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Fix the GI Bill to be fairer for our troops and their families

This petition had 445 supporters

Doing the right thing should not require an exception to policy. In 2009, the GI Bill was adapted to allow service members who have served honorably the ability to transfer education benefits (TEB) to their spouse and children. These benefits are funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but the VA defers to the Department of Defense for eligibility criteria...criteria that has a giant loophole that hurts our service members and their families.

As an officer in the Air Force and father of 2 daughters, TEB was a great benefit and I agreed to serve an additional 4 years in the Air Force so my daughters could use the educational benefits. Halfway through the four years, my promotion to Major was denied. Despite being recommended for promotion and a record of distinction, the Air Force was undergoing cutbacks and there weren’t enough slots. It was an unexpected blow. Even worse, the educational benefits I had earned and had been approved to transfer would be taken away from my daughters.

My daughters should not lose out on 3 years of college tuition, a benefit I earned, because of a loophole. This petition calls on the Department of Defense to close that loophole by allowing TEB for service members who could not complete his or her service agreement as a result of involuntary separation due to non-selection for promotion.

Branches of the military are often forced to cut personnel. Sometimes, promotion boards are used to make those cuts. In the "up-or-out" military system, if service members are not promoted, they will be involuntarily separated or forced to retire. Even though these service members will receive an Honorable discharge, certain earned benefits don’t have to be extended. If I had been separated because of a Force Shaping or a Reduction in Force Board -- the normal way military personnel are "let go" that uses the same criteria as the promotion boards to decide who stays and who goes -- I would still have TEB for my daughters. Because services are using promotion boards as a way to cut personnel, 3 years of paid college tuition are gone for my girls.

For some military families the situation is even worse. They transferred and used their education benefits while still serving and then found themselves in the same situation as me, forced out for no other reason than being in the military during a drawdown. Those families are forced to pay back any tuition money they used. Some who have been forced out have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in educational debt that now has to be paid by these service members who are also losing their primary source of income. Does that sound fair to you?

This loophole affects all service members, enlisted and officers. Enlisted members can be involuntarily separated when they reach their High-Year Tenure (HYT) if they don't get promoted. Junior enlisted (E-4) can be forced out after 8 years of service. Officers can also be forced into early retirement and lose their TEB. On rare occasion, enlisted service members who were separated under High Year Tenure because they weren't promoted have been granted an exception to policy, but this is the exception that proves the rule. This is no way to treat military members and their families. We've earned these benefits and expected to use them as promised.

I served honorably for over 10 years in the Air Force. During that time I was deployed twice in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Knowing my family was being taken care of got me through the day. To learn a benefit I earned was being stripped away from my family was unacceptable. The Airman in me said to fight back. Not just for my family, but for all military families. No one should be left behind.

Please join me in asking the Department of Defense to amend the TEB policy to include service members who could not complete his or her service agreement as a result of involuntary separation due to non-selection for promotion.

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