New provisions to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, or GI 2.0, that went into effect on August 2009 allow servicemembers to transfer their generous education benefits to spouses and dependents and reflect the federal government’s desire to recognize the essential role servicemember families play in national security.
Active-duty and Selected Reserve military members with six or more years of service can transfer their benefits by committing to serve four more years; servicemembers with ten or more years who are prevented by service or DoD policy from committing to four more years but agree to serve their maximum allowable terms can also transfer credits. Servicemembers who are eligible for retirement at any point from August 1, 2009, through August 1, 2013, and agree to an additional one to three more years of service, depending on time already served, can transfer education benefits as well. After August 1, 2013, however, the provision allowing retirement-eligible servicemembers to transfer credits will no longer be in effect.
As many as 36 months’ worth of education credits may be transferred from servicemember to spouse, dependent or any combination thereof, with a few qualifications. For instance, spouses may begin using the credits immediately, but children may not use transferable education credits until the requisite ten years of service are completed. Children and other dependents are also prohibited from using transfer credits after turning 26.
On the other hand, spouses of active-duty servicemembers are not eligible for the housing allowance or books and supplies stipend, while dependents are. All recipient family members must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) at the time of transfer, while servicemembers should insure that their Electronic Service Records (ESR) are intact. The servicemember must be on active duty in order to transfer education credits.
Among the education credits transferable are tuition reimbursement up to 100%, but not to exceed $17,500, and based on years of service; a housing stipend, which may be prorated according to number of college credits taken, years of service and school zip code; and a books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000.
Other policy changes reflected in the Post-9/11 GI Bill include an extension of the housing allowance to online students at half the national average basic allowance for housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents and expanded program coverage to include non-degree vocational training, apprenticeships and flight programs. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Public Health System (PHS) employees are newly eligible to transfer their education benefits to dependents.
Given the overall expansion of entitlement eligibility, some servicemembers may see a slight decrease in their benefits, while others who were formerly ineligible may now enjoy entitlements. For military spouses and dependents, the Post-9/11 GI Bill could offer unprecedented access to higher education or vocational training, both of which can improve the quality of life for entire families. For the federal government, it’s a small price to pay for the invaluable care and support military families offer our men and women in service.