The original G.I. Joe doll — sorry, action figure — came on the scene in 1964, and has been a hit ever since. G.I. Joe is immortal, but real GIs not only leave the service, they go on to other, great things, like college. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an enormously valuable asset earned through military service. The benefits from the GI Bill can be transferred to family members, too, such as a spouse or child. And yes, divorce can affect this benefit.
What the G.I. Bill Provides
According to the Veterans Administration (VA), the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides transferable benefits to:
- Enlisted personnel
- Active duty members
- Selected reservists
Unused education benefits can go to immediate family members:
- Spouse exclusively; or
- Children exclusively; or
- Any combination of spouse and children
The VA will pay up to three years’ benefits for approved programs. This includes such payments as in-state public institution tuition and fees, monthly housing, books, supplies, and a one-time rural benefit payment.
The scope of training and education programs is so grand, you would be hard pressed to think of something that was not covered:
- Correspondence training
- Cooperative training
- Entrepreneurship training
- Flight training
- Independent and distance learning
- Institutions of higher learning undergraduate and graduate degrees
- Licensing and certification reimbursement
- Vocational/technical training, non-college degree programs
- National testing reimbursement
- On-the-job training
- Tuition Assistance top-up
- Tutorial assistance
- Vocational/technical training
Are GI Benefits Marital Property?
A veteran’s Post-9/11 GI benefits are not a marital asset, meaning they are separate property belonging exclusively to the servicemember. The spouse is not entitled to a share of those benefits. This does not mean, however, the spouse and servicemember cannot work out an arrangement to share the valuable asset.
This enormously generous benefit comes with a 15-year clock, meaning it is an ideal asset to transfer to your children. It is by default exclusively the benefit of the servicemember, so you have to make some effort to transfer it to either your children or spouse.
The place to resolve the sharing or transfer of this asset is the property settlement agreement. Considering how expensive in-state tuitions are becoming, this benefit could be an excellent way to safeguard postsecondary education for children after divorce.
How to Transfer GI Benefits during Divorce
As with anything related to the government or military service, strict rules and regulations apply. The transfer of benefits must be done before the divorce is final. The “spouse” of a servicemember cannot be a former spouse. Since a property settlement agreement is one step along the path to divorce, getting this done correctly is not difficult, but cannot be overlooked.
Say you are the servicemember wishing to transfer equal portions of the benefit to your wife and your two children, Marina and Armie. Have your attorney spell out the division in the property settlement. The steps for completing the process begin by signing in at the DMDC Milconnect portal.
Details about the process are also available at Military.com, or you can contact the VA directly with questions. The second, possibly more important restriction on transferring the benefits has to do with the servicemember’s right to revoke the benefit at any time while on active duty in the Selected Reserve.
This is federal law and cannot be written away by an agreement. If you, the servicemember, later revoke your spouse’s use of your benefit, you could be leaving her exposed to some very hefty education bills. Your best interests, and those of your spouse using the benefits, are served by agreeing to pay for her educational costs if you revoke her benefit. This is a self-imposed mechanism to prevent you from irrationally revoking her access to the benefit.
Can GI Bill Transfer Count toward Spousal Support?
The VA is nothing if not helpful and rife with pamphlets. You can learn more about the transferability of Post-9/11 GI benefits here, or here. The safest way to proceed is to inform your attorney very early in the divorce process of your intention to share your benefit with your children and your spouse before the divorce is final. The property settlement agreement can spell out the apportionment, but by the time the judge rules on the agreement, the benefits have to already be transferred.
One way to view the benefit, which has no monetarily invested cost to you, is as part of a spousal support agreement. Say your spouse wants $2,000 a month from you, but the value of a one-third share of your Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefit is around $750. You offer the benefit and a check for $1,250, a much smaller out of pocket expense for you.
Your attorney can advise you on how to handle the benefit to get the most out of it for yourself, your children, and even your spouse. If, for example, you have a spousal support payment schedule intended to get your ex-wife educated and able to support herself, you can negotiate that your ex-wife will get a two-year Associate’s Degree through the GI Bill and then your support payments will stop.
Call the Military Divorce Lawyers at The Firm For Men
For more information and further clarity in understanding how the Post-9/11 GI Bill can work for you during your military divorce, call us at The Firm for Men, 757-383-9184. We will be happy to review the process, and also let you know the reason GI Joe has a scar on his right cheek. Can’t wait? Oh, all right, then, we’ll tell you. It is a legal thing: the human body cannot be patented, so to get a patent on the 12″ action figure, Hasbro gave him the scar. And 12″ is no accident; GI Joe is always half an inch taller than a Barbie doll.