I have heard that the DVA doesn't count our "Fast-Track" courses and our other short-term classes the same way as it does full-term classes. Should I be concerned?
The short answer is "yes" you should always be concerned with how your training time is calculated. The DVA performs the calculations on such nonstandard terms and any classes that aren't the same length as a standard semester (full-term) 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 ("training time") based on a day-by-day analysis of the number of credible courses being taken at any given point.
  2. Nonstandard classes are taken at an accelerated rate and are counted as being "worth more" in terms of standard equivalent credits than their stated units would imply.
  3. To determine what your training time (course load) would be you need to first convert all nonstandard 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 nonstandard 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 nonstandard classes and write them down.

Chapter 33 Semester Equivalency Table
Weeks ⇒14131211109876543
Credits ⇓

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 four units, and a second fast-track class of three 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?

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

Class Declarations for Leon
CourseStart DateEnd DateWeeksCredits
BIOL 130 0112 JAN20 MAY18 (Full term)3
HIST 100 50212 JAN5 MAR7 (Fast-Track I)3
EMT 109 30314 MAR13 MAY8 (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
CourseStart DateEnd DateCreditsEquivalent Credits
BIOL 130 0112 JAN20 MAY33 (Full term - no change)
HIST 100 50212 JAN5 MAR37.7
EMT 109 30314 MAR13 MAY24.5

Now we have to put these onto a time line:

Leon's Credit Timeline
Dates:12 Jan5 Mar14 Mar13 May20 May
Classes:EMT 109 (4.5 Cr.)
HIST 100 (7.7 Cr.)
BIO 130 (3 Cr.)
Training Time10.7 Cr. (BAH YES)3 Cr.*7.5 Cr. (BAH YES)3 Cr.*

So you can see that because Leon used both fast-track periods, he was fine: he maintained over six units (half-time) and was eligible for BAH. Break pay will continue the BAH benefit until the next period (the gaps where the asterisks are shown).

But what if Leon had decided to take HIST-100-503 instead of HIST-100-502? It is the same class so it is still approved for benefits, but would Leon still get BAH for the whole term? Section 503 meets from 14 Mar - 13 May (eight weeks instead of seven which will reduce the equivalent credit - look at the table if you don't believe us). Now his timeline looks like this:

Leon's New Credit Timeline
Dates:12 Jan14 Mar13 May20 May
Classes:EMT 109 (4.5 Cr.)
HIST 100 (6.7 Cr.)
BIO 130 (3 Cr.)
Training Time3.0 Cr. (BAH NO)14.2 Cr. (BAH YES)3 Cr.*

Leon took the same classes as before and might think that his eight SWC units (being 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 general rule of thumb is that if you do not have sufficient full-term credits (over six) to gain BAH benefits, and you need fast-track classes to gain BAH, you should take classes in both fast-track periods to maintain BAH payment.