CHIAfE+VRES, Belgium - Aug. 1 is the date that the Post 9-11 GI Bill will take effect and the Department of Defense recently announced the policy for transferring educational benefits to spouses or children of Servicemembers.

The DOD also announced that on June 29, eligible Servicemembers can begin signing up their immediate family members for the transferability option under the Post 9-11 GI Bill using a new secure DOD Web site. It's not just a one-step process however. After Servicemembers designate their spouse or children using the Web site, the Army will verify the information and then Servicemembers will need to apply for the benefits through the Veterans Administration.

Cris Weisbecker, the acting Benelux Education Services officer, said there are many people who will want to take advantage of the new bill. She said the transferability option has been a major selling point to many people.

The transferability provision was pushed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after the idea was raised at a military spouse group at Fort Hood, Texas.

"We have had an overwhelming response and do expect quite a few of our members to take advantage of this," said Bob Clark, the assistant director for accessions policy at the Pentagon.

Eligible Servicemembers who take advantage of the post 9-11 GI bill and want to transfer their benefits will need to meet certain criteria before they can elect to transfer those benefits. Also, once Servicemembers have signed up for the new bill, they cannot go back to the Montgomery GI Bill said Weisbecker.

The new bill might be the perfect option for many Servicemembers, she added, but it may not be the right fit for every service member.

"Each person has to look into their future plans," she said. "This is not always the best choice for every individual," she said, noting that certification testing is not covered under the Post 9-11 GI Bill but it is covered under the Montgomery GI Bill.

Weisbecker said people interested in learning more about the Post 9-11 GI Bill should start their search for information on the VA Web site. "The Ed Center representatives are working to become subject matter experts on the new GI Bill but this is a VA program and people will need to contact the VA to get started," she said.

Weisbecker stressed that the most important thing Servicemembers and their families can do is educate themselves about the new bill and the differences between the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9-11 GI Bill.

"Take your time, read the information that's out there, make your own personal decision," said Weisbecker.

She also said that the Servicemembers who need to be on top of the process and pay attention to the approaching roll-out dates are those who want to use the new GI Bill for a school term starting in the fall.

Active duty Servicemembers or select reserve members who are serving on or after Aug. 1, who have served at least six years, and are willing to commit to an additional four years, are entitled to transfer benefits to their spouse. In order to transfer benefits to a child or children, the Servicemember needs to have served at least 10 years and be willing to commit to more time in service. Individual Ready Reserve members and members of the Fleet Reserve are not allowed to transfer benefits.

Servicemembers who have served at least 90 consecutive days on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, are also entitled to some benefits but these cannot be transferred to dependents and are pro-rated for the amount of time the Servicemember was on active duty.

Weisbecker stressed that there are many significant changes to this GI Bill and VA representatives will be able to answer questions and help get the process started if a Servicemember would like to take advantage of the program or transfer their benefits to a spouse or child/children.

[Portions of this article are from the American Forces Press Service]