With the Department of Veterans Affairs ready to begin accepting sign-ups for the Post-9/11 GI Bill May 1, the Defense Department is working to get word out on its proposed policy regarding the bill's transferability provisions to help servicemembers decide if the new benefit is right for them.
Bob Clark, the Pentagon's assistant director for accessions policy, called the Post-9/11 GI Bill that takes effect Aug. 1 an important new benefit. In addition to providing broader educational benefits, it includes a provision that enables enrollees to transfer their benefits to immediate family members.
This long-sought-after provision is expected to be a boom for the military, Clark said, attracting and retaining the skilled force it needs.
"The Post-9/11 GI Bill is going to be an extremely good benefit to attract bright, young Americans to serve in the military," he said.
"The transferability is going to be a tool that will allow us to retain members who have earned that great benefit and share it with their family members and continue to serve," Clark said. "This gives them the opportunity to share those benefits that they have earned with those they love."
The rules for Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability are in the final stages, and Clark said the Defense Department expects few changes, if any.
In a nutshell, any enlisted or commissioned member of the armed forces serving on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1 will be eligible to transfer their benefits - as long as they qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill in the first place and meet specific service requirements, Clark explained.
He emphasized that, by law, anyone who has retired or separated from the service before that date - even if it's July 31 - won't be entitled to transfer their benefits. Also excluded will be members of the Individual Ready Reserve and Fleet Reserve.
Most servicemembers who have at least six years of military service as of Aug. 1 and agree to serve an additional four years qualify, he said. But the Defense Department has proposed measures to cover several categories of servicemembers whose circumstances don't fit neatly into this formula.
For example, those with at least 10 years of service - but who can't serve an additional four years because of a service or Defense Department policy -also would qualify, Clark said. They must, however, serve the maximum time allowed before separating from the military, he said.
"What we did not want to do was to penalize those people who had a service policy or statute that would not permit them to commit for the full four years," Clark explained.
Another Pentagon proposal would cover servicemembers who will reach the 20-year service mark, making them retirement-eligible, between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 1, 2013.
Clark explained the breakdown, which basically enables those affected to transfer benefits as long as they complete 20 years of service:
-- Those eligible for retirement on Aug. 1, 2009, would be eligible to transfer their benefits with no additional service requirement.
-- Those with an approved retirement date after Aug. 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2010, would qualify with no additional service.
-- Those eligible for retirement after Aug. 1, 2009, but before Aug. 1, 2010, would qualify with one additional year of service after electing to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
-- Those eligible for retirement between Aug. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, would qualify with two additional years of service after electing to transfer.
-- Those eligible to retire between Aug. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, would qualify with three additional years of service after electing to transfer.
The servicemember's 36 months of benefits - the equivalent of four nine-month academic years - could be transferred to a spouse, one or more children or any combination, Clark said. The family member must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System to receive the benefits.
Servicemembers also have the option to use some benefits themselves and transfer what they haven't used to one or more family members.
Even after transferring the benefits, they remain the "property" of the servicemember who earned them, who can revoke them or redesignate who receives them at any time.
More details about the Post-9/11 GI Bill are posted on the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs Web sites, and the Pentagon's proposed transferability policy is on the Defense Department site.
Defense Department Post-9/11 GI Bill Web Site www.defenselink.mil/home/features/2009/0409_gibill/
Veterans Affairs Post-9/11 GI Bill Web Site