Family members greet soldiers returning home from deployment this year. Soldiers who want to transfer their GI Bill benefits to family members will face a new service obligation if they do so after Aug. 1. (Army)
Soldiers who request transfer of their Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits to family members on or after Aug. 1 will be obligated to serve four more years.
That obligation applies regardless of their time in service, under a long-planned tightening of eligibility rules for the special benefits program.
Until now, soldiers who were nearing, or at, retirement eligibility qualified for options that reduced the service obligation requirements. The pending change is required by federal laws that established the Post 9/11 GI Bill transferability option in 2009.
Here’s what you need to know about changes to this major benefits program:
1. Retiring? Not so fast. The upcoming change largely affects senior officers and NCOs who are retirement-eligible, and who previously would have incurred service obligations of zero, one, two or three years when they transferred GI Bill benefits to family members.
On Aug. 1 and later, all GI Bill transfer applicants, regardless of their retirement eligibility status, will incur a four-year service obligation.
2. Who can do it. To qualify for the transfer option, soldiers must be in active status with the Regular Army or Selected Reserve, and have at least six years of service on the date of election.
The Selected Reserve includes soldiers of the Active Guard and Reserve, troops units of the National Guard and Army Reserve and the Individual Mobilization Augmentee program. Members of the Individual Ready Reserve are not eligible to transfer benefits.
3. Family members who can get it. Soldiers who qualify for participation in the program can transfer education benefits to their spouse, one or more dependent children or a combination of spouse and child/children.
Family members must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System, or DEERS, to qualify for benefits.
4. Timeline for spouses. The spouses of eligible applicants may start to use education benefits immediately upon enrollment in the program, and may continue to draw benefits for up to 15 years after the soldier/spouse separates from active duty.
5. How it works for children. Dependent children can use the benefit only after the soldier/parent has completed at least 10 years of service, and they have attained a secondary school diploma, an equivalency certificate, or have reached 18 years of age.
Benefits can be used by dependent children until their 26th birthday.