Serving your country means making sacrifices. That doesn't mean you should sacrifice the educational benefits you and your family could be entitled to.
Members of the U.S. armed forces can transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to family members. However, next month the rules that affect how and when you may transfer benefits are changing. Make sure you're aware and—if it applies to you—make sure you act quickly to protect your family's future. Beginning Aug. 1, active-duty personnel with at least six years of service will be eligible to transfer benefits to their spouse only if they agree to serve at least four more years. After ten years of service they can transfer the benefits to their children, as well. To transfer benefits to immediate family members, most men and women in uniform have been obligated to sign up for four additional years since 2009. The Aug. 1 date means an end to the temporary exceptions for senior officers and enlisted men and women who are nearing retirement. The waivers were in place as a recruitment and retention tool and are being eliminated as military forces draw down their overseas involvement. Post-9/11 GI Bill education and housing benefits are for honorably discharged service members with at least 90 days of active duty after Sept. 10, 2001, or service members discharged with a service-related disability after 30 days. Benefits are tiered based on the number of active-duty days served and may help pay for:
- college courses
- training programs at “non-college degree-granting” institutions
- a housing stipend
- books and supplies
Some retirement-eligible service members have a few days to transfer benefits without signing up for additional service. They can do so through the Defense Manpower Data Center Transfer Education Benefits (TEB) website. Benefit transfer is limited to men and women who are currently serving. Paul Wilder, program manager, Post-9/11 GI Bill, Navy Personnel Command, says some sailors are under the mistaken impression that they can chose to transfer benefits after they retire, transfer to the Fleet Reserve or are discharged. "Once a Sailor designates their family members for transferability, (he or she) can reassign the number of months a family member receives or revoke unused benefits," said Wilder. “But they may not add family members once they leave the service.” To receive benefits, a dependent family member must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) database. Spouses have up to 15 years from the last day of active duty to use the benefit. Children aren't subject to the 15-year window, but they can't use the benefits after age 25. Military who transferred their education benefits before “force shaping” lead to their involuntary separation may not need to repay them, although the discharge will still need to be “honorable.” to qualify. If you have questions about your eligibility, your education office should be able to help you determine if a benefits transfer is right for your family. In some cases, your spouse and children may qualify for other benefits.