By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 31, 2009 – With the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s option to transfer unused educational benefits to eligible family members taking effect tomorrow, it’s no surprise that more than 25,000 servicemembers have pre-applied, a Pentagon official said today.
The wave of applicants has far exceeded the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments’ expectations, said Bob Clark, the Pentagon’s assistant director for accessions policy.
What’s even more impressive is that the Defense Department’s Web site for requesting the benefit has been live only since June 29, he added.
“We’ve seen, roughly, a thousand applications a day for the past week or so, and we expect that to continue,” Clark said. “Transferability of these educational benefits has been one of the most requested provisions by family support groups, family advocacy groups and the troops out in the field and fleet, and we’re just happy that it starts on the first of August.”
The site, https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB/, is accessible using a common access card, Defense Department self-service user identification or a Defense Finance and Accounting Service personal identification number. Spouses and family members must be enrolled under their servicemember sponsor in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System, also known as DEERS, to be eligible for the transfer benefit. Military members also can link to the site through http://www.defenselink.mil/gibill.
With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, servicemembers are eligible for 36 months of educational benefits -- the equivalent of four nine-month academic years. To qualify for the transfer benefit, servicemembers must have six years of service on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1 and commit to an additional four years of service.
Servicemembers have the option to use or transfer as much of their benefits as they want to, and they can revoke or redesignate who receives the benefit at any time, Clark said.
He added that servicemembers can add names only while on active duty, and not after separating or retiring from active-duty service.
The unused benefits can be transferred to a spouse, two children or any combination, he said. But children cannot start using the benefit until they’re 18 or have a high school diploma or equivalent. Clark noted that children enrolled in DEERS lose their military benefits at age 21 unless they are full-time students.
Only eligible dependents’ names will appear on the registration Web site, he explained. Once servicemembers register on the site and designate who the benefits will be transferred to, the application will be processed through their appropriate service branch.
After the service verifies eligibility to transfer the benefits, the application will be forwarded and processed again through VA. And finally, when the selected dependent decides to use the benefit, he or she must go to the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site and fill out an online application to request a certificate of eligibility, Clark said.
The certificate then can be taken to the school to be processed by its Veterans Affairs representative and used to request tuition, payment for books and the living stipend, which varies by institution and location, he continued.
Of the 25,000 who’ve already applied, more than 15,000 have been approved, and of those, 5,500 dependents already have requested certificates to start their education.
“It has been a very fast, long run-up to the first of August, which is upon us. I see this as a wonderful opportunity for our veterans, our servicemembers, in particular, the families of our career members to give them the opportunity to further their education and reach their dreams,” Clark said.
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. Department officials have proposed measures to support servicemembers who have at least 10 years of active service but can’t serve the additional four because of service or department policy. They would, however, have to serve the maximum time allowed before separating from the military, he said.
Another provision will cover servicemembers who will reach the 20-year service mark, making them retirement-eligible, between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 1, 2013.
Clark explained how servicemembers who complete 20 years of service will be able to transfer the benefits:
-- Those eligible for retirement on Aug. 1, 2009, will 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, will qualify with no additional service.
-- Those eligible for retirement after Aug. 1, 2009, but before Aug. 1, 2010, will qualify with one additional year of service after approval to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
-- Those eligible for retirement between Aug. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, will qualify with two additional years of service after approval to transfer.
-- Those eligible to retire between Aug. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, will qualify with three additional years of service after approval to transfer.