You've got one year to transfer your G.I. Bill benefits to your family

VSOs call on DoD to reverse policy change

Kaylah Jackson
July 17, 2018 - 12:07 pm

Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs

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Some veterans service organizations are demanding the Department of Defense reverse a recent change to the GI Bill that alters when veterans can transfer their education benefits to their children, calling the change "bad for military families."

The new policy, effective next year, would allow service members with at least six, but no more than 16 years of service to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to their children and spouses.

This major change has some active duty service members and veterans up in arms about why the DoD chose to implement this new policy. For those working towards retirement, if you’ve served longer than 16 years, you won’t be able to transfer those benefits. The defense agency states this update is a “retention incentive,” but many disagree.

“Veterans advocates have been working tirelessly to ensure all veterans, and family members, get the benefits they’ve earned. Limitations on those benefits hurt our readiness, hurt our recruitment, hurt morale, and are bad for military families. That’s why we call on DoD to immediately act to rescind this new policy,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

IAVA, which has been a staunch supporter of the success of the Forever G.I. Bill, has called out DoD to rescind the new policy, calling it an “attack” on the GI Bill.

Rieckhoff later went on a tweet storm advocating on behalf of the veterans who have benefited from the use of their hard-earned education benefits.

And while the GI Bill is still a major benefit and the DoD claims it still rewards "career service members" with a chance to share their hard earned benefits with their families, some feel this change doesn't actually reward the service members who have decided to stay in it for the long haul.

"I don’t understand the motivation behind it," said Justin Brown, CEO and founder of HillVets. "To me, who you're really hurting are your long term careers. Those very senior service members who have stuck it out...now you're gonna take that away from them because they're in for 17 years? That's baffling to me. I'd almost expect to see the opposite of this structure."

The American Legion who is "100 percent opposed" to the G.I. Bill changes, also believes it places a limit service members' personal decisions.

“We understand the minimum time in service for transferability for retention purposes. That makes sense. But the 16 year cap on the transferability significantly limits a veteran’s ability to execute the full economic potential of that benefit in the way that best suits the veteran and his or her family," The Legion said in a statement. 

But it's not only Veteran Service Organizations calling to rescind the changes. 83 House members of Congress signed a letter penned to Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, saying the 16 year cut-off "breaks this commitment with our most dedicated and seasoned service members."

For those career service members, the DoD stated they have one year to decide if they want to transfer their benefits, and the change will only affect 9 percent of service members. So, for those debating on when to transfer their education benefits to their dependents, the clock is ticking.

Hisako Sonethavilay, Senior Advisor for Applied Research at Blue Star Families, says that the GI Bill is a very big of concern among the military family community and with their annual military family lifestyle survey, they can observe what concerns plague their members most. While the organization doesn't take a side on the particular change, their biggest priority is voicing the ideas of military families and supporting them in whatever way they can.

“They want the DoD to continue to honor the commitments that they’ve made, especially when it comes to the benefits that they’ve earned…we do appreciate that the Department of Defense is willing to give this one-year decision period to make that choice, ” said Sonethavilay,

While GI Bill transferability is a big focus now, across the board, the Blue Star Family community does believe that sharing updates is a major part of the benefits conversation. Members want to ensure that communication about changes is funneled down from the command to the military spouses themselves.

“It’s intended to be a retention tool, the majority of our service members and their spouses who take our survey, typically tell us that they intend to or have already transferred their GI Bill benefits to a child in part or whole, “ said Sonethavilay. “It is a little unfortunate that 9 percent will still get impacted over the benefit that they’ve earned.”

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