The Post-9/11 GI Bill saw several changes in August, many of which brought a lot of confusion for an already convoluted process. So what went into effect? What do the new GI Bill parameters for transfer mean to you and your family?
My husband didn’t take the GI Bill when it was available in 1997 while he was in OCS. At that time, with the two of us already having both our bachelor’s and master’s degrees, we didn’t feel the need to spend a few extra dollars a month to take it on.
Then September 11, 2001 happened while he was deployed in the Med, and all bets were off…in many arenas. When the Post-9/11 GI Bill was offered, we had kids on the radar (and hubs may or may not have had another degree on the mind — spoiler, he did!), and so we gratefully accepted the opportunity to have education costs covered.
But, when we learned of transferability, we saw an opportunity to give our son a tremendous gift — one we did not have when we took on student loans for college and one we believed was worthy in the earning. But, there were rules to the transferring, and they weren’t always highly advertised. Thankfully, my husband’s admin office did a great job of taking care of the details, and my husband transferred his benefits to our son.
The GI Bill Benefits: They’ve Been A-Changin’
Through the years, things with the Post-9/11 GI BILL have been a-changin’ though. Not surprisingly, this is often the case when the government realizes promises made cost moolah, and efforts to rein that in started coming about in the form of cutbacks. One such cutback that went into effect in January of this year was with housing allowances. As of January 1, 2018, housing allowances were lowered, covering only 90% of housing instead of 100% as was the case previously. Those using the bill before it went into effect were grandfathered.
This August, calculations for housing allowances also changed. For students who attend satellite campuses of colleges particularly, this meant that the housing allowance is based on the area you would physically take the majority of your classes. No longer is the housing allowance calculated on the main campus, and this also affects dollars when it comes to collegiate planning.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill additionally is now available to more Guard and reserve members who were mobilized after August 1, 2008, but will only pay for classes that commenced after August 1, 2018. This is good news for many who previously were not eligible for the benefits, but not great for those who already took classes between 2008-2018.
To Transfer or Not to Transfer: When is the Question
When it comes to transferability, however, there were some pretty big changes, and military advocates weren’t too thrilled. Initially, the transferability of the bill was a retention incentive ordered by the Pentagon and required service members to commit to four additional years of service once the benefits were transferred. The military members could transfer them at any time, provided they’d been in service at least six years.
Now, however, effective July 13, 2019, the transfer window cap is at 16 years of service. If the service member has not completed the transfer paperwork prior to the 16-year mark, they are not able to transfer benefits at all. Those military members who may not be able to fulfill four additional years due to physical disabilities or high-year tenures (max limits a service member may serve before they retire or separate) will still be able to retain transferability rights.
Military advocates fear that the service members may lose out on valuable benefits and believe that if service members have any inkling at all of transferring benefits, they should do so as soon as they can.
What’s It All Mean?
The biggest issue for military member advocates is the requirement of an additional four years of service regardless of service member retirement eligibility. Also, a service member may not transfer benefits after year 16, which is an issue for many service members. They claim they may lose out on benefits they earned merely because they did not have children or didn’t know of a need for the transfer by year 16 of service.
Navy Captain Paul Frost is the Military Officers’ Association of America’s (MOAA) program director for financial and benefits education. He said service members who are the most likely to be losers in the changes are senior officers and enlisted troops that are unable to make the commitment or those who have not had children yet. Lt. General Dana Atkins is MOAA’s President and CEO and says that MOAA believes these changes limiting transferability will have compounding negative effects on recruiting and retention and does a general disservice to those members who have served honorably for at least six years.
So, my advice is to really think about what you want and what your spouse may want to do education wise and take a look at what you believe your children’s education needs may be. Look through the primer military advocates are highly recommending, and make the transfer now if you are thinking about it. You don’t want to lose out on that benefit.
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