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    Now the G.I. Bill is Forever

    You probably know the G.I. Bill as a program designed to help military veterans receive college educations after they left the armed forces following World War II. What you may not know is that the G.I. Bill has endured, in various forms, until present times.

    In fact, just last year the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017 became law and modified the G.I. Bill. This latest version is sometimes called the “Forever G.I. Bill” because it removes time limits on receiving benefits for military personnel. It also authorizes the transfer of education benefits to spouses and children.

    Who qualifies

    The new G.I. Bill applies to service members with at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after September 10, 2001. In addition, at least one other condition must be met. A person must be still on active duty, honorably discharged, or discharged with a service-connected disability after at least 30 days of service.

    The new G.I. Bill can be used for college classes, including postgraduate study, or for various types of career training. An extensive approved list ranges from entrepreneurship training to flight training to vocational or technical training.

    The current program provides up to 36 months of education benefits, equivalent to four years at a standard college. (A 45-month limit for educational benefits may apply to people who first enrolled before August 1, 2018.) For the 2018–2019 academic year, the benefits cover all tuition and fee payments for an in-state student at a public college or university; for private (and even some foreign) institutions, benefits cover costs up to $23,671.94. Many schools across the country participate in a “Yellow Ribbon” program that provides even more benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs matches contributions from the educational institutions.

    G.I. Bill recipients also may receive a housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies. Benefit amounts may differ for education that does not occur at an institution for higher learning, such as online learning.

    Generally, someone must have served at least 36 months to get full benefits; those with less time in service may receive partial benefits. The time that a reservist was ordered to active duty counts towards eligibility. All post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients are fully eligible, regardless of length of service.

    Previously, there was a 15-year time limit for use of G.I. Bill benefits. Under the new law, as long as someone’s release from active duty was after 2012, the time limit has been removed.

    Transferring benefits

    One of the most interesting aspects of today’s G.I. Bill is the ability to transfer benefits to a spouse or a child.

    In order to transfer G.I. Bill benefits, the eligible service member must transfer his or her benefits before leaving the military. Once the service member is discharged, a transfer isn’t possible. Further, if the service member has used any benefits under the G.I. Bill, only the unused amount can be transferred.

    Applicants who wish to transfer their G.I. Bill benefits must have been in the military for at least 6 years when requesting the transfer and agree to serve another 4 years on active duty or in selected reserves. Alternatively, an individual must have been in the military for at least 10 years and agree to serve as long as allowed, by policy or by law. Special rules apply to anyone who was eligible for retirement on August 1, 2012.

    When benefits are transferred to a spouse, the recipient must use them in full within 15 years after the veteran leaves active duty. When a transfer goes to children, they can’t use the G.I. Bill benefits until they graduate from high school, get an equivalency certificate, or reach age 18. Once a child reaches age 26, he or she can no longer use the transferred benefits.

    This article carries no official authority, and its contents should not be acted upon without professional advice. For more information about this topic, please contact our office.