More than 100,000 requests from troops desiring to transfer their unused education benefits to family members have been approved under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a defense official said in prepared congressional testimony.
Signed into law in June 2008, the new GI Bill is a Department of Veteran Affairs-sponsored program that provides the most comprehensive educational benefit package for veterans since the original GI Bill – the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 – was authorized toward the end of World War II.
A provision in the new bill, which permits service members to transfer their unused educational entitlement to a spouse or child, has transferred "months of benefit eligibility to over 240,000 family members," Robert E. Clark, assistant director of accession policy for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told lawmakers April 21.
"To date, over 105,000 requests from career service members have been approved," Clark said in a prepared statement to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, "transferring months of benefit eligibility to over 240,000 family members."
Clark said the Defense Department plays two main roles in the joint effort with the Department of Veterans Affairs in addition to allowing for transferability.
"The department’s first role in the successful implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the sharing of service data with VA," he said. "We recognize the road to becoming a veteran always entails passage through service in the military. Accurate reporting of that service is vital to the determination of eligibility for all post-service education benefits."
The other role, he said, centers on the ability to offer supplemental educational benefits, commonly called "kickers."
But while kickers are authorized under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the statute as written does not allow the department to use them, Clark noted, so officials have asked for an amendment to rectify the situation.
"To allow the services to use Post-9/11 GI Bill kickers, we requested a technical amendment in our 2011 legislative proposal package for the [Fiscal Year] 2011 National Defense Authorization Bill to allow the service to make deposits into the [Education Benefits Fund]," he said, "and for VA to draw reimbursement from the EBF for kickers associated with the Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits."
Clark said the Defense Department recognizes its duty to staff the all-volunteer military with high-quality, motivated and well-trained men and women.
"As we move through the 21st century," he said, "we must continue to build upon the remarkable legacy of the visionaries who crafted the original and preceding versions and improvements to the GI Bill."
Speaking about the GI Bill last year, President Barack Obama said it was designed "to renew our commitment to ensure that the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America get the opportunities that they have earned."
The Post-9/11 GI Bill, Obama said in August, is as important as the original, and likewise recognizes service members for their wartime service and represents "an investment in our own country."
(Editor’s note: This article is based on an American Forces Press Service story.)