New rules will limit the window that a service member has to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their family members.
Troops will have to serve six years before they can transfer their benefits, and they must transfer benefits by the time they reach 16 years of service, according to changes set to go into effect July 12. In addition, they will have to extend their enlistment contract by at least four years to transfer benefits.
The six-year service requirement has always been there. The change comes at the 16-year mark. This gives service members a 10-year window to decide whether to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouses or children.
You won’t lose your benefits after 16 years, only the ability to transfer them, officials stress.
Don Sutton, the GI Bill program manager for the Army National Guard, said the program has always been a retention incentive designed to keep people in the service. The change will better reflect its purpose, as some service members have seen the benefit transfer as an entitlement, he said.
Among those affected include those who are already close to their 16-year service cap for benefits transfer. Sutton said there’s no reason to wait for their children to reach college age; once the child is born and registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, benefits can be transferred to them.
Once the transfer is completed, service members can still make changes to how the benefits are divided between dependents, or which dependent receives which benefit.
Guardsmen who received the Purple Heart since September 11, 2001 will be unaffected by this change. Sutton said the only rule about transferring their benefits is they still have to be in the service.
Sutton advised that regardless of status, troops are better off transferring their benefits sooner than later, if they decide to do so.