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Top 6 steps to take when GI Bill benefits expire

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Question:

I am a retired Air Force NCO, 1973-1993. All I see is the Post 9-11 Transference of the GI Bill. I know I fall under the old bill. Do I have the ability to transfer anything I have left to my daughter? And how can I find out what I have left in any benefits? Thank You, Francis

Answer:

Francis, thank you for both your question and the opportunity to address a major challenge faced by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Far too many veterans remain uncertain of their benefits. Often veterans do not want to be a bother or to be a burden. As a result many benefits go unused or expire. Remember, you earned your benefits; do not be shy about using them.

A grateful nation established benefits to assist a veteran and their family. Routinely, I encounter people who sacrifice homes and jobs to care for elderly parents when those parents are eligible for veterans benefits to care for themselves. These veteran benefits are provided as recognition that military service may place burdens on both the veteran and the family. Concerning your daughter, I suggest a number of courses of action:

1. Contact the VA

Enroll in the VA 'eBenefits' program. This excellent development then allows access to many VA and Department of Defense (DoD) websites. Your GI Bill benefits appear to be expired but ask the question and ask for ideas and assistance. According to the VA:

“...Benefits for most people under the Mongtomery GI Bill Active Duty end 10 years from the date of your last discharge or release from active duty, there may be certain exceptions for those with prior eligibility under the Vietnam-Era GI Bill....You must finish your degree before this time limit to receive benefits, not begin your training by that time limit - this is a common misconception...”

There is good news. Other avenues exist that may provide scholarships, grants and assistance.

2. Use military resources

You remain a member of the military. As a retired airman, you are enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and your daughter may be eligible for scholarships, grants and special programs developed and offered by numerous agencies. You are not competing with current active duty military and you are eligible.

3. Check state and local government

Seek out your local or state veterans affairs establishment. Often, these offices may provide leads to scholarships, grants and other special programs for veterans and their families. Not handouts or charity, they are a thank you for the sacrifices that you and your family made serving our nation and your community.

4. Ask congressmen and senators

These individuals are there to assist you and many of these public servants are especially sensitive to veterans and their families. Ask to meet with a member of their staff to discuss programs for veterans and resources that may be available for family members.

5. Consult veterans organizations and military associations

Use your military ties and visit the various websites. Because veterans and military face many of the same challenges, grants, scholarships and loans may be available to help offset the high cost of college.

6. Review aid offered by colleges and universities

Education institutions at all levels possess aid tailored to the needs of many groups. Frequently, the children of veterans fit into one of these categories. When your daughter is searching for a college or university, it may pay dividends to ask about scholarships and grants aimed at children of veterans and retired military.

Please let me know what you encounter on your search for educational assistance. I urge all veterans to sign up with the VA and become aware of your benefits. They can assist both you and your family.

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