[Note from MOAA: This story was updated July 27 to reflect further clarifications on GI Bill transferability.]
The Pentagon on July 12 announced significant changes to the transferability of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. The initial news triggered a number of concerned questions from service members and spouses. Here's what you need to know:
What is the new eligibility requirement? Effective July 12, 2019, servicemembers desiring to transfer their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit to a spouse or child(ren) will need to do so no later than their 16th year of service. Prior to this announcement, there were no restrictions on when servicemembers could transfer educational benefits to family members. The requirement for the servicemember to have at least six years of service to apply for transfer remains in effect.
Why make this change? Congress gave the Pentagon the authority to control changes in the transferability policy when they passed the law in 2008. The transferability option was viewed by Congressional leadership at the time as an important retention tool for the services to retain top talent. A key part of the legislation: With every proposed change to the policy, DoD has to notify Congress of their intentions and the reason behind the change. DoD must also provide advance notice to the currently serving force - in this case one year from the date of notification.
Who is affected? All currently serving members of the uniformed services and their families.
As of July 19, all of the services are issuing even tougher guidelines, according to a Military.Com report. Effective immediately, service members who have committed to 10 years of service and have already served at least six, but are prevented from completing the last four, are unable to transfer the benefit.
What should I do? Decide your actions based on your career time in service and your personal family situation. For example, if you are a servicemember with 16 or more years of service, and you are considering transferring your benefit, you should do so before the new policy takes effect on July 12, 2019. Bottom line, regardless of where you are in your career, if you are considering transferring the benefit to one or more of your dependents, it's best to do so now, before the new rule takes effect.
According to DoD, the servicemember can make later adjustments, such as percentage amounts among dependents, or between spouse and children, but only after they have transferred the benefit. Servicemembers can also transfer the benefit back to themselves if their family situation changes.
You can find more information on MOAA's website as well as other information regarding the Post 9/11 G.I bill on both the DoD and the service websites as well as at your local installation education center.
What is MOAA's position? MOAA has concerns with this change in DoD policy. Here is the official response from our President and CEO, Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret):
DoD's announcement to limit the transfer of earned Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits is the first attempt to restrict use of an education tool popular with military families.
At its inception, lawmakers insisted upon the ability to transfer GI Bill benefits as a way to recruit and retain America's best and brightest. Transferability, coupled with an additional service requirement, became one of the cornerstones of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The option to transfer GI Bill benefits is particularly valuable for military officers, many of whom already have collegiate and advanced degrees.
While we appreciate DoD announcing the policy change won't take effect until 2019, MOAA believes the unilateral change to cut off transferability will likely have a compounding, negative effect on recruiting and retention over time. As military families continue to serve during the longest period of sustained conflict in American history, we question the timing of this change and will seek to learn the VA's role and the interest level of Congress.