Limiting GI Bill Transfer Plan – Is It Fair?
By Debbie Gregory.
The Defense Department’s new rules on transferring GI Bill benefits to dependents have House members demanding a reversal to the plan, with 83 lawmakers calling the new policy “unacceptable.”
Last month, the Pentagon said it was curbing the window in which service members could transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to immediate family members.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn) who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, led the bipartisan effort to rally members of Congress in opposition.
Previously, military members could transfer benefits at any time, as long as they had at least six years of service. Under the new rules, set to take effect next July, they will need to not only meet the six-year benchmark, but also be approved to serve four additional years and to have completed fewer than 16 years of service.
The lawmakers penned a letter to defense Secretary James Mattis late last month, saying “Eliminating the ability to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to family members after honorably completing 16 years of service sends exactly the wrong message to those who have chosen the military as their long-term career, and sets a dangerous precedent for the removal of other critical benefits as members approach military retirement.”
They continued, “Once a service member meets the requirements for transferring Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to an eligible family member, we must uphold our end of the commitment. This change in policy is unacceptable, and we call upon you to swiftly reverse this decision.”
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the American Legion have joined in, criticizing the change.
The American Legion opposes “the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said Legion spokesman retired Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the use of this earned benefit,” Plenzler said.
The Pentagon says more than $20 billion in education benefits has been passed to service members and dependents since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was passed in 2009.