Veterans frustrated over the complex and sometimes unfair rules surrounding the post-9/11 GI Bill benefits smiled last week with the passage of Sen. Daniel Akaka's overhaul of the education funds, designed to simplify and even out the program. But military families hoping for looser rules on transferability probably weren't as excited.
The changes, already approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee and to be debated by the House next month, would provide more money for folks attending private or out-of-state colleges and fewer restrictions on housing or book stipends. Both of those changes will also help out spouses and children attending college through transferred GI Bill benefits.
But the basics of the transferability rules still apply: Troops must serve at least six years active-duty and sign up for four more to transfer education benefits to a spouse. Troops must serve at least 10 years and sign up for four more to transfer them to a child. Troops nearing retirement now may not be able to transfer their benefits at all without signing up for another tour of duty.
Akaka's bill also includes language which "clarifies the purpose of the transferability feature is to promote recruitment and retention" after he raised concerns earlier this summer that too many retirement-age troops were being allowed to transfer benefits to spouses.
When Congress passed the GI Bill changes two years ago the transferability feature was designed as a retention tool, but many troops and veterans who can't qualify under the rules have argued that they earned the right to share their college benefits through their prior service.
But lawmakers outlined only the general parameters of the transferability rules, while Defense Department officials set the actual guidelines. Akaka's bill does not contain any language that would scale back what spouses or children can receive, and Pentagon officials have not yet hinted they'll further limit those rules.
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