Transfer your GI Bill to Spouse & Dependents
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:
- You’ve completed six years or more of qualifying service on the date your request is approved.
- You agree to a four-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.
To begin, go to milConnect and select Transfer My Education Benefits. You will need a DS Logon to do this. You will apply online for the transfer approval, get the retainability needed to qualify (you agree to reenlist or to extend a commission for another four years), and 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.
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
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.
Do I Qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?
In order to be eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you must have:
- at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001
- have less than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service (effective 7/20/2019)
and one of the following:
- still on active duty
- are an honorably discharged veteran
- were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days
Who Can I Transfer My GI Bill To?
You can transfer your entitlement to your spouse, children, or both.
Family members must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) before you can transfer your GI Bill to them.
If you get divorced, your ex-spouse can still use the transferred benefits; however, you can take away or change the transferred benefits at any time, depending on the divorce settlement.
If your child gets married it doesn’t affect their eligibility to receive the transferred benefits; however, like with your spouse, you can take away or change the transferred benefits at any time.
Can a Veteran Transfer GI Bill to Their Spouse? Can I Transfer the GI Bill After Retirement?
No, the transfer must happen while you’re on active duty. In addition, you must have less than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service.
Can I Split the GI Bill Benefit Payments?
Yes, you may split the GI Bill Benefit between multiple family members, including yourself. The maximum limit is 36 months of benefit split any way. However, all those that you assign benefits to must be identified and approved prior to you leaving the military.
PRO TIP: When you sign up for the transfer you should give each family member at least one month of GI Bill benefits.
You cannot add any new dependents after you separate. However, once they are “in the system” you can change how much transferred GI Bill funds they receive.
So, if you give each family member one month while you are in, you can always increase or decrease the amount of GI Bill each one gets at a later date.
Who Can Transfer Their GI Bill?
To transfer your GI Bill:
You first must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill
- then you must have at least 6 years of service
- then you must sign a contract for at least 4 more years
- you must be on active duty at the time of transfer designation AND approval
NOTE: There are special rules for people who are:
- close to retirement
- facing early separation
- otherwise prohibited from signing a four-year contract
Check with your personnel office for details.
The most important thing to remember is that you MUST request a transfer while you are on active duty. After you get out you cannot do it.
What Can Family Members Use Transferred Benefits for?
Family members can use their transferred benefits on almost all the programs in military friendly colleges or institutions that a veteran can. These include:
- College degree programs such as Associate Degree, Bachelor Degree and advanced degree programs. This can be at public schools, private schools, online schools, or foreign schools.
- Vocational/Technical Training including non-college degree programs. This includes programs such as dental hygienist, computer networking, small engine repair, etc.
- On-the-Job/Apprenticeship Training. This is a type of training where the person is employed and training at the same time. The trainee gets a GI Bill payment as well as a salary. Examples include union plumber, police officer, gunsmith, journeyman welder, etc.
- Licensing & Certification Reimbursement. This includes such things as real estate license, PMP certification, etc.
- National Testing Programs such as SAT, CLEP, AP, etc
- Flight Training. The trainee must have a private pilot’s license and a current medical certification. The training usually is to get a greater certification such as multi-engine, or specific aircraft certifications.
How Does the Payment Work?
GI Bill transferees get the same payment as active duty members with a few notable exceptions.
If the member is on active duty, the spouse cannot get a housing allowance or the book stipend, even if they are divorced from the active duty member.
Other than that, dependents get the same benefit as a veteran using the Post-9/11 GI Bill would including a monthly housing allowance.
Do Spouses Get BAH with GI Bill? What BAH Do You Get With the GI Bill?
If you are the recipient of transferred GI Bill Benefits and your service member is a veteran, then the monthly housing allowance is the same as the BAH for an E-5 with dependents. There is no Post 911 GI Bill BAH if the service member is active duty.
What is a Yellow Ribbon School? Can Spouses or Dependents Use Yellow Ribbon Funds?
The Yellow Ribbon Program is a service jointly offered by the VA and participating schools to eligible military veterans and their designated transferees (spouses and dependents) in some cases. The program provides tuition assistance for education at approved institutions, including private colleges, universities, trade schools, religious institutions, and public institutions.
h/t featured photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Cabano
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About the author
Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.