College Benefits for Military Dependents

Service members can transfer GI Bill college benefits to qualifying dependents. Learn the steps and rules for GI Bill benefit transfers.

October 20, 2021

College Benefits for Military Dependents

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Transferring GI Bill® Benefits to a Spouse or Children

A GI Bill® transfer is transfer of ownership of GI Bill® education benefits from a service member to another eligible family member. Read on to learn about qualification requirements and the actual process of transferring GI Bill® benefits.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA). More information about educational benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

Post 9/11 GI Bill® Transfer
Eligibility Rules

The following active service members may be eligible to transfer GI Bill benefits:

All unused 36 months, or any remaining portion, may be transferred to an eligible individual or multiple individuals.

In addition, the servicemember must agree to serve an additional four years at the time of the transfer request. A request must be made and approved while the service member is still serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. For qualified servicemembers, a good rule of thumb is to make their transfer requests at least one year out from separation or retirement. This ensures the transfers will be approved before getting out.

It is also a good idea to request a transfer of at least one month of entitlement for each eligible family member while still serving. Doing this increases flexibility as far as moving benefits around after getting out.

Alternately, if precluded from extending a service obligation due to service branch or statute limitations, the serving member must have at least ten years of service at the time of the transfer request(s).

Who Can GI Bill Benefits be Transferred to?

Transfer and Use of Benefit Rules for the Recipient

The rules for a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer are different depending on who is receiving the benefits.

GI Bill Transfer to Spouse

A spouse can start using their entitlement immediately upon receiving approval and up to the 15th year of the servicemember’s last date of separation or discharge. In the case of a Selected Reservists, the timeline is 15 years from their last date of separation from an active duty tour of at least 90 days or more. Any remaining unused eligibility will be lost unless the sponsor (i.e. the veteran) of the benefit revokes it from the spouse and either keeps it for their own use or reallocates it to a dependent family member.

Transfer GI Bill to Children

While there is not a specified age when a request for transfer of benefits can be made to an eligible dependent child, the child cannot begin using their transferred eligibility until after receiving a high school diploma or upon reaching their 18th birthday. The sponsor making the transfer must also have served for at least 10 years. Eligibility must be used no later than the child’s 26th birthday or it will be lost too, unless the remaining eligibility is revoked and reallocated by the sponsor.

Note: Children born after the servicemember is out of the military are not eligible to receive a transfer of benefits as the initial transfer must be made while the servicemember is still serving.

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How to Transfer GI Bill Benefits to a Qualifying Family Member

Before a transfer of benefits request can be submitted, the eligible recipient must be enrolled in DEERS (Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System). Most family members are already enrolled, but if not, they must apply and already be in the DEERS database at the time of the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits request.

An easy way to tell which family members are enrolled in DEERS is to log into the milConnect website with a Common Access Card, DoD Self-Service Logon or myPay credentials.

To make a transfer request from that same website:

Using the Transferred GI Benefit

Other Factors Affecting Transfer Benefits

There are several other factors that can impact either the transfer or use of benefits including:

Change of Marital Status

NOTE: In both instances, the sponsor retains the right to revoke and either keep the benefits or reallocate to another eligible family member already having received a transfer of benefits.

Reallocation of Benefits

NOTE: The combined number of months of benefits retained by the sponsor and those transferred to a spouse, family members, or a combination thereof, cannot exceed 36 months.

If a family member never had transferred benefits, or had benefits but used them up, they are still eligible to receive reallocated additional benefits either from the sponsor’s retained benefits or those revoked-and-reallocated from other family members.

Conditions at the Time of Use

The Post 9/11 GI Bill payment structure is unique from any other GI Bill in that it pays in three different ways:

In the case of dependents using their transferred benefits, the MHA payment varies depending on certain conditions at the time of use by both the sponsor and recipient.

For example, if a spouse uses transferred benefits while the sponsor is still serving, s/he does not get the MHA, but does get their tuition paid and can receive the book stipend. But, if the spouse uses transferred benefits after the member is no longer serving, then s/he receives the MHA. On the other hand, dependent members receive the MHA (and get their tuition paid and receive the book stipend) even if they live at home rent free regardless if the sponsor is still serving.

Education Opportunities Covered by Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Benefits

A family member having a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits can use them for most of the same programs covered by other GI Bills. Training must be conducted at a VA-approved education facility but the course of study can be either at a degree-producing school (including graduate) or a non-degree facility, including vocational, technical, flight, on-the-job and apprenticeships.

A GI Bill transfer of benefits can also be used as reimbursement for the cost of certain licenses, certifications, or certificate tests, along with paying for training. Also, certain college entrance tests are covered, like the GMAT.

GI Bill Transfer Differences: Montogomery vs. Post 9/11

Some military members are fortunate enough to have two GI Bills – the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD) that they paid for, and the Post 9/11 GI Bill which is free for serving after September 10, 2001. However, when it comes to a transfer of benefits, only the later can be given to an eligible family member.

But because of this rule of transfer, a servicemember having both GI Bills must relinquish ownership of the MGIB-AD before making a Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits request. If not making a transfer, the servicemember has a choice of using all 36 months of their MGIB-AD, switching GI Bills and using an additional 12 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, or switching right away to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and getting only the remaining unused MGIB months of eligibility and not the additional 12 months.

Forever GI Bill Implications Regarding Transferred Benefits

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, more commonly known as the Forever GI Bill, influences the MHA payment. Currently, the MHA in part is based on the zip code of the school, but in the case of attending a satellite school, it is based on the location of the main campus.

That amount could be higher or lower than the location of the satellite school. So, after August 1, 2018, students using transferred benefits for the first time may receive more or less than other students who are already using their transferred benefits before that implementation date.

Another MHA change for students using their transferred benefits for the first time after January 1, 2018 is their MHA payment will be based on the DoD’s reduced basic housing allowance, instead of the DoD previous BAH rate. This can result in a reduction of about $16 per month on average. Students already receiving MHA before that date will not see a change.

Another upcoming change, as far as transferring benefits, is sponsor’s ability to reallocate unused benefits if the recipient dies before using the benefit. If the sponsor dies, a dependent with unused transfer of benefits can reallocate them to another eligible family member. Both options were not possible before this update. In both cases, the date of death must be on or after August 1, 2009. In the case of a dependent transfer of benefits to another dependent, that transfer of entitlement can start being used after August 1, 2018.

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