• Blogs
  • >
  • Changes to the ‘Forever’ GI Bill - What It Means for You

Created specifically for returning WWII veterans, the GI Bill provides tuition expense benefits for service members to attend a college or vocational/technical school. The Bill underwent a change after the events of 9/11. While it still funded a public undergraduate education to veterans who have served four years on active duty since 9/11, a monthly living stipend while pursuing a degree was added, and as well as the ability to transfer benefits to a spouse or children, to be used within 15 years of service.

In 2017, the ‘Forever GI Bill’, officially named the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, removed any and all time limits on the time span in which veterans are required to use benefits, enabling them to be used at any time - and to be able to be transferred to a dependent - forever, as long as the service member had served at least six years before using the GI Bill benefits.

With the newest changes announced last month by the DoD, the bill is being changed again. Now, while veterans must still serve at least six years before the transfer of GI Bill benefits, only veterans with less than 16 years of active duty service or selected reserve service are able to transfer their benefits, or risk losing the option to transfer the benefits. Veterans with 20 years of service or more are no longer eligible to transfer Bill benefits, but may still use the Bill for their own education.

In addition, veterans must have signed up for an additional four years of service to meet the requirements of the benefit exchange. This change will go into effect a year from now, and it is expected to impact almost 10% of veterans, many of whom have chosen a military career.

Why the change? “After a thorough review of the policy, we saw a need to focus on retention in a time of increased growth of the armed forces," said Stephanie Miller, director of accessions policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “This change continues to allow career service members that earned this benefit to share it with their family members while they continue to serve.”

However, veteran advocate groups are criticizing the policy changes. “This is a benefit, and any time you take away a benefit, that’s not a good thing,” said retired Navy Capt. Paul Frost of the Military Officers Association of America’s transition center.

American Legion spokesman retired Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler called the changes “the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” going on to say that “we understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it, and [the change] disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the use of this earned benefit.”

Learn more about the current GI Bill, and view the upcoming changes on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.