What I Wish I’d Known Before: Transferring GI Bill to Dependent
Perhaps you are an Airman whose wife wants to go back to school and get her Master’s degree. Maybe you are a senior in high school contemplating a four-year university whose mom is a Marine.
Regardless of the type of higher or supplemental education being sought, finding ways to finance it can be a strain on the bank account. Luckily, for some with a direct military affiliation, there are options available to ease the burden, options that can be extended to dependent spouses and children.
In order to give Post 9-11 GI Bill Benefits – either all of it or only a portion of the allotted 36 months – to a qualified dependent, the service member must currently be on active duty status. Benefits CANNOT be transferred after retirement. In addition, all of the following facts must be true:
- The service member has completed at least six years of service on the date the request is approved.
- The service member agrees to add four more years of service or already has at least four years of service left in their current commitment.
- The person receiving benefits is enrolled in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Report System).
- Please note: The Montgomery GI Bill is NON-transferable.
While that list covers the requirements to initiate transfer, there is also some pertinent information regarding benefits that you should be aware of:
- Effective Jan. 12, 2020, only members with less than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service will be able to transfer their GI Bill to dependents.
- Post 9-11 GI Bill will cover up to 100% of in-state tuition for approved public colleges. For private/foreign institutions, there is a cap per academic year.
- All eligible dependents, once the transfer has been approved, may use benefits either while the service member is still active duty or after retirement.
- Spouses may start using transferred benefits immediately.
- Children may only use transferred benefits once they have either turned 18 or received a high school diploma. The service member has to have completed at least ten years of service first.
- There are stipulations for the amount of time a dependent has to use their transferred benefits.
- All eligible dependents receive a books and supplies stipend, based on enrolled credit hours.
Even with all of that, there may be easily overlooked or completely unknown facts about the process, as well. To save you some of the headache of having to figure these things out during your potentially overwhelming personal journey, service members and their dependents were polled about transferring and using Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits. Here are some of the most popular topics that people wish they had known before traversing through the system.
- Most branches have an additional requirement to be eligible for transferring benefits, usually in relation to an unblemished service record. Be sure to check with your personnel office before beginning to make sure you’re in good standing.
- The service member can return unused benefits back to themselves. For example, a spouse enrolls in an 11-month Master’s program. Afterwards, the service member may transfer the unused 25 months back to him/herself or transfer to another eligible dependent.
- If a spouse is utilizing transferred benefits, and the service member is still active duty, he/she is NOT eligible to receive housing allowance. However, children utilizing transferred benefits while their parent is still active duty CAN receive the allowance.
- Benefits don’t have to be used for only one type of program. Eligible dependents can potentially seek financial assistance for the typical Associate, Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate Degree programs. However, benefits can also be used for non-college degree programs, like vocational or technical training for jobs in computer networking or dental hygiene. Additionally, reimbursements are available for specific job fields (like real estate agents or barbers – find eligible programs) or for national testing (like CLEPS, SAT, or ACT – complete list of eligible tests).
- If you’re eager to start your desired program right away, keep in mind the following timelines:
- If the service member has to extend his/her enlistment/retainability, that takes time to process and approve.
- The time your branch specifies it needs to process a transfer request to a dependent varies, for example:
- The Army’s website quotes one-to-five business days depending on the amount of pending requests.
- The Air Force quotes 30 days, making sure to point out if you’re initially rejected, you must start the process over again from day 1.
- Reach out to your branch specific TEB Representative through MilConnect by going to Education Benefits and finding a link that takes you to Counselor or Contacts
- The VA website indicates 30 days as their average time to process claims once the transfer of benefits has been approved.
- One member of the USAF informed us of a potential place where you can cut out some of the waiting period: “Notify your AFPC office handling your transfer request as soon as it’s been submitted. Don’t wait! The office typically doesn’t review the requests until it reaches the annotated expiration date. By calling as soon as it’s submitted, you can potentially save yourself 3+ weeks of unnecessary waiting and receive the information for the next step within 24 hours instead.”
- Once the service member gets an approval for the transfer of benefits, the receiving dependent must submit an application to use the benefits for their specific school through the VA website.
- Unfortunately, the website does not allow dependents access to check their status online. However, the service member should be able to check through their virtual personnel office, may receive an email, or the dependent can check with their school; the individual school should have the ability to check on the VA status.
- The VA will send a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) or award letter in the mail explaining all benefits. If you live OCONUS, this may take too long to receive.
- While the VA indicates the COE letter must be presented to the school before enrolling, most schools have the ability to determine your status without it. Don’t hesitate to ask a VA Counselor at your institution about this to help cut back on wait time.
- Another bit of information given by a dependent using the benefits: “The GI Bill is utilized by months. Take as many classes as possible at a time to get the most bang for your buck before your time runs out.”