RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas: The Department of Veterans Affairs opened its doors for accepting Post-9/11 GI Bill applications May 1. All Airmen and former Airmen with at least 90 days of active duty service since Sept. 11, 2001, can choose to apply for education benefits, which begin Aug. 1 under the new GI Bill law. To apply or for details on what the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers, visit the VA’s Web site, www.gibill.va.gov.
New bill basics
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides education funding and benefits to eligible veterans and Total Force Airmen. More than 670,000 retired, separated and active duty Airmen, in addition to thousands more reservists and guardsmen, are eligible for the new bill.
For Jeremy Jones, an Air Force veteran and graduate student at the University of Texas, this equates to more money for his degree and helps with living expenses.
“I’ve been going to school since I separated from the Air Force in 2008. I was never eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill, but the new GI Bill will allow me to go to school full-time while paying my full tuition and most of my rent,” said Mr. Jones, referring to a monthly housing stipend the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers for eligible members.
“Plus, I get an extra $1000 a year to offset the cost of my textbooks and school supplies,” he added, referencing the annual books/supplies stipend also a part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Although the bill may be used while on active duty, Airmen should first contact an education counselor to explore all options, such as tuition assistance, the tuition assistance top-up program, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI bill, according to Thomas Hawthorne, The Air Force Personnel Center’s education services chief.
Mr. Hawthorne also advised veterans on when to apply.
“If you’re a veteran or transitioning Airman planning to head to college in the fall, now is the time to apply for the new GI Bill if you think you’re eligible,” Mr. Hawthorne said. “However, for most Airmen and veterans who are simply looking at options for post-military careers and education plans down the line, take the time to educate yourself on all the VA’s education benefit options before deciding which program apply for and use.”
Transfer of benefits to family members
A landmark benefit of the new GI Bill allows eligible active duty and Selected Reserve Airmen, who are serving on or after Aug. 1, 2009, to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to qualified dependents. Currently, more than 144,000 active duty Airmen, and thousands more Selected Reservists, may be eligible for the transfer-to-dependents option.
“The transfer-to-dependent option of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a huge benefit to our Airmen,” said Maj. Gen. K.C. McClain, AFPC commander. “This part of the benefit is designed as a military retention and recruiting tool for active duty service members and Selected Reservists.”
Proposed Department of Defense policy lists eligibility requirements for the transfer-to-dependent option. Requirements include being on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on Aug.1, 2009; meeting all Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirements; already completing six years of service; committing to an additional four years of service; and having DEERS-registered dependents.
“AFPC is an integral part of the transfer-to-dependent option. Our role is to review all transfer applications received from Regular Air Force Airmen for eligibility,” General McClain said.
To do so, AFPC customer service representatives will check an applicant’s personnel record and validate retainability using the system of record. If the applicant is eligible for the transfer option, AFPC representatives will update the member’s Active Duty Service Commitment and return the application to the VA. For details, visit www.ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil and click on the Post-9/11 GI Bill spotlight link.
For Maj. Eric Hanley, an MC-130 pilot at Eglin AFB, Fla., and Master Sgt. Floyd Kirkland, 4th Contracting Squadron superintendent and first sergeant at Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C., the transfer-to-dependent option of the new GI Bill significantly changes their financial futures.
“The ability to transfer my 9/11 GI Bill benefits to my daughter is enormous for my family and me,” said Sergeant Kirkland. “Essentially, my daughter can now go to the college of her dreams. The GI Bill allows me the ability to pay for her advanced education and use our savings towards retirement.”
“It changes the whole way I’m looking at investing money,” said Major Hanley, who is currently deployed overseas. “I have one kid and another on the way who I’ve been trying to start a college savings plan for. Not that I won’t still save some money for them, but this new GI Bill transfer option allows me to invest for different goals, not just to pay for my kids’ college.”
Active duty Airmen and Selected Reservists can apply to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their dependents after Aug. 1 through the Transfer Education Benefits Web site under development by programmers in DOD’s Defense Manpower Data Center.
Eligible members who do not plan to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for themselves and only transfer their benefits to their family members do not need to apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill separately. The act of applying to transfer benefits also serves as application for GI Bill benefits for the member.
For more details, call the Total Force Service Center at 1-800-525-0102 or visit the Post-9/11 GI Bill spotlight link on the “Ask” AFPC Web site.
Post-9/11 GI Bill vs. Montgomery GI Bill
Airmen and veterans who currently have the Montgomery GI Bill and meet the eligibility requirements for the Post-9/11 GI Bill may apply to convert to the newer bill as of May 1, for a program start date of Aug. 1. This is a one-time, irrevocable conversion. Currently, approximately 187,000 RegAF Airmen are eligible to make the switch, if desired.
“For most eligible veterans, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a better alternative than the Montgomery GI Bill,” said Mr. Hawthorne. “Deciding which GI Bill to use depends on several factors, including the type of education or training you plan to take, the location of your school, and the amount of benefits received under each program.”
Individuals converting to the Post-9/11 GI Bill from the Montgomery GI Bill generally will be limited to the amount of remaining months of Montgomery GI Bill entitlement. However, if all Montgomery GI Bill benefits have been used — 36 months — individuals are still eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and can receive an additional 12 months of benefits — 48 months total, combined between two GI Bills, allowed under law.
The VA serves as the primary resource for information on all GI Bill education benefits. Airmen can find Air Force specific information on the AFPC “Ask” Web site by clicking on the Post-9/11 GI Bill spotlight link; or call the Total Force Service Center at 1-800-525-0102.