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Does the Change in the Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Benefits Process Affect Surviving Spouses?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My first husband was killed in Afghanistan while in active duty. I just heard that Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits should be transferred by August 1, 2013. Does this affect survivors? Are there any other educational benefits survivors will need to transfer? Is so, how do I transfer my first husband’s benefits (post 9/11 and/or others) to his children? I can’t find any information online. Thank you so much.

A: The upcoming Post 9/11 GI Bill change in transfer of benefits will not affect you or your children. It only applies to those that are retirement eligible and still serving. If your husband did not (or was not yet eligible to) transfer benefits to you or your children, then you don’t have any of his GI Bill benefits to use.

However, you most likely do qualify for Chapter 35, which is a GI Bill you should be able to use as a surviving spouse unless you remarry or are remarried and under the age of 57. You and each child should be eligible for up to 44 months of Chapter 35 benefits each that you can use to go to school. To apply, go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-5490 on yourself and each eligible dependent child.

Your children can start using their benefits at age 18 or upon graduating from high school, whichever is first, and would have to use their benefits by age 26. You, on the other hand as the surviving spouse, have up to 20 years from the date of your husband’s death to use your benefits.

Right now Chapter 35 is paying $987 per month and you have to pay your own tuition, fee and books. While that is not much, it is an opportunity for you to get trained in something that you can use to support yourself. Good luck.

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