Is a college education worth an additional four years of military service?
That question will likely be on the minds of active-duty service members looking to transfer education benefits to their children or spouses as policy changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill take effect this summer.
Beginning Aug. 1, soldiers who elect to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a family member will incur an additional four years of military service, according to an April 15 announcement from the Army.
“We want soldiers to be informed of the impact of this policy,” said Col. Mark Viney, chief of the Enlisted Professional Development Branch, in a statement from the Army News Service. “This is going to impact their decisions and their families, and whether or not they are going to have this money available to fund their dependents’ education.”
Passed in 2008, the Post-9/11 GI Bill not only allows education benefits for service members that qualify, but also allows them to transfer those benefits to a family member.
“That element of the bill was essentially put in as a retention tool for the Department of Defense,” said Rufus Coburn, director of veterans education for the Texas Veterans Commission. Coburn also said the upcoming change will not effect veterans who are already retired from the military.
Currently, retirement-eligible senior officers and enlisted soldiers can transfer benefits to their families with anywhere from zero to three years of additional service. Soldiers who are not retirement eligible can transfer those benefits to a family member by re-enlisting for an additional four years, according to information from the Army News Service.
After August, the four-year rule will apply to all soldiers.
Jonathan Okray, a veteran and Killeen councilman, expressed frustration at the policy change and chided federal lawmakers.
“To have a situation where the goal posts are constantly moving like that is disgusting to me,” Okray said. “They really need to slow down and read these bills.”
The change also comes at a time when more military spouses and children are using Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits.
According to data from Veterans Affairs, more than 54,000 military spouses used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in 2012, nearly a 70 percent increase from 2011. The data also showed that more than 93,500 children used Post-9/11 benefits in 2012, up more than 13 percent from 2011.
Killeen soldiers, spouses and family members react to changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s education benefits, which go into effect Aug. 1.
“There is no way I’d ask my spouse to put in four years he didn’t want to put in, for any reason. There are enough grants, loans and jobs out there that can pay for my education or for that of my son that putting my husband in harm’s way for anything but his desire to serve would be unconscionable to me.” — Jaclyn Womack
“As soon as my husband heard about this two weeks ago, he decided to transfer his GI Bill to me before the deadline. He has 17 years in already, acquired his master’s degree so he won’t end up using his GI Bill.” — Diana M. Rink
“It’s sad. We can increase the pay of politicians annually but cannot seem to support those sacrificing their lives on the front line.” — Lidia Rosales Pardo
“When my husband transferred his GI bill to me he had to sign up for another year in the Army. But adding four more years onto his contract is ridiculous, whether or not he is planning on being a lifer.” — Toya Grady