More than 80 House lawmakers want the Pentagon to reconsider a new policy that blocks troops with 16 or more years of service from transferring their post-9/11 GI Bill.
Currently, troops with at least six years of service can transfer their post-9/11 GI Bill to a dependent as long as they agree to serve an additional four years. There is no cap on time in service for those who want to transfer.
But a new policy, announced early this month, would block anyone with 16 or more years of service from beginning the transfer process starting next July. A separate change that starts immediately blocks those who cannot complete the required additional service, such as troops going through the medical retirement process, from starting the transfer process.
The letter, sent July 26 from a bipartisan group of representatives, says blocking those with 16 years or more from making the transfer breaks a commitment.
"On behalf of a grateful nation, it is our collective duty and responsibility to uphold the hard-earned benefits of our nation's active-duty service members and veterans, and to remain faithful stewards of the GI Bill's educational assistance program," the letter states. "Revoking transferability benefits breaks this commitment with our most dedicated and seasoned service members."
Unlike many military benefits, which are required entitlements set forth in law, the ability to transfer the benefit was put in place by lawmakers as a retention tool the Pentagon can choose to use or discard completely. In a policy announcement explaining the changes, Pentagon officials said their goal is to bring the transfer option in line with that design.
"The secretary concerned may permit an individual ... who is entitled to educational assistance ... to elect to transfer," the law states. "The purpose of the authority ... is to promote recruitment and retention in the uniformed services."
But in their new letter, lawmakers instead call transferability an "education benefit."
"Educational benefits should be maintained after proving oneself through years of devoted and continuing military service -- not removed after the 16-year mark," the letter states. "Eliminating the ability to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to family members after honorably completing 16 years of service sends exactly the wrong message to those who have chosen the military as their long-term career, and sets a dangerous precedent for the removal of other critical benefits as members approach military retirement."
The letter asks the Pentagon to reverse course.
"This change in policy is unacceptable, and we call upon you to swiftly reverse this decision," it states.
No legislation mandating that reversal or changing the law to make transferability an entitlement has been introduced. House lawmakers left Washington on July 26 for their annual August summer recess.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.