Military Spouse Education

A big change coming with the Post-9/11 GI Bill that goes into effect August 1, 2009, is that members of the military can now transfer all or part of their GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost of education for their spouse or dependent children. A service member can apply the benefits to their own education as well as that of their family members, a terrific benefit for the service member who either has completed a degree program or will not use the full amount of GI Bill benefits available to them. This new benefit was added as a retention tool in hopes that it will help entice service members to reenlist.

For a complete list and additional information on military friendly colleges and how they can provide benefits for your spouse, click here.

Service members can apply to transfer GI Bill benefits as early as June 2009, and if applications are received early enough, some family members can begin to use their benefit during the Fall 2009 semester. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits may be worth as much as $90,000 in education for some families.

To be considered eligible to transfer benefits, military personnel must be serving on active duty on August 1, 2009, and have already served for at least six years. Members who have retired or separated prior to August 1, 2009, are not eligible to transfer benefits. Additionally, service members must agree to serve for four more years. Individual branches of the military may have their own specific criteria that helps to determine who is eligible to transfer benefits. Service members must enroll participating family members in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System prior to transferring the benefits.

Exceptions to the four-year requirement may be made for those nearing retirement. For example, someone eligible for retirement between August 1, 2009, the day the Post-9/11 GI Bill takes effect, and July 1, 2010, may transfer their benefits without being required to serve four additional years.

Other exceptions are given to those whose retirement eligibility is approaching within the next few years. For example, a service member eligible for retirement between August 1, 2009, and August 1, 2010, may qualify to transfer benefits after serving one additional year. Those with a retirement window of August 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, must serve two additional years, while those with a retirement window of August 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, must serve three additional years.

Members can transfer as much as all 36 months of benefits and are able to divide the benefits among family members as needed. A service member could use some of the benefits themselves, and transfer some to children and a spouse.

Once benefits have been transferred, a service member has the option to modify the arrangement at anytime. Spouses may retain GI Bill benefits even after divorce, unless the member revokes the transfer. A spouse can use benefits just as a member can, though the monthly stipend for living expenses is not paid if the member is still serving active duty.

A spouse may use GI Bill benefits immediately, but must use the benefits within 15 years of the member leaving military service. Children may begin using benefits after their parent has served 10 years, and after they have finished high school. They may use benefits until the age of 26. Children may receive housing allowance and a book stipend, though those benefits are not available to spouses.