There is good news for those of you out there who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill — you may be eligible to transfer your GI Bill to a spouse or child if you meet the minimum service requirements and agree to extend your military service obligation.
There are certain limitations, and new rules passed in July, 2018 (effective starting Jan 12, 2020) require members to transfer their GI bill no later than the end of their 16th year of service. Additionally, all members must be eligible to serve an additional four years in order to transfer their GI Bill benefits to a family member.
More information on GI Bill transfer eligibility is found below.
Update: Additional changes may be coming soon to transferred GI Bill benefits. Recent legislation would cut the Monthly Housing Allowance in half if the benefit is transferred to children (those who have already made the transfer will be grandfathered into the current system with a 100% housing allowance for children). Those who are thinking about transferring this benefit should do so ASAP to avoid reduced benefits for their children. Read more about the GI Bill transfer changes.
Who Can Transfer GI Bill Benefits
The GI Bill benefits transfer policy is designed as a retention tool to entice mid-career service members to commit to additional military service. Because of this, eligibility rules target those members based on their service time and eligibility to serve an additional four-year service commitment.
New military rules, passed in 2018, require eligible members to transfer their GI Bill no later than the end of their 16th year of service. This change was originally scheduled to go into effect starting July 12, 2019. However, the military recently pushed this back to January 12, 2020, to give more time for military members to make the transfer. This applies to all current military members and their families.
Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer Eligibility Rules:
You can only transfer GI Bill benefits if you are eligible for the Post 9-11 GI Bill and you meet one of the following criteria:
- Have at least 6 years of service on date of GI Bill transfer request, and you agree to serve 4 more years.
- Are eligible to serve an additional 4 years of military service.
- Have not yet completed your 16th year of military service (beginning July 12, 2019).
Note: Each branch can implement the transfer rules based on DoD policy. Please see your Human Resources or personnel office for more information or to start the transfer of your benefits. Your branch will be able to help you start the transfer process, ensure you are eligible to serve an additional 4 years and help you extend your service commitment.
Members Who Are No Longer Eligible to Transfer the GI Bill
Changes to the DoD GI Bill Transfer policy have removed the ability for some service members to transfer their GI Bill to family members. These changes have been made in keeping with the intent of the GI Bill transfer policy, which is to serve as a retention tool.
No Longer Eligible – Retirement Eligible Service Members:
The original law grandfathered in certain service members near retirement if they were not able to serve an additional 4-year service commitment. The original bill allowed those who
- “Are retirement eligible from August 1, 2009 through August 1, 2012 to transfer their GI Bill, provided the member agreed to serve one more year of service starting from the date the GI Bill benefits are transferred.”
Why this provision was removed: This provision was included in the original law to give all current service members the opportunity to transfer their GI Bill to family members. This eligibility option has been removed because the GI Bill transfer benefit is a retention tool and all currently serving members will have had the option to transfer their benefits leading up to their retirement eligibility. This provision is no longer necessary. Retirement eligible members can still transfer GI Bill benefits through July 11, 2019, provided they are eligible to extend their service commitment an additional 4 years.
No Longer Eligible – 10+ Years of Service, but Ineligible to Extend 4 More Years:
The first version of the law allowed members to transfer their GI Bill if they
- “Have at least 10 years service and cannot serve 4 more years because of policy or law, but you agree to serve as long as you are able by law or policy.”
Why this provision was removed: This provision was removed with the 2018 policy update. The new policy removed the ability for members to transfer benefits if they cannot extend 4 more years of service. This most frequently impacts those who run into High Year Tenure rules, Time in Grade, mandatory retirement laws, or inability to extend due to medical or administrative reasons. The provision was removed in keeping with the intention of the GI Bill transfer policy, which is to serve as a retention tool.
What to Do if the Transfer Changes Impact You
I’m a big believer in taking advantage of benefits as soon as you are able, just in case policies change. The Post-9/11 GI Bill transfer is a prime example of this.
If you are eligible to transfer the Post-9/11 GI Bill to your family members and are planning on staying in another four years, then don’t wait. This is especially true if you are at or near the 16-year mark (or have already surpassed the 16-year service mark). After July 12, 2019, you will no longer be able to transfer your benefits if you have surpassed 16 years of service.
