Post 9/11 GI Bill Guide For Spouses and Dependents
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a military education benefit dependents and spouses can have transferred to them by an active duty parent or spouse to use to get a college degree, certification, or license through an approved program.
How can spouses and college-age dependents (military-speak for the children of the military member) access this important military benefit?
Who Qualifies for Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits
The servicemember qualifies if at least one of the following applies:
- The veteran served at least 90 days on active duty on or after September 11, 2001.
- The veteran was awarded a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and received an Honorable discharge.
- The veteran served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001, and was honorably discharged with a service-connected disability.
The spouse or college-age children of a veteran who meets the above requirements may be eligible to use the servicemember’s GI Bill benefits, but only if they have been transferred.
Transferring GI Bill Benefits To A Spouse Or Dependent
As mentioned above, spouses and dependents do not automatically have access to GI Bill benefits.
They must be transferred, and that requires a specific process. The short description of this process–the servicemember must be on active duty to transfer GI Bill benefits, and they must agree to re-enlist or to extend a military service commitment as a condition of the transfer.
GI Bill Transfer Options: The Montgomery GI Bill
Some read about the ability to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to spouses or dependents and want to know if a similar option is available with the Montgomery GI Bill or the selected Reserve version of it.
The short answer is no, you cannot transfer Montgomery GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependents.
Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Spouses and Dependents
Spouses and dependents may qualify for 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. This does not include any additional benefits that may be available through other VA programs for spouses and dependents such as the Fry Scholarship. Those other programs may offer additional education benefits or offer an alternative to the GI Bill.
- Learn more: The John D. Fry Scholarship
- Learn more: The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship
- Learn more: Survivor and Dependents VA Education Benefits
What the Post-9/11 GI Bill Covers For Military Spouses and Dependents
Those who have had Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to them may qualify for the following benefits:
- Full coverage of tuition and fees: Those who qualify for the maximum benefit can have 100% of the cost of in-state tuition and fees at public schools. The benefit is capped by the VA for private and foreign schools.
A housing allowance: if you attend more than half-time, you may qualify for a housing allowance equivalent to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) offered to an E5 with dependents. The BAH rate is set for the zip code where you attend the majority of your classes.
- Books and supplies stipend: You may qualify for a VA payment to offset the cost of books and school supplies.
- The VA “Rural Benefit”: Some students may qualify for a one-time VA payment if they resided in a county with 6 or fewer people per square mile AND are moving at least 500 miles to attend class or “have no other option but to fly by plane to get to your school” to start your education.
Learn More: GI Bill BAH Rate Calculator
The GI Bill Housing Allowance
Those attending school using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits may qualify for a housing stipend based on the service member’s eligibility.
If the service member has full GI Bill eligibility (based on time in service and other factors) you may qualify for 100% of the housing benefit. But the rate of payment of that housing benefit depends on whether you attend full or part-time and whether you attend in-person, online, or a combination of both.
Your housing allowance is based on the zip code where you physically attend most of your classes. It is not necessarily based on the zip code of your primary residence.
How to Use Transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
You can use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for undergraduate or graduate studies. You can use these benefits to take distance learning, online classes, and in some cases you may be able to qualify for tutoring, work-study, or co-op training. In some cases, you may be able to use the GI Bill to offset testing fees.
You may also use GI Bill benefits for other programs including:
- Vocational/technical training
- Non-college degree programs
- Veterans technology education courses (VET TEC)
- On-the-job training
- Entrepreneurship training
- Flight training
Expiration Dates For Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
GI Bill benefits may expire depending on when the servicemember departed active duty. Those who left military service before 2013 and their spouse/dependents have 15 years to use GI Bill benefits once they have either retired from the military or separated without retiring.
Those who left active service on or after January 1, 2013, do NOT have an expiration date on their GI Bill benefits.
What To Know Before Applying For Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
The service member must initiate a transfer of benefits before a spouse, son, or daughter may apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Those who are on active duty or in the Guard/Reserve are allowed to apply to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if all requirements below are met:
- The servicemember completed six years or more of qualifying service on the date the transfer request is approved.
- The servicemember agrees to a four-year service commitment as a condition of approval.
- The person the servicemember is transferring benefits to is enrolled in DEERS.
If a spouse or dependent is not in DEERS, this must be done before a benefits transfer can be applied for.
Applying For Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
When applying for GI Bill benefits you will need to provide the following information:
- Social Security number
- Bank account direct deposit
- Education history
- Military history
- Basic information about the school you want to attend where applicable
Before you apply, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with your chosen school’s admissions department or the VA official representing that institution.
You’ll want to know if the school is VA-approved, whether it participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, and whether there are any additional state-level or school-level veteran education benefits you should consider applying for in addition to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a GI Bill comparison tool on its official site you can use to compare your options and military education benefits at schools across the United States.
If Your School Closes or is Removed From the VA Approved List
Did you know that if your school closes or is no longer approved for VA education assistance programs, you may have recourse thanks to legislation such as the VETS Credit Act, which allows students to apply for a restoration of 100% VA education benefits under certain circumstances?
In typical cases, you may be required to apply to a new school and have that school agree to accept transfer credits before the VA will consider restoration of your entitlement. This assumes the student wants to transfer credits; some may not. In such cases, the VA may approve the restoration of your entitlement.
Those who choose to transfer credits are approved for full restoration of VA education benefits if they 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 to 100%.
Why? The student used the benefit and received the credit and it’s likely that in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs that this meets the spirit and the letter of VA education benefit rules. Talk to a VA rep or a school admissions advisor if you aren’t sure how these rules may apply to you.
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.