A relatively painless guide to transferring your GI Bill benefits

gettyimages 2773641 A relatively painless guide to transferring your GI Bill benefits

A student studies in the main library at the University College London on December 1, 2003 in London. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

By Abigail Hartley

For starters, let’s cover the basics: the Post-9/11 GI Bill helps pay for 36 months of higher education, at different rates depending on how long you served. If you have a benefit rate of 100%, then you’re also eligible for Yellow Ribbon benefits once you separate from active duty, which helps pay for private or out-of-state institutions.

Maybe you’re not planning on using your benefits, but you’ve got a spouse or kids who could definitely use help paying for higher education. You can totally use your GI Bill for that! Transferring your benefits isn’t that hard, but there are definitely some things you need to know.

To transfer your benefits, you must be active duty (you can’t transfer your benefits as a retiree … it’s a bummer, I know).

But if you’re active military, one of these statements also has to be true for you to transfer your benefits:

  • You’ve been active or in the Reserve for six years by the date the transfer is approved, and you’ve already agreed to four more.
  • You’ve been active or in the Reserve for more than ten years by the date the transfer is approved and are “precluded by either standard policy … or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy.”

Now, it’s time to pick who’s getting your benefits. You can divide up your benefits between multiple people if you need to, or you can give them all to one person. You can also transfer the benefits between people after the fact—say, if child #1 gets a full scholarship and doesn’t need help paying for school, then you can transfer your benefits to child #2. You can do that here.

The rules for dependents using your GI Bill benefits are a little different, so let’s run through them really quick.


  • Can start using the benefits right away
  • Will NOT receive a monthly housing allowance while they’re in school
  • Can use the benefits anytime you’re active or in the 15 years after your last separation from active duty, UNLESS you left active duty on or before January 1, 2013, in which case there’s no time limit (Forever GI bill)


  • Can only use the benefits after you’ve completed at least 10 years of service
  • Can use the benefits anytime, whether you’re active or retired
  • WILL receive a monthly housing stipend while they’re in school
  • Can’t use it after they turn 26
  • Must have a high school diploma/GED or be over 18 years old

There’s also the matter of Yellow Ribbon benefits, which can transfer over with Post-9/11 GI benefits. There are a few conditions with Yellow Ribbon, though: primarily, you have to be retired, unless you’re transferring your benefits to your kid. According to the VA website, “Child transferees of active duty Servicemembers may be eligible if the Servicemember is qualified at the 100 percent rate.”

You also need to make sure that the school your spouse/kid is attending participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. You can check a state-by-state list of Yellow Ribbon colleges and universities for the 2017-18 school year here.

And that’s it! Go forth and educate. If you have specific questions, then scroll down to the bottom of this webpage and find the contact person for your branch of service.

Listen Live