The military world is all abuzz right now regarding the DoD’s change to the transferability rules of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The stated reason behind the change is that the ability to transfer benefits has always been a retention incentive, but after serving 16 years, the DoD felt servicemembers would continue serving until retiring anyway, so it was no longer an incentive to stay in at that point in their career. But as one can expect, it created confusion as far as what changed and the impact the changes will have. This article helps clears up that confusion.

The Current Rules of Transfer

Under the current transfer rules, service members can request a transfer of benefits after serving six years as long as they have at least four years left on their enlistment at the time of the transfer request. That means for many, reenlisting before making their transfer request. However, after serving 10 years, military members who cannot extend for four years because of policy or statute limitations can still make a transfer of benefits as long as they agree to serve for as long as they can until separated from the military.

The Rules After the Change

What first started the confusion is that servicemembers having at least 16 years of service as of July 12, 2019 next year, will no longer be able to transfer GI Bill benefits to their dependents. From now and up to the implementation date next year, service members having 16 years or more can still make a transfer of benefits, provided they can also meet the second change too.

The second change went into effect immediately on July 12, 2018 this year and states that service members must have at least four years of service left on their enlistment at the time of their transfer request – non-waiverable (except in certain “force-shaping” situations). Two common situations are when officers are passed over twice for promotion and separated or when enlisted personnel are involuntarily separated due to failure to meet retention standards.

Because the second change is already in effect, (military-wide to include the Coast Guard, even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security) service members who have at least 10 years of service, but who are unable to extend for four more years, will not be able to transfer their GI Bill benefits to dependents.

Simplified, the new rule says on July 12, 2019, a servicemember must have served at least six years, but less than sixteen and have at least four years left on their enlistment at the time they make a transfer of benefits request (except the 10-years-of-service military members that fall under the force-shaping exception).

Other Points of Confusion

One question being commonly asked is “Can service members having more than 16 years before July 12th next year still make a transfer of benefits?” Yes, provided they have at least four years left on their enlistment at the time of the request, or can extend for four more years. Even those serving with 20 or more years of service can extend before next year if they can meet the four-year requirement before then.

Another question is “If I transfer benefits now, can I add on dependents later?” Yes, that part did not change, as long as they are added on before the serving member gets out. Just like it is now, once out of the military, benefits can only be revoked and/or reallocated to family members having received benefits on the initial transfer while the military member was still serving.

As far as transfer requests already approved and use of transferred benefits? Those remain unchanged and can be used under the current use rules in effect.

The bottom line? If you are considering making transfer of benefits request, have between six and 15 years of service right now and can meet the four-years-left-on-your-enlistment requirement, submit a transfer of benefits request now. Just go to milConnect and click on Transfer my education benefits button. For eligible service members falling in the one-year window, don’t delay, because you may not get a second chance to make a transfer request.

A good strategy is to give each dependent and your spouse at least one month of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. This gives you maximum flexibility as far as moving around the benefits later.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.