New Limits to Transferring GI Bill Education Benefits Affect Military Families

Sometimes you just end up scratching your head and wondering who thought this was a good idea.

Case in point: Last month, the Department of Defense announced changes to the GI Bill that make it harder to transfer earned educational benefits to eligible family members. Designed as an incentive for retention, there were eligibility parameters, which I get. The veteran had to have served at least six years and be able to serve four more years. The new changes limit transfers to service members with less than 16 years of service.  Catch that? Less than 16 years.

Wait a minute.  That means career service members cannot transfer their educational benefits to their children. And probably right at the time those children are ready for higher education.

Who thought this up? Not, it appears, anyone in Congress. No military advocacy group seems to have been consulted on the impact. Paul Frost of the Military Officers Association of America said in an article by James Clark and Jeff Schogol from Task & Purpose, July 12, that they had not been consulted. He added, “As far as we know, Congress wasn’t even brought into the discussion of making this change.”

In the same article American Legion spokesman, retired Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler, minced no words: “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the use of this earned benefit.”

I’m with him. It makes no sense to me, either. Sounds like we’re punishing long-time career service members by taking away an earned benefit. Just how does that focus on retention?

Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica R. Maxwell told Task and Purpose the change will impact roughly 9% of service members.  Aren’t they the ones we should be trying to keep?

If you agree, let your Congressional Representatives and your Senators know.  Here at the NVF, our mission is to make sure veterans and their families have access to all the benefits they’ve earned. As always, if you know a veteran who needs help, here’s our Lifeline for Vets crisis and information hotline: 888.777.4443.

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Shad Meshad

As a U.S. Army Medical Service Officer in Vietnam in 1970, Shad Meshad began pioneering treatment techniques for what would later become known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is the founder of the National Veterans Foundation and founder and co-author of the VA’s Vet Center Program.

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