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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Beginning Aug. 1, all active-duty military personnel who opt to transfer their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to a family member will be obligated to four more years of service, including troops who are eligible for retirement.

Through mass e-mails, squadron briefings and other methods, military officials at bases in Kaiserslautern are making efforts to inform servicemembers of the pending rule change that mostly affects senior officers and enlisted personnel who are nearing retirement.

Implemented on Aug. 1, 2009, as a recruiting and retention incentive, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill allows eligible servicemembers to transfer unused education benefits to immediate family members.

For most servicemembers, the obligation to sign up for four more years has applied since 2009. After the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill was introduced, temporary rules for servicemembers nearing retirement were approved that allowed them to incur anywhere from no additional time to three years of service when they transferred benefits, depending on their retirement eligibility date, according to military officials.

That waiver period expires at the end of next month, said Keith Davis, chief of education and training at the Ramstein education office.

“It’s across the board,” he said. “Effective Aug. 1, all members of the military, regardless of branch, will be required to serve a four-year active-duty service commitment at the time they elect to transfer benefits to a family member.

“The clock does not start ticking until they execute the actual transfer,” he said, and doesn’t necessarily mean those servicemembers must re-enlist for another four years.

“You have to give the military four years from the day you execute the transfer,” Davis said. “If you have two years left and you transfer (benefits), you would have to extend for an additional two years to satisfy the requirement.”

To transfer Post-9/11 G.I. benefits, a servicemember must have a minimum of six years in the military; to be eligible to receive those benefits, a dependent, whether a spouse or child, must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) computerized database.

Military members are able to pull back the benefit after transferring it, up to 15 years after separation, Davis noted, but they cannot transfer benefits after separating or retiring from the military.

“You have to be on active duty,” he said.

Members of the Selected Reserve are also eligible to transfer benefits.

In a news release on the pending rule change, Army officials noted that soldiers who are involuntarily separated under force-shaping initiatives who had previously transferred their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill education benefits may retain the transferred benefits without needing to repay them.

That is true for the Air Force, also, with some limitations, Davis said. “It has to be action out of the control of the member. If the member did something that changed the type of discharge from ‘honorable’ to ‘something other than honorable,’ that would negate the transfer.”

Since the benefits inception, the transfer option has been popular with servicemembers at Ramstein, Davis said, with interest tending to pick up around the time of high school graduation.

“It’s on their minds then,” he said, and “they’ve probably done some price checking” of what college costs.

Davis encourages personnel thinking of transferring benefits — a process that can be done online — to visit their education office first.

“We can talk through whether the transfer is the way to go,” he said, noting that in some cases, dependents may be eligible for other benefits.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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