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Is It True My Late Husband’s GI Bill Benefits Have Expired?

Q: My husband was a Marine killed in action March 23, 2003 in Iraq. We have 2 sons together. After all the healing and putting my families lives back together, I feel I am ready emotionally & physically to start college for myself. I’ve heard his GI Bill has expired after so many years and is not available to me any longer. I should make it clear I have not since his death remarried. Do you know if this is true that it’s too late for me to use his educational benefits?

A: First, please accept our condolences for your loss. You can take comfort in knowing he served his country well. As far as answering your question, you won’t be able to use your husband’s Montgomery GI Bill, because it never had a transfer of benefits option to it and you wouldn’t be able to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill because in 2003, had not started yet – it wouldn’t start until August 1, 2009. However, all may not be lost.

Under Chapter 35 – Survivor’s and Dependent’s Education Assistance Program, you most likely have 45 months of eligibility that you could still use to go to college. Under a change in 2004, you now have up to 20 years to use your Chapter 35 benefits – increased up from the original 10 years which would have put you in a bind on time being you are already into the eighth year.

Because of the change, you still have over 11 years left to use up your benefits – more than enough time to a four-year degree. However as another option, you could look at taking a 12 to 18 month training program at a vocational technical school and get Chapter 35 to pay for it. You would then still have time and months of eligibility left to continue on to a four-year degree later if you wish.

You mentioned that you have not remarried. Under Chapter 35 rules, if you remarry before age 57, your Chapter 35 benefits end. After age 57, they continue on.

Should you choose to use your Chapter 35 benefits, it currently pays $957.00 per month to go to school and you have to pay all your own education expenses.

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