GI Family Planning

This August 1, DoD will roll out what it has touted as “the most comprehensive educational benefit package” since the original GI Bill, or the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was signed into law.

Servicemembers under the new bill will be able to pass their benefit onto a spouse or child. The new policy did not sound like a big deal to us, but defense honchos explained transferability has been one of the most requested changes by the men and women in uniform as well as family advocacy groups.

A defense spokesman sees transferability as a crucial tool to address the force management (read: retention) goals of the services. Dr. Curtis Gilroy, director for accession policy within the office of the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. stated, “Educational benefits cut both ways. They are great recruiting tools, but they can be tremendous disincentives to retention,” he said. In fact, the Post 9/11 GI Bill apparently has been a self-inflicted gunshot wound to retention across the services. They say members have left the service to take advantage of its generous benefits. (And we thought they were leaving because they wanted out.) To remedy this retention challenge, lawmakers modified the program allowing the transfer, ideally keeping the member in uniform longer. Ideally.

After August 1, the program is available to any member of the Armed Forces (active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted). Specifics on time in service, payback tours and the like vary, but there seems to be a program that fits everyone’s situation.

Under the new provisions, the program’s cost cannot exceed the top dollar of an undergraduate program at in-state school. In some cases a living stipend is provided. There also is an annual book allowance, and the transfer is not limited to a spouse or child. It can go to either, both, and multiple children — though we did not see a provision about multiple spouses though.

We’re still skeptical that this program is the milestone defense officials are making it out to be, but we’ll take the body counters’ word on it.

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