Users of one of the most popular features of the Post-9/11 GI Bill – the option to transfer benefits to family members – will find a few quirks in how Congress designed the transfer provisions as they take effect in August.

For example, spouses of active duty members who hope to use transferred benefits to attend private colleges will be delighted at the value of the benefit for them. It will cover full tuition and fees, with no ceiling, and therefore will be worth far more than benefits transferable to college-bound children or even benefits available to veterans using the full plan themselves.

On the other hand, active duty spouses who use transferred benefits to attend public colleges or universities will have a more modest education package than other GI Bill users including eligible children. That’s because active duty spouses will not qualify the GI Bill’s monthly living allowance or annual stipend for books and supplies.

Another quirk about transferability has Defense officials advising service members to transfer at least a month’s worth of GI Bill benefit to every dependent before they leave service. This will lock in an opportunity to transfer benefits to them later. Any family member not approved for transferability before a member retires or separates will be denied the opportunity forever, unless the member reenters service. Likewise, veterans who remarry or have more children after leaving service will not be able to transfer GI Bill benefits to these new family members.

Bob Clark, assistant director of accession policy in the Office of Secretary of Defense, said Department of Defense will open a secure website June 29 for service members to elect to transfer benefits. The address, when activated, will be: .

Only members who are on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1, 2009, when the new GI Bill takes effect, will be able to make transfers. The reason, Clark explained, is that transferability was designed to help retention and avoid an exodus of careerists who might be enticed to leave service to use an improved education benefit. The feature seems to have had that effect because interest in transferring benefits to family members, in return for longer service, has been “overwhelming,” Clark said.

Members will be allowed to transfer benefits to a spouse if they have served at least six years and agree to serve four more. They will be allowed to transfer benefits to children if they have served at least 10 years and commit to four more. Obligations under current service agreements count toward this commitment so, for instance, a member already serving under a reenlistment contract with three years remaining would only have to extend by a year to satisfy the four-year commitment on transferability.

An exception to the four-year requirement is allowed for members who have served at least 10 years and are barred by service policy or statute such as high-year tenure or mandatory retirement rules, from serving a full four years more. To be able to transfer GI Bill benefits, they only will have to serve whatever additional time is allowed by policy or law.

There also five temporary exceptions for members nearing retirement or with retirement orders in hand, as we explained in a late April column.

All applications to transfer benefits will be made through the Transferability of Educational Benefit (TEB) website. Though the site goes live June 29 to grant advance approvals of transferability effective Aug. 1, officials ask that service members with no family members attending college this fall delay using the site until at least July 15 so applications from members with students in fall classes can be processed more quickly.

Service members will log in using their Common Access Card or a DoD self-service ID number or the PIN (personal identification number) that they use to access pay accounts with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Their applications will be routed to their service where family member status will be checked and a new service commitments set. “Any service commitment, if required, will start on Aug. 1, 2009,” said Clark.

Members will learn if their application is approved by checking the same website periodically. Approved applications will be sent daily to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Family members then can apply to VA for a certificate of eligibility to use a certain number of months of the new GI Bill. Certified family members will use the benefit like any qualified veteran.

“They will have access to veterans’ affairs assistance at their school and use all other procedures the schools have in place for veterans,” Clark explained.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill usually is described as a benefit intended to cover tuition and fees at any college or university, up to ceiling for such charges at the most expensive state-run university. The benefit also pays a monthly living allowance equal to local military housing allowances for a E-5, plus a $1000 annual stipend for books and supplies.

But a more enhanced benefit applies to active duty members using the new GI Bill while in service, and these benefits can be transferred to spouses. For them, the new GI Bill will cover full tuition and fees at any college or university, with no ceiling on coverage tied to the most costly state school.

A spouse of a service member in the Washington D.C. area, for example, will be attend George Washington University, one of the nation’s most expensive schools, and see the GI Bill cover full tuition and fees.

Because active duty members and their spouses either live on base or draw a housing allowance, they will not receive the monthly living allowance. Even so, the top line value of their benefit is significantly higher than new GI Bill benefits as routinely described. Active duty spouses attending private schools will have transferred benefits unmatched for any other users.

To comment, e-mail, write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111 or visit:

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