Some GI Bill Transfers Are Blocked Starting Now

FILE PHOTO -- Senior Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate Christopher Perry spends time with his family aboard the USS Freedom (LCS 1) before his departure on a deployment, March 1. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin)
FILE PHOTO -- Senior Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate Christopher Perry spends time with his family aboard the USS Freedom (LCS 1) before his departure on a deployment, March 1. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that all services are required to block GI Bill benefit transfers for service members who cannot meet the four-year service commitment, starting immediately.

Service members who cannot extend their service contracts are now unable to transfer their post-9/11 GI Bill, thanks to a new Defense Department policy announced last week.

Currently, troops who serve a minimum of six years and commit to serving an additional four years are eligible to transfer the education benefit to their dependents.

Under the new policy, those who agree to the four-year extension but are barred from completing that service, such as troops who are injured and medically discharged, can no longer transfer the benefit. 

Related: Some GI Bill Transfer Changes Take Effect Immediately: Pentagon

Starting in mid-July 2019, those with 16 years of service will no longer be able to make the transfer, the Pentagon announced last week. The same will be true for those who have 10 years of service and are barred from extending due to an upcoming medical discharge or high year tenure, for example.

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The overall DoD policy gives troops a year from the date of the July 12 announcement to make the change before the new rules kick in.

The Navy announced the change in an administrative message this week, blocking sailors who cannot extend their service because of time in grade or who are in the midst of a medical retirement from completing the transfer for education benefit (TEB).

"Effective immediately, all members requesting to transfer unused education benefits to eligible dependents must meet eligibility requirements to serve four additional years on active duty or in the Selected Reserve from the date of election," the Navy administrative message states. "Former exceptions that permitted individuals with at least 10 years of service to obligate less than 4 years of service if precluded by statute or standard policy (DoD or Service) in return for TEB are canceled."

The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps have not yet made such an announcement but must enforce the same policy, according to Pentagon officials.

The message notes that the new DoD rule blocking those with 16 years or more in service from making the transfer will not be enforced until next July.

Those who made the transfer before the July 12 Defense Department change will be permitted to keep it.

Both Pentagon and Navy officials noted that the ability to transfer the benefit is designed by law to be used as a retention tool, not an earned benefit or an entitlement.

"The Department of Defense (DoD) has updated reference to reinforce TEB as a retention incentive that requires members to be eligible for and agree to serve four additional years of service on active duty or in the Selected Reserve beyond the date they elect to transfer their benefits," the Navy announcement says.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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