of your drop. Contact our office for more information on “Mitigating Circumstances”.
Withdrawing from School
If you withdraw from all your courses during the semester, the VA will terminate your benefits retroactively to the end of the preceding semester. An exception to this rule can be made if you have acceptable mitigating circumstances; in this case, your benefits will be terminated as of the last day of attendance. Contact the COD Veterans Office before you withdraw so we can assist you notifying the VA in a timely manner and in submitting your Statement in Support of Claim, if required.

Overpayments and Interest
The Department of Veteran Affairs charges interest and a monthly administrative fee on overpayments of educational benefits; obviously, it is in your interest to contact our office before you make changes in your student status. The COD Veterans Office must report changes to the Department of Veteran Affairs within 30 days of the effective date of the change. If you have mitigating circumstances and have been in contact with our office, we can send your completed Statement in Support of Claim to the Department of Veteran Affairs with our notification of the change in your status, and an overpayment may be avoided.
Mitigating Circumstances
If you drop a course(s) or withdraw from school, the VA can assess an overpayment for the benefits you’ve received. If the circumstances were beyond your control, the VA may not require you to reimburse those benefits received if the circumstances were beyond your control. "Mitigating circumstances" is a term used quite often in relation to your VA educational benefits. The VA considers mitigating circumstances to be those situations that are beyond your control, are serious enough to warrant changing your class schedule, and were unforeseen at the beginning of the semester.
Some Mitigating Circumstances may be: student has serious illness, family member ill or death, child care problems, work shift change or obligations, financial obligations. Examples of unacceptable mitigating circumstances include withdrawal to avoid a failing grade, dislike of instructor, and too many courses attempted. The VA makes the determination not the COD Veterans Office.
Mitigating circumstances can be provided on VA Form 21-4138 Statement in Support of Claim Form or you can send a letter explaining your mitigating circumstances directly to the VA. If you have any supporting evidence includes a copy with your letter. (Always keep a copy of what you submit!) To obtain VA Form 21-4138 check with our office.
Academic Probation
If your Cumulative Grade Point Average (not Semester GPA) falls below 2.00 (“C” average) for a semester you will be placed on Academic Probation. You will have to see a Counselor to discuss your situation and request to be cleared to re-enroll at COD. Note: if you continue on Academic Probation, this can affect your VA benefits! If you have 3 consecutive semesters of attendance on Academic Probation, the VA will be notified that you have been placed on Unsatisfactory Progress.
Progress Probation
If you have 50% or more of your total units attempted at COD are “Non-Progress” units (W’s, NC’s, I’s) then you will be placed on Progress Probation. You will have to see a Counselor to discuss your situation and request to be cleared to re-enroll at COD. Note: if you continue on Academic Probation, this can affect your VA benefits! If you have 3 consecutive semesters of attendance on Progress Probation, the VA will be notified that you have been placed on Unsatisfactory Progress.
Unsatisfactory Progress
If you have been placed on Academic Probation or Progress Probation for 3 consecutive semesters of attendance we are required to notify the VA that you are on Unsatisfactory Progress. The law requires that VA education benefits be discontinued when the student ceases to make satisfactory progress toward completion of their education objective. Benefits may be resumed after a student has been counseled regarding their Unsatisfactory Progress and recommended for readmission.
Academic Disqualification
Academic Disqualification occurs when your Cumulative and Semester Grade Point Averages are below 2.00 in each of 3 consecutive semesters of attendance. Students placed on Academic Disqualification are subject to dismissal from the College.
Progress Disqualification
Progress Disqualification occurs when you have been on Progress Probation for 3 consecutive Semesters on Progress Probation. Students placed on Progress Disqualification are subject to dismissal from the College.

Rounding Out/Final Semester
Providing you have at least one unit/class left on your education plan, for your last semester you may take any class to make it up to full time enrollment. Therefore, full time pay. You can only do this for once at the AA/AS Degree level, if you pursue an additional degree after completing your first one.
Tutorial Assistance
Be sure to take advantage of the services provided by the COD Academic Skills Center even if you aren’t having difficulty you’re your courses.
The Tutoring Center provides open lab tutoring to all enrolled College of the Desert students. The Tutoring is FREE. The hours of operation for the Tutoring Center vary during each instructional session, yet every effort is made to provide tutoring support to our morning and evening students.
If the tutorial services offered by the COD Tutoring Center don't meet your needs, additional tutorial services may be available to you through the VA. Tutorial assistance may be paid to eligible students training under Chapters 30, 32, 35, and 1606. Veterans receiving Chapter 31 benefits may also qualify.
The VA Tutorial Assistance allowance is a supplement to your monthly educational benefits check, and is paid to reimburse you for the reasonable charges by a tutor not to exceed $100 per month, with a maximum of $1,200. Under Chapter 35 there is no charge to your VA entitlement. Under Chapters 30, 32, and 1606 there is no charge to your entitlement until $600 in tutorial benefits have been paid. The second $600 is deducted from your entitlement!. To receive VA tutorial assistance, you must also meet the following requirements:
  • You must be enrolled in at least half-time studies.
  • The course must be taken to meet the degree requirements of your current education objective that is reported to the VA.
  • The instructor must indicate to the VA/COD Veterans Office on department letterhead or form provided by the COD Veterans Office that a deficiency exists and that tutoring is needed for you to complete the course.
  • Verification of the tutor’s capabilities must be demonstrated.
  • You must complete VA form 22-1990T, available in the Veterans Office.
VA Work Study Program
Students who are receiving VA education benefits are eligible to participate in the VA’s Work Study Program. Depending on availability of positions, work-study may be available if you are receiving VA education benefits, and are attending school at least three-quarter time (9 semester hours) or greater. Students may work at VA approved sites up to 425 hours during a semester. Students are typically paid the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher; this benefit is non-taxable.
EDD – Veterans Services
Workforce Development Center
44-199 Monroe St., Suite B
Indio, CA 92201
(760) 863-2500
Any VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) facility
Check with the Local VA Medical Clinic or the Loma Linda VA Hospital