Southwestern College

Looking at "non-standard" terms and their impact on your benefits

The SWC Summer and January sessions are composed of terms that are considered "non-standard" by the DVA. This means that none of them are the traditional length of a semester (16 weeks). Any term which is not the 16-week traditional semester length like Summer terms, Fast-Track, or special program terms, will have the value of its credits adjusted by the DVA when they determine the training time/rate of pursuit for benefit purposes. Generally, courses shorter than a semester are "worth" more toward training time than a full-term course, but how they are counted up can be tricky.

Starting with Spring 2016, SWC shifted the Spring term dates.  Now, instead of starting in January, Spring will start in early February.  In order to help veteran students continue their education and not incur the loss of BAH for a month-and-a-half over the winter, SWC has created a special four-week-long intersession term in January.

Because this is a "non-standard" term in VA parlance, the number of units that it takes to reach full-time status are modified in a somewhat complex manner.  Only the DVA can determine equivalency and rate of pursuit: schools are expressly forbidden to make any claims about course loads.

Based on conversations with the DVA and the Certifying Handbook, the following table represents a reasonable estimate of what course load must be taken to qualify as half- or full-time in order to get benefits.

January 2017 Intersession Term
Equivalence of a 4-week term

 Non -33 Credits    



 Chp. 33 Credits


 > or equal to 3 



> or equal to 4








 < 1/2



 < 1/2

 The Spring term will continue as normal with a first and
second Fast Track period standing in early February.

You should always be concerned with how your training time is calculated as that determines the level of benefits you are entitled to. Especially for Post 9/11 (Chapter 33) recipients, it can mean the difference between receiving BAH or not. The DVA will perform calculations on such non-standard terms where classes aren't the same length as a standard semester (16 week) course. Still, there are a few rules to keep in mind that will keep you out of trouble.

  1. You have to remember that the DVA looks at your course load and determines training time based on a day-by-day analysis of the number of credible courses being taken each day.
  2. Non-standard classes are generally taken at an accelerated rate and are counted as being "worth more" in terms of standard equivalent credits than their stated units would imply.  However we do have a few courses that are longer than a standard term and they will actually be worth less!
  3. To determine what your training time (course load) would be you need to first convert all non-standard classes into standard equivalents, then overlay those credits on a calendar and sum them up (sounds harder than it really is).
Step One: Convert all non-standard terms/courses into standard equivalents. Again, this is only an estimate; the DVA will determine this using a calculation. You don't have to do the math - for our estimating purposes, you can do the same thing for Chapter 33 using conversion table below (other programs have a slightly different conversion table). Look up the credit equivalent for each of your non-standard classes and write them down.

Chapter 33 Semester Equivalency Table
Weeks ⇒ 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
Credits ⇓
10 12.9
9 11.6 12.5
8 10.3 11.1 12.0 13.1
7 9.0 9.7 10.5 11.5 12.6
6 7.7 8.3 9.0 9.8 10.8 12.0 13.5
5 6.4 6.9 7.5 8.2 9.0 10.0 11.2 12.9
4 5.1 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.2 8.0 9.0 10.3 12.0 14.4
3 3.9 4.2 4.5 4.9 5.4 6.0 6.7 7.7 9.0 10.8 13.5
2 2.6 2.8 3.0 3.3 3.6 4.0 4.2 5.1 6.0 7.2 9.0 12.0
1 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.8 2.0 2.3 2.6 3.0 3.6 4.5 6.0


Step Two: Overlay each course by calendar dates to sum up your equivalent course load on a day-for-day basis (this can be done very simply with a timeline). Sum up the course equivalents to find your training load from period to period.

Let's do an example so you can see how this works. Leon has signed up for three classes: a full-term three-unit class, a first fast-track class of three units, and a second fast-track class of two units. Does Leon have sufficient credits to receive BAH under Chapter 33 - in other words, when is Leon considered to be pursuing more than half-time training time so that he can start drawing his BAH?

Leon registered for class, immediately declared his classes online with Veteran Services, and reported the following:

Class Declarations for Leon
Course Start Date End Date Weeks Credits
BIOL 130 01 24 AUG 12 DEC 18 (Full term) 3
HIST 100 502 24 AUG 17 OCT 8 (Fast-Track I) 3
EMT 109 303 19 OCT 12 DEC 8 (Fast-Track II) 2


Luckily Leon did submit his SEP in a timely manner. All of his classes were degree-related and approved for payment. All the classes except for BIOL 130 are non-standard terms and must be standardized with the table. We use the table and we come up with:

Class Credit Equivalents for Leon
Course Start Date End Date Credits Equivalent Credits
BIOL 130 01 24 AUG 12 DEC 3 3 (Full term - no change)
HIST 100 502 24 AUG 17 OCT 3 6.7
EMT 109 303 19 OCT 12 DEC 2 4.2


Now we have to put these onto a time line:

Leon's Credit Timeline
Dates: 24 Aug 17 Oct 19 Oct 12 Dec
Classes: EMT 109 (4.2 Cr.)
HIST 100 (6.7 Cr.)
BIO 130 (3 Cr.)
Training Time 9.7 Cr. (BAH YES) 3 Cr.* 7.2 Cr. (BAH YES)


So you can see that because Leon used both fast-track periods, he was fine: he maintained over six adjusted units ("greater than 50%") and was eligible for BAH. Break pay will continue the BAH benefit until the next period (the gap where BAH could be lost is where the asterisk is shown - but since the gap is fewer than three days the DVA will continue paying BAH).

But what if Leon had decided to take a different section of HIST-100? He wants -502 instead of -501. It is the same class, so it is still approved for benefits and he is taking the same number of units that term, but would Leon still get BAH for the whole term? Section 502 meets from 19 Oct - 12 Dec (still eight weeks long but the course occurs at a different section of the timeline). Now his timeline looks like this:

Leon's New Credit Timeline
Dates: 24 Aug 19 Oct 12 Dec
Classes: EMT 109 (4.2 Cr.)
HIST 100 (6.7 Cr.)
BIO 130 (3 Cr.)
Training Time 3.0 Cr. (BAH NO) 13.9 Cr. (BAH YES)


Leon took the same classes as before and might think that his eight SWC units (showing that overall he was above half-time) would entitle him to BAH for the term: but he would be wrong! Leon loses his BAH for the first two months of the term because of the way the class dates laid out the adjusted credits!

The general rule of thumb is that if you do not have sufficient full-term credits (over six - "greater than 50%") to gain Chapter 33 BAH benefits, and you need fast-track classes to gain BAH, you should take approved classes in both fast-track periods to maintain BAH payment for the entire term.

Last updated: 1/25/2017 5:55:46 PM