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Officers of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service
Are Eligible for New GI Bill -- But Not Transferability

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), officers of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps) are eligible to enroll in the “new” GI Bill (designated as Chapter 33 of Title 38) but are not eligible to transfer those educational benefits to their dependents.

Provisions of Chapter 33 are still being reviewed and VA is in the process of developing enrollment procedures. Under provisions of the bill the Secretary of Defense may authorize the Secretary concerned, in order to promote recruitment and retention of members of the Armed Forces, to permit an individual to elect to transfer a portion of his/her educational entitlement to one or more of his/her dependents. The bill defines "Secretary concerned" as the Secretary of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Homeland Security (when the U.S. Coast Guard is not operating as a service in the Navy).

However, Title 38 grants the Secretary of VA the authority to administer VA educational programs and the VA has defined "active duty" to include full-time duty (other than for training purposes) as a commissioned officer of the Regular Corps or Reserve Corps of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service on or after 29 July 1945. This enables the Secretary to determine that Corps officers are eligible to enroll in Chapter 33 if they meet the other eligibility criteria, i.e., at least 30 days of continuous active duty after 10 September 2001, etc. This includes Corps officers currently on active duty and eligible for benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) (Chapter 30) who wish to disenroll from Chapter 30 in order to enroll in Chapter 33.

More information will be provided as it becomes available, but Corps officers can go to the VA Web site www.va.gov and follow the links to education benefits to see several scenarios contrasting the benefits between Chapter 33 (Post-9/11 GI Bill) and Chapter 30 (MGIB). It should be noted that implementation of the "new" GI Bill is not slated to occur until August 2009 and enrollment will be accomplished through the VA and not the Corps.
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