A new Pentagon policy announced last week cuts down the window of time service members have to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a child or spouse, requiring troops to make the change before they complete their 16th year of service.
But while that aspect of the policy will go into effect a year from now, some of the newly announced changes have immediate effect, Pentagon officials said this week.
Most notably, the new rules immediately do away with the existing policy exception for troops who have committed to 10 years of service and have already served at least six, but are prevented from completing the last four. As of the issuance of the new policy July 12, these troops are no longer eligible to transfer their benefits, officials said.
"Previously, service members with ten years of service could transfer the benefit without serving the four years, if they were prevented by policy or statute from doing so," Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell told Military.com in an email. "Now such members must be eligible to serve an additional four years when they elect to transfer educational benefits."
Military.com previously reported that the Navy, which published its own guidance this week clarifying timelines, had cut the transfer window short for some sailors. But Navy and Pentagon officials later said the change is universal and immediate for all troops.
Each service is directed under Defense Department guidance to publish its own implementation instructions, in line with the new Pentagon policy.
Another immediate change clarifies the protected population of troops separated under "force-shaping" authorities. These troops are able to retain their benefit transfer privileges even if they can't complete the required four years of service.
"Effective immediately, the scope of 'force shaping' was expanded to expressly include officers involuntarily separated as a result of being twice passed over for promotion, and enlisted personnel who were involuntarily separated as a result of failure to meet minimum retention standards, or because of a change in these policies," Maxwell said.
A final immediate change pertains to eligibility, she said. All service members must be eligible to be retained for at least four years from the date they decide to transfer benefits, and can't be hindered from serving by statute or policy reasons, such as high-year tenure, mandatory retirement, or medical qualifications.
"If there are reasons that preclude a service member from committing to four years of service, that service member cannot sign up to transfer their benefits," Maxwell said.
For troops with 16 years of service, there is still a year to transfer GI Bill benefits to a dependent before July 12, 2019, when the new rules kick in, requiring the transfer to happen between years six and 16.
The new DoD policy notes that additional changes affecting the ability to transfer may be made as officials continue to evaluate the process.
"DoD will continue to track recruit quality and retention metrics carefully, so as to adjust policy and force management tools to support any major shifts in recruitment trends," it reads.