How to Transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits to a Spouse or Dependent
Transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill® benefits to a family member may be one of the most popular military benefits available to an active duty service member and those in the Selected Reserve.
But you are not allowed to simply fill out a form and authorize your GI Bill education benefits to be transferred to your spouse or college-age child. The Department of Defense requires a new active duty service commitment in order for you to be approved to transfer your benefit.
Can I Transfer My Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits?
The first thing to know about transferring your GI Bill benefit is that it is NOT up to the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve or deny your request – the Department of Defense ultimately sets the rules and decides who is allowed to transfer GI Bill benefits.
You may be able to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if you’re on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and you meet all requirements below:
- Complete 6 years or more of qualifying service on the date your request is approved
- Agree to a 4-year service commitment as a condition of approval
- The person you are transferring your benefits to is enrolled in DEERS
If your spouse or dependent is not in DEERS you will have to accomplish this before you can proceed.
Benefits for Dependents and Spouses with a Transferred GI Bill
Your spouse or dependent child may qualify for up to 36 months of benefits that may include:
- Books and supplies
How to Transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
The most important thing to know about transferring your GI Bill benefits to a dependent or spouse is that you must apply and be approved for the transfer while you are still serving. Once you retire or separate from military service, you cannot apply for a transfer.
To apply while you are still serving, you will apply through the Department of Defense milConnect portal, and NOT through the VA. The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot accept, process, or approve your transfer request.
- Go to milConnect
- Select Transfer My Education Benefits. You will need a DS Logon to do this.
- You will apply online for the transfer approval
- Obtain the “retainability” needed to qualify (you agree to reenlist or to extend a commission for another 4 years)
- Await DoD approval
You will need to select a family member (you can agree to split the benefit among multiple immediate family members in any combination but 36 months is the limit for the entire benefit regardless of how many use it.) from the list provided (as reflected in DEERS) and for each eligible family member enter the number of months to transfer.
You may be prompted to enter a transfer end date. Doing so will cause the transferred benefit to end on that date for that person. According to the VA official site, “we recommend you leave the End Date blank as the system will provide the latest legal end date allowed.” Be advised, if you enter an end date, the VA cannot grant extensions beyond that date.
You will also be prompted to select the benefit you are transferring, acknowledge the program’s rules, and submit the request to the DoD. Once you have been approved for the transfer, your dependents or spouse may begin the application process for the GI Bill benefit itself.
Once You Have Applied to Transfer Your GI Bill
While you are still waiting for approval of the transfer, you can track your request through milConnect. If you are approved, the system will update to reflect “Transfer Approved” or “Transfer Request Approved” and the approval date.
Once you get approved status your milConnect account will also reflect indicators showing how far into your military service commitment (required to transfer the GI Bill) you have come so far, according to VA.gov:
- A green message means you have fulfilled your service obligation.
- A yellow message means you must stay in the Service until your obligation end date or risk losing eligibility to transfer education benefits.
- Guard and Selected Reserve members must maintain an uninterrupted Selected Reserve status during the entire obligatory service time.
- A red message means you are at risk of failing or have failed to complete your service commitment. This is typically because your separation date is before your ”obligation end date”.
After the Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer Is Approved
Once the transfer is approved and the GI Bill application has been submitted and approved, there are rules dictating how the benefits can be used and when.
Rules for Military Spouses
For spouses, the GI Bill can be accessed immediately, and:
- The spouse can use the benefit while the service member is still on active duty or after separating from service.
- The spouse can use the benefit for up to 15 years after the servicemember retires or separates.
- Be aware you will not qualify for the monthly housing allowance while on active duty
Rules for Dependent Children
The rules for dependent children include the following:
- School-age dependents can use the Post 9/11 GI Bill only after the servicemember completes 10 years of service or more.
- The benefit is available while the servicemember is on active duty or after retirement/separation.
- The benefit cannot be used until the student has earned a high school diploma (or equivalency certificate), or has turned 18 years old.
- Dependent children may qualify for the monthly housing allowance even when the servicemember is still on active duty
- The dependent must use the benefit before turning 26 years old.
Dependents can still use their transferred GI Bill benefits even if they get married, or you and your spouse get a divorce. Service members and Veterans can change certain GI Bill transfer options at any time.
Apply For Transferred GI Bill Benefits
When you get your approval back from the Department of Defense your family members may apply for the GI Bill. It can be done online at the VA official site or you can apply by mail. Fill out VA Form 22-1990E and mail it to your nearest VA regional office.
What to Know if Your School Closes or is Removed From the VA Approved List
In cases where your school closes or loses approval for VA education assistance programs, legislation such as the VETS Credit Act can help. Changes to VA policy (through federal law) allow students to apply for a restoration of 100% VA education benefits.
Not all students are approved, and conditions apply. Those who do not want to transfer credits may have their restoration approved without further certifications depending on circumstances.
Students may be required to apply to a new school that will accept transfer credits before the VA will consider restoration of their entitlement. If you choose to transfer credits you may be approved for full restoration of VA education benefits–the condition is that you must transfer fewer than 12 credit hours and certify to such in writing with the VA.
Those who choose to transfer more than 12 credits will not have their benefit restored. Make an appointment with a VA representative or a school admissions advisor if you aren’t sure how these rules may apply to you.
- Military Spouse Scholarships and Grants
- VA Benefits: How to Add or Remove Dependents with VA Form 21-686c
- What I Wish I’d Known Before: Transferring GI Bill Benefits to a Dependent
- Strategy for Going to College as a Military Spouse
- John D. Fry Scholarship for Surviving Children and Spouses
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.