Airmen can now apply to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Department of Defense officials began accepting applications from Airmen to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to dependents June 29.

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits option is a landmark benefit to eligible Airmen," said Lt. Gen. Richard Newton III, deputy chief of staff for Air Force personnel and manpower. "The transfer option also serves as an effective military retention and recruiting tool."

Active duty and Selected Reserve Airmen who are eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs Post 9/11 GI Bill, are on duty as of Aug. 1, have already served at least six years and who commit to four more years of service, have the option to transfer their benefits to eligible dependents. Retirement-eligible members may have a reduced service commitment, based on their retirement eligibility window. Details are available at the resource links below.

HOW TO APPLY

Before applying to transfer benefits, an Airman should do four things to ensure a smooth and efficient application process.

"First, you should get counseling from your education center on your GI Bill options," said Thomas Hawthorne, AFPC's education service's chief.

Next, Airmen must have at least four years of retainability left before transferring benefits, unless retirement-eligible.

"We encourage any Airmen who need additional retainability to visit their servicing military personnel section for counseling on re-enlisting or extending their current enlistment before applying to transfer their benefits," Mr. Hawthorne said.

Third, Airmen must sign a Statement of Understanding, which will acknowledge acceptance of their active duty service commitment. The SOU will be available in military personnel sections, education offices and on the Air Force Publications site by Aug. 1. Additional information on how to submit the SOU will be released by Aug. 1.

And finally, Airmen planning to transfer their benefits should verify family member information is accurate in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System.

"If your family members are not in DEERS, you will not be able to select them to transfer benefits to," Mr. Hawthorne added.

To apply to transfer benefits, visit the Transfer Education Benefits Web site at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB. Applicants must use a common access card, a DOD self-service user identification or a Defense Finance and Accounting Service personal identification number to access the site. The TEB site also is posted on the Air Force Virtual Education Center on the Air Force Portal.

HOW THE APPLICATION PROCESS WORKS

Currently, more than 144,000 active duty Airmen, and thousands more Selected Reservists, may be eligible for the transfer-to-dependents option. However, Air Force leaders are asking applicants whose family members won't use the benefits for the upcoming fall semester to hold off registering until mid-July.

"Due to the expected popularity of the transfer of benefits program, Airmen whose family members won't need the benefits for the Fall 2009 semester should wait until mid-to-late July to apply, so we can process the applications for family members who plan to use the benefits immediately first," General Newton said.

Air Force Personnel Center officials are responsible for reviewing all transfer applications received from Regular Air Force Airmen for eligibility. 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, after receipt of the Statement of Understanding, AFPC will update the member's Active Duty Service Commitment and return the approved application to the TEB site," Mr. Hawthorne said.

If for some reason an applicant doesn't meet eligibility requirements, the application will be returned to the TEB site. AFPC representatives will provide the applicant with a statement of why it was disapproved, or guidance on what actions are required before approval can be granted.

GUIDANCE FOR AIRMEN

Defense officials also emphasize caution, foresight and patience when applying for transferring benefits.

According to a recent DOD release, new family members can be added to a member's TEB application as long as that member is in the military, but not after separating or retiring. Thus, defense officials advise erring on the side of caution and including every eligible family member on the application, even if he or she receives just one month of benefit.

"Once an Airman's transfer of benefits has been approved, they can always go back in and change which family member receives what amount of their benefit, if any, as long as that family member was included before the Airman leaves the service," Mr. Hawthorne explained.

In addition, customers are asked to be patient with the processing of applications, especially during the first few months of the program. Benefits and service commitment will be based on the date of application, but in no case earlier than Aug. 1, the effective date of the program, Mr. Hawthorne said.

"Even if it takes us a month or so to process your application, your service commitment clock will be retroactive to the date you applied, but no earlier than Aug. 1. The VA will allow you to seek reimbursement of benefits paid during the application approval process," Mr. Hawthorne added.

For more details, visit the Post-9/11 GI Bill link on www.afpc.randolph.af.mil or the "Ask" AFPC site, or call the Total Force Service Center - San Antonio at 1-800-525-0102. For specific details on Selected Reservists transferring GI Bill benefits, contact the Total Force Service Center - Denver at 1-800-525-0102.

Additional guidance about GI Bill options can be found at www.va.gov or at the DOD's Post-9/11 GI Bill site: http://www.defenselink.mil/home/features/2009/0409_gibill.