August 1 marks the fourth anniversary of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Veterans Administration reports that it has made nearly $30 billion in benefit payments in that time, and about 1 million service members, veterans and their families have benefited from the program. Claims processing for the program has now been reduced to an average of seven days due to changes at the VA.
The process of transferring GI Bill benefits to dependents has changed as of August 1, however. Serving military personnel who may consider this option for benefits that they will not use personally will face a serious choice. The services have added a four year reenlistment requirement to the transfer process. This means that the serving soldier, sailor, Marine or airman will incur 48 months of additional service obligation in order to transfer the benefits. This requirement was announced in April.
The service requirements are in addition to those the VA uses in the program. In some instances, a service member who separates from the military before his additional obligation is fulfilled may be asked to repay the dependent benefits to the VA. An Army spokesman stresses that the transfer program is a recruitment and retention tool which is why the additional service obligation was added to the program.
GI Bill benefits remain a significant tool for transitioning service members. The GI Bill provides tuition and fees as well as housing for transitioning service members. Vocational training, on-the-job training, flight training and other approved training programs are also included.