If you’re an active-duty, Guard or Reserve Airman, Air Force veteran, or qualified survivor or dependent, you may qualify for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits through the GI Bill program and other educational assistance programs. The VA may be able to help pay your tuition, pick out a school, choose a career and more.
Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped millions of veterans pay for college, graduate school and training programs. Under this bill, qualifying veterans and their family members can get money to cover all or some of the costs for school or training.
If you qualify for more than one VA education benefit, you’ll have to pick which one you want to use. This is an irrevocable decision, meaning you can’t change your mind. Eligibility stipulations and benefit details are available at base education offices.
(GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.)
You may be able to get benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you qualify for any GI Bill program and have served on active duty for at least 90 days, with or without a break in service, after September 10, 2001.
Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits expire 15 years after your last separation date from active service. You must use all of your benefit by that time or you’ll lose whatever is left. If your service ended on or after January 1, 2013, there is no time limit, or “delimiting date,” to use your education benefits. A recently enacted law gets rid of the expiration date for you.
Benefits are based on aggregate, honorable service and include college tuition (up to a certain amount), a monthly housing stipend and an annual books/supplies stipend. Active duty and distance learning students may receive a pro-rated benefit. The benefit amount depends on which school you attend, how much active-duty service you’ve had since September 10, 2001 and how many credits or training hours you’re taking.
If you haven’t used all of your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, you may be able to transfer up to 36 months’ worth of benefits to your spouse or a dependent child. The Post-9/11 GI Bill's transfer-to-dependent option is designed to help improve military retention and recruiting and is only available to eligible active-duty service members and selected Reservists.
Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited to, service members who meet all Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirements, have completed six years of service, can commit to serving an additional four more years and have registered their dependents in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
Airmen receiving a less-than-honorable discharge, even if previously eligible and/or approved for TEB, will lose the transferred benefit and become ineligible for future use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The Department of Defense decides whether you can transfer benefits to your family. On July 12, 2018, DOD published a news release about its updated policy on the transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to eligible family members.
The policy change said that effective immediately, all Airmen must be eligible to complete the required four-year service commitment from the date of their election to transfer benefits. If you were unable to commit to another four years for any reason, you would be unable to request a transfer of benefits.
On Oct. 25, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness pushed the effective date of the policy change out to July 12, 2019, reasoning that certain service members previously eligible to transfer benefits, but who had not yet successfully completed the transfer process, may have found themselves no longer eligible to transfer their educational benefits.
However, Airmen who are separated due to a “force shaping” event, but not retired, retain their eligibility to transfer benefits. The update also included additional changes requiring Airmen on limited duty, involved in a Medical or Physical Evaluation Board or Disability Evaluation System process to wait until the process is complete before assessing transfer of benefits eligibility.
Also effective July 12, 2019 -- and recently extended to Jan. 12, 2020 -- eligibility to transfer those benefits will be limited to service members with less than 16 years of total active-duty or selected reserve service.
These changes are consistent with DOD’s focus on retention as the armed forces grow and preserve the distinction of transferability as a retention incentive rather than an entitlement.
The provision that requires a service member to have at least six years of service to apply to transfer benefits remains unchanged in the policy.
To find out if you qualify to transfer benefits, contact the Total Force Service Center at 1-800-525-0102, 1-210-565-5000 or DSN 665-5000. To transfer benefits, visit the Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer Step-by-Step Instructions on myPers.
Effective Aug. 31, 2018, Purple Heart recipients currently serving in the armed forces may request a transfer of unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents, regardless of whether the Airman has six years or has exceeded 16 years in service. The Airman is not required to enter into an agreement to serve four additional years. Other than the TIS and ADSC exemptions, Purple Heart recipients are required to meet all other Transfer of Education Benefits eligibility requirements.
The Air Force’s Personnel Center processes eligibility verification using data from a number of systems to include the Military Personnel Data System, DEERS, Automated Records Management System and VA information, to include confirmation of time in service, retainability, dependents listed in DEERS and any Active Duty Service Commitments on file. Typically, AFPC receives notification through the TEB website after an Airman has requested to transfer benefits. Eligibility confirmation is transmitted back through the TEB website and Airman will also receive notification via myPers. The application process takes about 30 days.
Other VA educational assistance programs may provide help paying for school tuition, testing fees and advanced licensing and certifications. You may also be able to get entrepreneurship training to help start or improve a small business.
In some cases, the dependent or surviving spouse and children of a veteran can get educational assistance through Survivors’ and Dependents’ Assistance, another GI Bill program.
If you have a service-connected disability that limits your ability to work or prevents you from working, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation and employment, or VR&E, benefits and services, like help exploring employment options and getting more training, if required. Your dependent family members may also be eligible for career and educational counseling and other support through the VR&E program.
Find more information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other educational assistance programs on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website at https://www.vets.gov/education/.