As a service member, you know that you qualify for GI Bill benefits that help pay for up to 36 months of higher education. But here’s something you may not know: around 50 percent of veterans never use their Post-9/11 GI Bill.

No, that doesn’t make them low-speed. There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t need to use your benefits. Maybe you already had your degree before you joined the military. Perhaps you were an overachiever who managed to complete classes while on active duty, and graduated before leaving the military. (If that’s you, good job making the most of your Tuition Assistance program).

Whatever the reason, you may not need to use your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. But you definitely shouldn’t stand by and let those hard-earned benefits go to waste. Just think about all those nights in the field wondering when you’d see a proper shower again. You deserve to reap the rewards! Or your family does, at least —you can transfer your GI Bill to your spouse, your children, or a combination of both. You can select any number of unused months (up to 36) and request specific amounts go toward each dependent.

Remember, your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits don’t just cover tuition. Yes, they cover 100% of the tuition fees at a public institution for a full-time student, and up to $25,162.14 per year at a private college or university. But the GI Bill benefits also include a generous housing allowance for students enrolled more than full-time, and up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies - Both of which could be huge savings for your kids.

A word of caution: transferring your benefits may not be the most straightforward process. There are certain limitations and restrictions you need to be aware of so that you can make the request at the right time.

To transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill to your children, you must meet the following conditions:

  1. Your child must be an eligible dependent and be registered in DEERS.
  2. You must have completed at least six years of military service.
  3. You must agree to add four more years to your service.
  4. And, one new restriction that began in January 2020: only service members with less than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service will be able to transfer their GI Bill to dependents.

That means there’s a limited golden window when you’ve served between 6 and 16 years and are preparing to re-enlist. Because, yes, you must still be active duty to transfer your benefits. Once you transition out of the military, you won’t be able to transfer your GI Bill.

Let’s say you’re in that window, you’ve aligned your Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) request with your reenlistment, and the TOE is approved. When can your children begin to use the benefits? Carefully review the conditions below:

  • Children cannot use the benefit until the service member has completed 10 years of service.
  • Children cannot use the benefits until they either achieve a high school diploma or reach age 18.
  • They can use the benefits, including the housing allowance, whether you are active duty or separated.
  • They can wait up to 15 years after you separate from active duty to begin benefits, but cannot use them after they are 26 years old.
  • Children can still use the benefits, even if they get married.

One final tip: Apply for the transfer while you’re still on active duty, and allocate at least one month of benefits to each of your children. Once they’re in the system, you can always adjust the amounts after you leave the service. But remember, you can’t add them into the system after you leave. So if you have been thinking of transferring the GI Bill to your children, start planning the right time to request it. And contact a military-friendly school like Purdue Global that can help you navigate through the process and get the most of your benefits. Learn more about Purdue Global’s programs

This article is sponsored by Purdue Global.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.