Congress Overrides Pentagon on GI Bill Transfer Rules

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This April 18, 2019, file photo shows the dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A paragraph hidden deep inside the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) eliminates the Pentagon’s ability to cap which troops can transfer the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Currently, service members are only eligible to transfer GI Bill benefits to their dependents when they reenlist (or obligate) for at least another four years, unless blocked from doing so.

Restrictions on who can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their dependents are limited members to:

  • Those with at least six years of service who agree to serve an additional four years
  • Those with at least 10 years of service who can't commit to four more years because of regulation (i.e. High Year Tenure, etc)

In 2018 the DoD announced a plan to place further restrictions on who would be eligible to transfer their benefits by limiting transferability eligibility to those with less than 16 years of active duty. The change was originally supposed to go into effect in July of 2019, but that date was rolled back to Jan. 12, 2020 amid outcry to Congress.

Section 578 of Public Law 116-92, the National Defense Authorization Act, removes DoD's ability to limit which personnel can transfer their unused GI Bill benefits to dependents. It reads:

"The Secretary of Defense may not prescribe any regulation that would provide for a limitation on eligibility to transfer unused education benefits to family members based on a maximum number of years of service in the Armed Forces."

That effectively means that anyone who agrees to serve another four years (or a statutory maximum length in the case of those restricted by high-year tenure or other reasons), no matter how many years of active service they have, will be able to transfer the benefit to their dependents.

Although troops tend to see it as a non-monetary benefit, by law, the ability to transfer the Post-9/11 GI Bill is not an earned benefit. Instead, the Pentagon was ordered to use it as a retention incentive.

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