Army Career's Guide

GI Bill Benefits For Military Spouses and Family Members

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One of the most common questions in the mind of armed force members is whether they can share their GI Bill benefits with their family members. The situation is very clear now after the transferability rules have been explained clearly by the DOD or Department of Defense in June 2009.

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Eligibility criteria for armed force members regarding GI Bill benefit transfer

Armed forces members eligible for GI Bill benefits sharing include those who are enlisted or in the officer cadre or on Selected Reserve or on active duty on or before 1st August 2009 are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer to family members.

On the date of election, the said person must have completed at least six years of service and agrees to serve another four years.

On the date of election, the said armed forces member in the Selected Reserve or on active duty has at least ten years of service. Such members are precluded from committing to another four years by statute or standard policy ( DOD or service). In keeping with the statute or policy, the members must agree to serve the maximum amount of allowed time.

No additional service is required for those who are set to retire on 1st August 2009.

Members eligible for retirement between the period of August 1st 2009 and August 1st 2013 can avail of the GI Bill sharing benefits. Eligibility for retirement for the service member include completion of reserve service for a total of twenty qualifying years or completion of active duty for twenty years.

An additional three years of service is required for individuals after transfer is approved if they are retiring on or after 1st August 2011.

Family members eligible to receive benefits offered by GI Bill

Individual entitlement can be transferred under this section by those who are eligible to do so can transfer it to –

• The member’s spouse
• One or more of the member’s children
• Any child and spouse combination

The member or his or her dependents are eligible to reapply for the remaining benefits. The right to modify or revoke the transfer lies with the eligible armed forces member.

Benefits eligible for transfer

GI Bill benefits cannot be used by anyone else for educational assistance. Only dependents like spouse or children are eligible under the DEERS or Defense Eligibility Enrolment Reporting System for transfer of benefits.

Unused post 9/11 GI Bill benefits can be transferred by the armed forces member up to the total unused months. If the said member has used none of the benefits, the entire 36 months can be transferred to those who are eligible. To transfer the benefits, armed forces members must submit the transferability of education benefits form.

Taking advantage of the GI Bill benefits

In order to take comprehensive advantage of the GI Bill Benefits, you must keep in mind various factors. Choosing the right college in fact depends on these factors. Reservists, active duty service members, veterans, dependents of deceased or disabled veterans of any of the military armed forces, spouses and guardsmen must keep these aspects in mind as they find the right military friendly college.

Military friendly benefits to look for in colleges

DANTES External – Under this program, non-traditional support is offered for armed forces members. Also known as the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, this program is designed to open up education alternatives for members who have difficulty in juggling their work schedule or cannot access college due to their duty locations. Colleges and schools that are a part of DANTES External offer courses through non-traditional methods like internet, television, email, audio tapes, video tapes and textbooks.

American Council on Education or ACE – Military experience can be converted to college credits under this program at institutions that are a part of ACE. College credit recommendation is based on review conducted by ACE in collaboration with DOD. The review is conducted based on the member’s military experience and training. Thousands of dollars can be saved in the form of tuition costs by members using military experience to gain college credits.

Service members Opportunity Colleges or SOC Membership – This program aims to improve and expand opportunities in post-secondary education for active and reserve military services and department of defense service members in cooperation with at least 15 higher education associations.

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts or MyCAA – AS a member of this program, armed forces spouses can benefit from financial aid of up to $4000 every two years. This benefit is offered for those who wish to pursue associate degree, certification or license in a portable occupation or career field.

Principles of Excellence Program – Approved by VA, this program offers guidelines for educational institutions and schools receiving veteran educational and federal military funding. Protection, support and information is offered for dependents, spouses, veterans and service members under this program by participating schools that agree to the stipulated guidelines and principles.

Montgomery GI Bill – This program is open to all members enlisted in the US armed forces. After completing a minimum service obligation, monthly education benefit can be accessed by active duty members by enrolling for 12 months for a fee of $100 per month.

Yellow Ribbon Post 9/11 GI Bill – Full or partial tuition and fee expenses are funded by VA and the higher learning approved institutions under this program. Fee expenses and tuition must be in conformity with the post 9/11 GI Bill established thresholds.

Military Tuition Assistance – The Department of Veterans Affairs offers this benefit. The difference in the actual cost of tuition and tuition assistance paid by the military for the course is taken care of under this benefit. Those eligible for MGIB-Active Duty benefits or approved by the military department for federal tuition assistance can access this top up benefit.

Other major GI Bill benefits that can be shared with family members

Those who cannot afford to lose graduate and credits with only 36 months of GI Bill benefits can transfer credits to another school. To maximize chances of keeping the credits, it is important to choose schools within the same accrediting body.

Additional veterans’ education benefits are provided in many states under the State Veterans Education Benefits. As each state offers specific benefits, it is important to check with the State Veterans Affairs Office Directory.

There are a lot of military friendly colleges offering military discounts. These colleges are a far cry from those offering friendly support to government programs. If you are lucky, you can even get massive discounts of up to 50%. Discounts range from single digits to huge amounts. In some schools, you will find different programs offering different discounts. Other factors that determine the amount of discount include level of degree sought by members and whether the discount is opted for by a veteran, an individual in active military service or by spouses, reservist or children. It is important to identify the best school offering maximum discount after careful research.

Certain schools offer GI Bill benefits in the form of free textbooks and supplies for members affiliated to various military segments.

Where can families find information on GI Bill benefit sharing?

Information on GI Bill benefit sharing can be found mostly on websites that are military specific. These websites are run by most military friendly schools. The sites offer constant updates, news and specific benefits related information. On these websites, you can find information related to different programs such as MyCAA, SOC and Yellow Ribbon Schools and will also list out benefits such as free textbooks, scholarships and tuition discounts.

You can also find information related to accommodation options for students. This is especially beneficial for veterans who do not wish to share dormitories with younger students and prefer independent housing options.
To cut through bureaucracy, veterans can enjoy special benefits. They can get in touch with specialized contacts such as specially trained advisors to help them with VA and military benefits.

Aspects to look for by family members sharing GI Bill benefits

• As you research on colleges allowing you to share GI Bill benefits, look for medical support, mental health support and other service organizations in the area.
• To make sure that you make the best of the situation, choose a military friendly school especially if you are on active duty.

• You can look for flexible online degree programs if you situation does not permit you to enroll in a campus based program.

If you browse around, you will find that there are plenty of military friendly schools and colleges. Not all of them are the best. It is imperative to take time researching your options. When it comes to finding out which colleges are on the list, you can check online. However beware of colleges and schools who pay websites online to promote them.

Visit social media sites, go carefully through reputable websites and read student feedback to get the right perspective on schools you have short listed. Carefully research curriculum options and whether you can find the right program suited to your specific needs. As you research on the credibility of the college, consider factors such as retention rates and graduation rates.

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