Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bill allows veterans and active military to transfer benefits to family members

May 1, 2008 -
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) this week gave his support to a measure that builds on and enhances the existing Montgomery GI Bill. The legislation, introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ), aims to meet the education needs of our nation’s veterans as well as those men and women of the active military and their families.

“We owe a great debt to those who don the uniform to serve our country. Ensuring that our veterans and active military have access to a good education is a top priority,” said Martinez. “In addition to increasing monthly education benefits, this bill allows those benefits to be transferred to family members. That step is designed to enhance recruitment and retention. The sacrifice of the families of our service men and women should also be recognized through additional education opportunities.”

The bill enhances the existing Montgomery GI Bill by significantly improving education benefits for both service members who choose to leave the military as well as those who decide to make military service their career. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children. It also bolsters recruitment and retention efforts, encouraging service members to continue their military careers.

This bill calls for increasing the current monthly education benefit from about $1,100 a month to $1,500 a month, which represents the national average monthly cost for tuition, room, board, and fees at a state university. Additionally, this act provides $500 per year for books and supplies. For military members with 12 or more years of service, the monthly benefit will rise to $2,000 a month.

In a letter to Congress from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he wrote, “Our first objective is to strengthen the All-Volunteer force. Accordingly, it is essential to permit transferability of unused education benefits from service members to family. This is the highest priority set by the Service Chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and fleet. Transferability supports military families, thereby enhancing retention. Second, any enhancement of the education benefit, whether used in service or after retirement, must serve to enhance recruiting and not undercut retention.”