Your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are a hard-earned result from your service that like other benefits, should not be wasted. Yet many veterans do just that; in fact, 50% of veterans never use their GI Bill education benefit.

The reasons cited vary, but they generally fall into two categories:

  • They already had their degree before entering into military service
  • They earned their degree by using Tuition Assistance while serving

Keep in mind that the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the most lucrative in the history of the GI Bill. For a minimum of three years of service, a veterans earns 36 months of entitlement which is enough to fund a four-year bachelor’s degree. If attending a public university or college, it will pay tuition and fees in full; if attending a private school, it pays up to $25,162.14 per year in tuition and fees. Tuition and fees are paid directly to the school.

Regardless if the school is public or private, the veteran student receives up to $1,000 per year in book stipend money and a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) that averages around $1,400 per month. And unlike the Montgomery GI Bill (which by the way cost the servicemember $1,200), the Post 9/11 GI Bill is free – just by serving.

Transfer of Benefits

If a servicemember does not plan on using their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, entitlement can be transferred to their spouse or dependent children. But, the transfer has to be made while the member is still serving and between their 6th and 16th year of service. Other stipulations include the servicemember agreeing to serve an additional four years at the time of the transfer request, and the person receiving the transfer must be an eligible dependent and registered in DEERS.

One common concern with transferring is how many months to give to each family member. The key is to give your spouse and each child at least one month of entitlement while you are still in. Then once out, you can freely move entitlement around from you to a child, children, or a spouse that needs more. A recent change under the Forever GI Bill is if a transfer recipient dies before using their entitlement, their entitlement can be transferred to a different eligible dependent.

But a child or spouse that did not initially receive entitlement cannot receive any after the servicemember retires. By distributing at least a month to each family member, veterans have much more flexibility on how to use their entitlement after getting out.

Using Transferred Entitlement

If benefits are transferred to a spouse or children, there are different rules between the two as far as when benefits can be used. For a spouse, they:

  • May use the benefit right away
  • May use the benefit while you’re on active duty or after you’ve separated from service
  • Don’t qualify for the monthly housing allowance while you’re on active duty
  • May use the benefit for up to 15 years after your separation from active duty

For children, they:

  • May start to use the benefit only after you’ve finished at least 10 years of service
  • May use the benefit while you’re on active duty or after you’ve separated from service
  • May not use the benefit until they’ve gotten a high school diploma (or equivalency certificate), or have reached 18 years of age
  • Qualify for the monthly housing allowance even when you’re on active duty
  • Don’t have to use the benefit within 15 years after your separation from active duty but can’t use the benefit after they’ve turned 26 years old.

Transferring your education entitlement can save you and the recipient thousands of dollars and may be the difference between them being able to afford to go to school or not. You earned this benefit while in service to your country; don’t let it go to waste … especially when others in your life could use it!

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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.