Lawmakers are asking the Defense Department to hold off on a controversial education benefits change while they try and force a legislative fix.
The change, scheduled to roll out July 12, will bar long-serving troops from transferring the Post-9/11 GI Bill to their dependents — a move the Pentagon has said is necessary to preserve the benefit as a recruitment and retention tool.
Yet members of the House of Representatives Armed Service Committee voted unanimously in mid-June to throw out the new policy as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, with one member calling it “a truly lousy decision" by DoD.
But because the NDAA is unlikely to pass through Congress before the July 12 start date, 29 members of the committee have signed a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, asking him to delay implementing the new policy — or do away with it entirely — to avoid “whiplash of a potential reversal" if the NDAA as it currently stands becomes law.
The Pentagon did not respond to request for comment by press time.
Currently, troops with at least six years of military service may transfer their GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child, provided they agree to serve for four more years. The impending policy change would end transfer options for service members with more than 16 years in uniform.
In the letter, signed by 23 House Democrats and six Republicans, lawmakers write, “We strongly disagree with this change in policy. It remains critically important to attract and retain the best-qualified individuals for military service and we believe it sends exactly the wrong message to some of our most seasoned service members to make them ineligible for incentives to continue their service to our nation.”
They have asked for a written response from the acting secretary before July 12.
Military Times deputy editor Leo Shane contributed to this story.
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.