By SCOTT WYLAND | STARS AND STRIPES
Thirteen seniors celebrate June 4, 2019 after graduating from Ansbach High School at the Army garrison in Germany. Servicemembers with more than 16 years of service were given an additional six months to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to family members. Children must be high school graduates or 18 to receive the benefits. AMY STORK/U.S. ARMY
Military personnel with more than 16 years of service will have an additional six months to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to family members, while Congress decides whether to remove the restriction on transfers.
A new Defense Department rule was set to take effect on July 12, limiting the benefit transfers to troops with at least six years of service but no more than 16 years.
The Pentagon extended the deadline until Jan. 12, 2020 for troops who have more than 16 years of service to give Congress time to discuss the House Armed Services Committee’s proposal to change the rule.
Troops still must have served at least six years and be able to reenlist for four more years.
“This is a welcome decision by the department to slow down implementation of a policy that will unfairly affect some of our most seasoned servicemembers,” Armed Services committee member Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said in a statement.
Courtney proposed repealing the 16-year limit and received the committee’s unanimous support. He sent a letter on June 24 to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper requesting that the Pentagon delay imposing the restriction.
The Pentagon announced plans for the limit in July 2018. Previously, there were no restrictions on when servicemembers could transfer education benefits to family members after they’d served six years.
Servicemembers wounded in combat who have received Purple Heart medals are exempted from the rule.
When veterans advocates criticized the restriction, military officials said the transfers were intended as a retention tool and not as a benefit to career servicemembers.
In his letter to Esper, Courtney said efforts to retain good servicemembers shouldn’t stop at 16 years.
“Ultimately, we hope that you will reconsider implementing this new limitation entirely and look forward to working with you as we consider policies to attract and retain our country’s best and the brightest,” Courtney said.