GI Bill transfer rules anger some veterans

The key date for transfer rights under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which allows career service members to share all or part of their benefits, is Aug. 1, the effective date of the new program.

Anyone who retires or separates from the military before Aug. 1 may still use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for themselves but will not be able to transfer benefits to anyone else.

“The statute, as enacted, was designed to promote recruitment and retention of the armed forces, and therefore requires an individual to be a member on or after Aug. 1, 2009,” Lainez said.

Some won’t take no for an answer. The Fleet Reserve Association, for example, is asking the Defense Department to relax the eligibility rules.

In a May 7 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joseph Barnes, the association’s national executive director, speaks of “growing resentment” among “some recently retired and soon-to-retire” service members who won’t be allowed to share benefits because they won’t be in uniform Aug. 1.

Retirees and those scheduled to retire “are astonished that their long and honorable service will not qualify to transfer even a portion of their unused education benefits to their spouses or family members,” Barnes wrote. “By comparison, significantly more junior personnel with only six or more years of service who sign up for four additional years of service are allowed to transfer significantly more generous education benefits to their spouse and after 10 years of service to their spouse and children.”

Barnes, who also is co-chairman of the Military Coalition, a group of more than 30 military-related organizations that share a common agenda for improving military benefits and personnel policies, said he understands that the primary reason for offering the opportunity to share benefits is to encourage people to stay in the service. But he noted that the Defense Department has agreed to some modifications.

The transfer policy announced two weeks ago includes temporary rules allowing people retiring on or after Aug. 1, 2009, but before Aug. 1, 2012, to serve less than the four additional years that everyone else must serve to earn transfer rights, Barnes said.

The fact that some people are getting a break while others are not is fueling resentment among those who are not covered, he said.

If defense officials don’t think full transferability of benefits is warranted, Barnes said a policy that allowed partial transfers could be considered, he said.

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