Bill Would Loosen Rules for GI Bill Transfers 


A New Mexico lawmaker wants to relax rules for transferring Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to family members so that service members can postpone that decision until after they retire.

Rep. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat who also has been working to expand Tricare health benefits for military families, has introduced a bill that would allow a service member who has earned Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to transfer them to a spouse or child any time between completion of 10 years of service and 10 years after separation or discharge.

This would be a major change from current law, which limits the transfer of education benefits to current service members — active or reserve — who agree to serve four more years. A person who has separated or retired is not eligible to apply for the transfer of benefits, although a transfer that was approved while they were still serving is allowed to take place.

Heinrich’s bill, HR 6336, was introduced Sept. 29, just as Congress was leaving town for pre-election break. It was referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which is considering changes in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Earlier this year, committee members talked of trying to pass a GI Bill improvements package by year’s end, but that is no longer certain. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., veterans’ affairs committee’s economic opportunity panel that is responsible for crafting a GI Bill package, has warned that efforts to find money to pay for improvements could delay consideration of the bill until next year.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee tentatively approved its own GI Bill improvements package in August, but it has held the bill rather than report it to the full Senate while a number of issues, including funding, are worked out.

The Senate bill, S 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act, would not change eligibility for transferring benefits to a spouse or children.

Two other GI Bill transfer rights measures are pending before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

One, also introduced Sept. 29, would automatically transfer a service member’s GI Bill benefits to a spouse if the member dies on active duty. That bill, HR 6372, is sponsored by Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va.

Pending before the committee since last year is HR 3577, sponsored by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, which would allow people who retired between Dec. 9, 2001, and Aug. 1, 2009, with 20 or more years of service to have the same right to share Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits with family members as those who were still on active duty when the program took effect.

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