The Army is expanding its mandatory four-year service obligation for soldiers who transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to family members, tacking on the additional years regardless of how long the soldier has been in or how close to retirement.
Right now, retirement eligible soldiers may be able to transfer benefits to their loved ones with anywhere from zero to three years of additional service, according to the Army announcement.
The Aug. 1, 2013, change is not entirely unexpected and highlights the fact that the military views the GI Bill in two ways; for the soldier it’s a benefit, but its transferability makes it a recruiting and retention tool, said Lt. Col. Mark Viney, chief of the Enlisted Professional Development Branch. "We want soldiers to be informed of the impact of this change in policy," Viney said in the Army’s announcement. "This is going to impact their decisions and their families, and whether or not they are going to have this money available to find their dependent's education."
The change, announced April 15, ends temporary rules that were put in place in 2009 to help maintain force structure and ensure promotion opportunities were not hurt by retirement-eligible soldiers being forced to stay longer.
Under those 2009 rules – which applied across the services – members slated to retire between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 1, 2012 were allowed to commit to an additional one-to-three years from the date of the transfer.
So the change largely affects senior officers and enlisted members who are retirement eligible, the Army said. It also eliminates the 2009 requirement that a soldier have six years of service completed before transferring the benefits, according to the announcement.
The change comes at a time when the Army is also preparing to draw down.
In some cases, soldiers unable to complete a service obligation from a GI Bill transfer had to pay back the costs. However, that will not happen with drawdown separations, Viney said. Family members using those benefits get to keep them and there will be no repayment required from the soldier, he said.