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Pitfalls of Post 9/11 GI Bill

The GI Bill is an amazing program and serves as one of the major incentives for young men and women to join the armed forces.  Furthermore, the Post-9/11 GI Bill (hereinafter GI Bill) allows servicemembers who serve 6 or more years to transfer all or some of the education benefits to their spouse or children.  Ultimately, the servicemember can provide their dependents a total of 36 months of education and divide that time up however they wish.  Additionally, the dependents will receive BAH at the E-5 level based on the particular location of their schools.  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.

Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.

The process to transfer your benefits is as follows, and this is pulled directly from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Website, which can be found at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp:

While in the armed forces, transferors use the Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) website to designate, modify, and revoke a Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) request.

After leaving the armed forces, transferors may provide a future effective date for use of TOE, modify the number of months transferred, or revoke entitlement transferred by submitting a written request to VA.

Upon approval, family members may apply to use transferred benefits with VA by printing, completing, and mailing the VA Form 22-1990e to your nearest VA regional office or applying online. VA Form 22-1990e should only be completed and submitted to VA by the family member after DoD has approved the request for TEB. Do not use VA Form 22-1990e to apply for TEB.

Now while this transferability is an amazing program, there are several pitfalls which servicemembers frequently fall into.  First, the request to transfer must be made while the member is serving as an active member of the Armed Forces.  It is not uncommon for servicemembers to EAS or retire from the Armed Forces and subsequently try and transfer their benefits.  Second, many servicemembers will go through the process of transferring their benefits once they have served six years on active duty and not realize that they still owe an additional 4 years in order to meet the requirement to transfer.  Therefore, the TEB website may tell servicemembers that they have successfully submitted for the transfer, and based on this they EAS from the military without reaching the 10 years of service.  Finally, and this is a bit more nuanced, but the process explained above was not always the way it worked.  Previously, a page 13 entry and some additional steps were also required, which in many instances were never briefed to servicemembers.  Additionally, between and August and November 2009 (the time the Post 9/11 GI started), there were several servicemembers who tired and may not have been told that the GI Bill could be transferred.  These three examples are not uncommon and can be absolutely devastating servicemembers.  Consider a young 18 year old kid who joins the military right out of high school, moves around the country every 3-4 years, deploys away from his/her family multiple times, and eventually retires after 20 years of service, only to find out that he/she cannot send his/her children to college because he/she did not know the benefits had to be transferred while still on active duty!  That is an incredibly sad situation and yet it happens all of the time.  And the bottom line is that is does not fall within the spirit of the GI Bill.  The benefits were still earned, but simply because the arbitrary step of transferring them while serving vice after the retirement, they are rendered useless.  It is an incredibly draconian system and is no way to treat the men and women and their families who risk their lives and sacrifice so much to defend the freedoms enjoyed by our country.

So that is the bad part, but you do still have legal avenues for relief.  First there is the option to petition your particular branch’s records division and request that your military records be modified in order to allow you to transfer the benefits.  In this petition, the particular grievances are articulated and the boards make a decision as to whether or not to grant the request.  The boards can be petitioned multiple times provided there is some showing of new evidence each time.  If a board denies relief, then an appeal can be filed in federal court.  Federal courts have the authority to “afford relief where t serves to right an obvious injustice,” and they have used this authority in the past to grant relief for GI Bill transfers.

Our attorneys can assist you with records corrections, appeals, and federal claims.  Do not just give away benefits you earned.  Contact us today for a free consultation.

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