By: Natalie Gross - Military Times
The Pentagon is weighing a policy change that would limit certain service members from transferring their education benefits to dependents, a Defense Department official said in a written statement this week.
In response to questions from the Senate Armed Service Committee about military retention, Anthony Kurta said the Department of Defense “intends to issue a policy change to the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” prohibiting service members with 16 or more years in uniform from transferring the benefit to their dependents.
Current GI Bill policy allows service members with at least six years of service to transfer their benefits to a dependent, provided they agree to serve four more.
“This change reflects an emphasis on retention, consistent with the original congressional intent,” wrote Kurta, President Trump’s nominee for under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Kurta is already performing the duties of the role, and the Senate committee approved him for the next step in the confirmation process Thursday.
His testimony said the new restriction would take effect one year from the date DoD finalizes the policy change.
A Pentagon spokesperson said the policy change is not yet official, but he did not provide further comment by press time.
The addition of a cap to one aspect of the GI Bill is a sore spot for some in the veterans education space, who recently fought for a provision in the new Forever GI Bill that lifted a 15-year time limit on the benefit.
“These are benefits through life,” said Chanin Nuntavong, a spokesman for American Legion, whose members include both veterans and active-duty service members.
Joe Plenzler, also a Legion spokesman, said Friday he had not previously heard about the DoD’s plan to change the transfer rules for the GI Bill and is concerned about some of the language in Kurta’s statement.
“As a matter of principle, the American Legion is against anything that would degrade a veteran’s current benefit,” he said, later adding, “We’re looking forward to hearing the logic behind that proposal.”
Dan Merry, vice president for government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, said in an email, “Any review or changes to the GI Bill should include discussions with the military and veteran service organization community, Congress, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. We welcome the opportunity to be a part of that process.”
Student Veterans of America Vice President of Government Affairs Will Hubbard said because a majority of those using the GI Bill are veterans, and thus not eligible to transfer benefits, the proposed change isn’t a major concern for the organization’s members.
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