To top it off, there has been a lot of talk of changing the benefits for dependents who receive the transferred GI Bill benefits. Under current law, children are eligible to receive the monthly housing allowance when they attend school using the GI Bill. There has been discussion of removing that benefit, as it was intended to help the veteran obtain housing after separating from the military; it was not originally intended to pay for housing for dependents. The proposal would eliminate the housing allowance for dependents.
If you are considering transferring the GI Bill to your family members, please do it now.
Remember, you choose how to allocate how your GI Bill benefits are disbursed among your family members and you can revoke or change the allocation at any time. You can even make changes after you separate or retire from the military. You can always change your mind regarding how you will distribute the months of benefits you transfer.
Who Can Receive Transferred GI Bill Benefits
GI Bill benefits can only be transferred to eligible spouses or children, who must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS).
- Can receive benefits immediately (starting August 1, 2009).
- Can use GI Bill benefits for up to 15 years after the service member separates from active duty.
- May still use the benefits after a divorce if the military member agrees.
- Spouses will not receive a monthly housing or book stipend while member is on active duty.
- Can use benefits after the service member completes at least 10 years of service.
- Can use the benefits while the service member remains on active duty or after the member separates.
- Is eligible to receive a monthly housing or book stipend while member is on active duty.
- May receive benefits after marriage.
- Cannot use benefits unless they have a high school diploma or equivalent, or reach age 18.
- Cannot receive benefits after age 26.
Other Important GI Bill Transfer Notes
This only applies to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This does not apply to the Montgomery GI Bill program.
Transfers must be made while the member is still serving. Members are not eligible to transfer benefits once they have already retired or separated from the military.
What if You Are Unable to Complete 4 Years After You Transfer the GI Bill?
Members who transfer their benefits and extend 4 years, but are not able to complete 4 years of service, need to seek guidance from the VA. Policy allows the member to keep their benefits if they are separated due to a medical retirement, disability, or Force Shaping. However, there may be some instances in which the member may no longer be eligible to transfer the benefits if they are not able to complete 4 years of service. It is recommended each member consult with their Human Resources, Personnel office, or the VA for more information.
How Much of the GI Bill Benefits Can I Transfer?
The military member can transfer up to 36 months of GI Bill benefits and can allocate them among eligible recipients at any time (but only once per month). The service member may also cancel a family member’s use of the benefits at any time. The benefits belong to the service member, and the intent of the GI Bill transfer program is not to change that.
Transfers Are Revocable and Allocations Can be Changed at Any Time
Members are encouraged to transfer benefits if they are eligible to do so because they can always change their mind. The minimum transfer is one month of benefits.
For example, I am eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I have 36 months of benefits. I am married with two children. To begin with, I transferred 1 month of GI Bill benefits to each of my dependents, and still have 33 months to use for myself. I can change this allocation of benefits at any time.
To make changes, log into your MilConnect account and update the number of months you are transferring to each individual (up to the maximum allowed). This can be found under:
- MilConnect Home –> Benefits –> Transfer of Education Benefits
Remember, there is no downside to transferring your benefits because you can always go back and change how the transferred benefits are allocated.
Changes Are Limited Once You Separate or Retire
You can add and remove dependents to your GI Bill benefits transfer while you are still serving in the military. However, you can no longer add dependents to your transfer once you have retired. You can only remove benefits or change the allocation between them. Keep this in mind before you separate or retire from the military.
The Purpose of the GI Bill Transfer Program
The goal of the GI Bill transfer program is to keep mid-career military members in uniform, which is why there are minimum service requirements and why the GI Bill transfer program requires military members to incur more service time.
This is part of the reason why the new law was passed which limits members to transferring their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits no later than their 16th year of service. Once they reach 16 years of service, an additional 4 years will bring them to retirement eligibility and there is no longer a need to entice the members to continue their military service.
These GI Bill transfer rules will not apply military members who are eligible for the Post 9-11 GI Bill, but who have already separated or retired from active duty – all transfers must be made while the member is still in military service.