I’m delighted that I caused some drama with Don’t Save Your GI Bill For Your Kids…that means that people are thinking. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a hugely generous benefit and there are all sorts of little details that affect eligibility, benefit amount, transferability, and other issues. Thinking and learning is necessary to make sure you are getting the most possible value for your situation. Transferring the Post 9/11 GI Bill might be the right choice for your family, and it is important that you do it correctly.
Buried deep inside the post, I suggest transferring one month of benefits to each eligible beneficiary, meaning your spouse and your children. Transferring one month of benefits acts as a place marker to put your spouse and children into the Post 9/11 GI Bill system and allows you to add, subtract, or revoke those benefits in the future. This step can only be done before you retire and it can incur an additional service obligation, therefore, it makes sense to do it sooner rather than later. However, please see the paragraph below about how you want to change your designation when you retire.
How do you transfer your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits? That is done through the milConnect system.
Log Into milConnect
You can log in using your Common Access Card (CAC), your DFAS MyPay log in information, or your DoD Self-Service (DS) log in information.
Find The Correct Form
Once you enter the milConnect system, you click on the Education tab to select the Transfer Education Benefits (TEB) option. (It’s the only option.) A form open that lists all the eligible transferees.
Enter The Desired Allocation
On the form, use the click button to increase the Months column up to one for each person. It is a funny looking cursor, an arrow, but don’t let that throw you off. You will probably want to leave the end date column empty as it will automatically become the maximum amount of time allowed under the GI Bill laws.
Submit The Form
You will then scroll down, read and agree to the numerous check boxes stating that you acknowledge all those statements. At the end, you will have to click on the Submit Request button that is located between the form and the acknowledgements.
Document The Change
When the submit button has processed, a small message will show up at the top of the page saying that your submission has been received. It recommends that you print that page for confirmation. I also recommend taking a screenshot.
Make a note on your calendar to verify that the transfer has been completed. Start with four weeks unless you’re crunched for time, then make it sooner.
Once submitted, the benefits folks will verify your status. You can make their job easier by making sure that your electronic service record accurately reflects your current information.
Verify That The Transfer Was Approved
You will need to check back periodically to ensure that the transfer goes through successfully. When you log-in, it will say that your status is Submitted until it is approved. Once it is approved, I recommend that you again take a screen shot, and print out the available letter.
Get Help If You Need It
If you run into difficulties, be sure to get help. The right place to find help depends on your branch of service. There is a long list of contact information on the Contact Us page located inside the milConnect website. There is also a great FAQ page available there.
Update Your Allocation When You Retire
While allocating one month to each eligible beneficiary is a great start, and appropriate for active duty folks, you should change this designation upon leaving the military. When you leave the military, you should have all 36 months of benefits assigned to someone, preferably based upon the likelihood that they’ll actually use the benefits. This is because the benefit designation can not be changed if the service member dies. It doesn’t matter for active duty folks because survivors of those who die on active duty are eligible for the Fry Scholarship, which provides the same benefits as the Post 9/11 GI Bill to each eligible dependent. However, if a veteran dies before they have used all their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the benefits are then frozen at the designation in place at the time of death. If you’ve only assigned 1 month to each person, that’s all the benefits that can be used.
While I don’t advocate “saving” your benefits, I do think that you should maximize your options. Transferring one month of benefits to each eligible family member gives you the ability to increase, decrease, or revoke their benefits in the future and allows you maximum flexibility to make the most of the amazing Post 9/11 GI Bill offerings.