Can I Transfer My GI Bill Benefits After I Retire?

A military spouse and her husband embrace at a retirement ceremony.
A military spouse and her husband embrace at a retirement ceremony. (Air National Guard/Julianne Showalter)

I have been retired for eight years, and I am sure that I am not ever going to use my GI Bill benefits. How can I transfer it my family? Also, does it have to go to just one or can I split it among more than one of my kids?

We've got some bad news and, well, some more bad news for you.

The first bad news is that you can transfer your post-9/11 GI Bill only while you're on active duty, and then only if you meet the minimum service requirements and are willing to serve an additional service obligation.

The good news, if you want to stretch for it, is that you didn't actually miss the boat on transferring it while you were in. The option didn't become available until 2009, after you were already retired. So there really isn't much you could have done.

That's a pretty big bummer. But you may not be entirely without hope. Depending on what state you are in, your family could be eligible for other education benefits. You can see's state benefits guide here. So who is eligible for the GI Bill and how do they transfer it?

As a general rule, active-duty service members who have served for at least six years can transfer their benefits to a spouse or child if they agree to serve an additional four years. They can also choose to split the benefit between multiple children. (There's no need to play favorites!)

Spouses have 15 years from the time the service member leaves active duty to use the benefit. While children don't necessarily have a time limit, they do have to use it before they are 25 years old. If the spouse uses it while the service member is on active duty, he or she won't receive the housing allowance portion. If a child uses it, he or she will receive the housing allowance, regardless of whether the service member is still on active duty.

You can read all there is to know about transferring the GI Bill over here at's fact page.

But, a word of caution: GI Bill transferability has always been at the discretion of the Defense Department, meaning it could take away the benefit at any moment. That's why we strongly suggest that anyone who is eligible to transfer it should do so now, even if you aren't sure that you want to give it away. If the DoD yanks that part of the benefit, it is unlikely to take it away from those who have already transferred it, and you can always take it back to use yourself without penalty.

Wish we had better news. 

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