Transferring The GI Bill To A Spouse

Transferring Your GI Bill To Your Spouse

Thinking about transferring your Post 9/11 GI Bill to your spouse? Transferrability of benefits is one of the most amazing things about the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  If you are a long-time Paycheck Chronicles reader, you know that I believe that Congress will act to diminish the value of the Post 9/11 GI Bill over time.  This means that I think everyone who has Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility should thinking strategically about how and when it gets used.

For many military families, the biggest value comes in using the Post 9/11 GI Bill to assist the non-serving spouse in attaining educational credentials that will open up certain jobs and careers.  Spouses using GI Bill benefits do not receive the housing portion of the benefit, but in many situations that is a small trade-off for the opportunity to finish education before the spouse leaves active duty.

Here are the key things to know about transferrability of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to spouses:

  • The spouse must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive transferred benefits.
  • The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and meets the following criteria:
    • Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
    • Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by Service Branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years, and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.

When being used by a recipient spouse, the following rules apply:

  • Spouses may start to use the benefit immediately.
  • Spouses may use the benefit while the member remains in the Armed Forces or after separation from active duty.
  • Spouses are not eligible for the monthly housing allowance while the member is serving on active duty.
  • Spouses may use the benefit for up to 15 years after the service member’s last separation from active duty.
  • A subsequent divorce will not affect the transferees eligibility to receive educational benefits; however, after an individual has designated a spouse as a transferee under this section, the eligible individual retains the right to revoke or modify the transfer at any time.

There is a lot of mis-information regarding transferrability of benefits.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website has very clear instructions and information about this topic.

Have questions about how to transfer your GI Bill to your spouse?  See Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Education Benefits.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Phil Hollins

    Kate thanks for the excellent info. I too think changes are coming which is why it is important for people not to waste time. I completely used all my GI Bill to finish two degrees with no debt. It is never too early to think about what to study and how the program will help members and their families once they leave the service. Thanks again for all your hard work.

  • It was explained to me that enrolling dependents, list all the folks possible, the percentage of allocation does matter as it can be changed closer to the time of use of the GI Bill.

    • Kate

      Ken, that is accurate, with one small caveat: as far as I know, if the servicemember or retiree passes away, there is no provision to modify the allocation at that time. Therefore, the “give one month to each person” advice isn’t quite accurate. Do try to make your best guess and allocate all the benefits. This can be modified or revoked at by the servicemember at any time. However, if you’ve just given one month to each child and you die unexpectedly, it can’t be changed then.

  • Kate good info. It is what it is upon service members death.

  • Brad

    I meet all the above requirements to transfer. I have two little girls that I planned to transfer the benefit to; however, last month my wife and I found out we are expecting baby number 3. If I transfer the benefit to my two oldest girls now, will I be able to transfer some to my next child, months down the road after he/she is enrolled in DEERS? Or, should I just wait until baby number 3 is born?

    • Kate

      Congratulations, Brad and Mrs. Brad! You can transfer now, and and make adjustments after the new baby is born. It is pretty easy, you just need to go back and verify that it all worked properly.

  • Portia

    How hard is it to enroll in DEERS? My husband is the worst about getting us registered!
    What is the month your talking about? Giving one month of what?

    Our financial problems are huge is there a financial advisor that can help us? My husband is now in ky guard.
    He has all 3 gi bills there has to be something to break this bad streak!

    • Kate

      Portia, I’m a little confused and maybe you can help so I can answer your questions. I’m going to address them in order.

      Your husband is in the Kentucky National Guard. Is he full-time Guard, or a regular, drilling Guardsman?

      Enrolling in DEERS is not a complicated process if you have the right documentation, although I suspect it could be a *teensy* bit more difficult for the Guard if they don’t have good admin people.

      The month referred to in this article is about transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to spouses and children. You can find more information about that by clicking on the “education” link in the left hand column of this blog.

      If you are having financial difficulties, there is counseling available. I’m not sure the best way for Guard families to access this information. Are you near a full-time military base? If so, you could call the family readiness center there. Otherwise, Military One Source offers telephone consultations. You could also look in the civilian community for credit counseling agencies.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “all three GI Bills.” Today’s soldiers are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and if they have been in the service for a while, they might also be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill.

      I’d be glad to help however I can, but I need more information and clarification.

  • Tina J

    My husband is 59 and has recently retired from national guard with 30 years. Can he transfer GI Bill to me or my son?

  • May

    I’m confuse about this :

    * Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by Service Branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years, and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.

    I had 12 year of services in the armed forces (active duty) but my contract end october 3 2014, I have to serve four year more to tranfer my GI Bill to my Step daugther. She star the university this year.

    • Kate

      Yes, May, you are correct. Any transfer of benefits requires a four year service obligation. There are odd exceptions for really unique situations, but they are quite rare. If your contract ends this fall, you would have to re-enlist for an additional four years in order to transfer your benefits.

  • AJHold

    Kate I am 100% total and permanent disabled Iraqi war veteran……My wife was told by an education advisor at her school that she could have me transfer my post 9-11 GI Bill to her even though I have been out of the service for several years. I cannot find any information on this, and believe she has been given the wrong information. Has there been any changes to the transfer policy that I am not aware off?

    • Kate

      Mr. Hold, I agree that your wife has been given incorrect information. The transferrability option of the Post 9/11 GI Bill was specifically designed to support recruiting and retention, and the rules are written to achieve those goals. They don’t allow for transfer of benefits after leaving the service.

      There may be other scholarships or grants that she can receive through various support organizations. I wish I had a list for you. Some time on the internet could turn up some good options for her. Good luck to you!

  • Kev krueger


    I hope you can help because I can’t find an answer to this question. I a, an active duty LT who has 2xfos and I have separation date of FEB2015. I will not be complete with my additional 4 years at this time and will be unable to continue in the service (there is no option for continuation for 2xfos officer) .

    So my question is does this situation fufill the

    ” 4 additional years, and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute”

    I want my wife to have my gi bill benefits

    Thanks !!!

  • Tye

    I have 15 years in. I have 2 years left on my current reenlistment, and cant reenlist again until I am 1 year out. I wanted to transfer my benefits to my spouse so she can start classes this summer. Is there no way around waiting another year to reenlist, which even then, I can only reenlist for 2 years unless I make E7…

    • Kate

      Tye, your situation is a great example of why people need to transfer their benefits as soon as they are eligible. Unfortunately, there is no way to go back and retroactively transfer your benefits. Your only options are to hope to make E7, or to use the benefits yourself.