FORT BELVOIR, Va. (U.S. Army) — Understanding the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be daunting. That's why Fort Belvoir Education Guidance Counselor, Jack Lenahan, hosted a briefing on the bill July 25 at the USO Warrior and Family Center.
"The purpose of this briefing is to make sure that any and all folks that are eligible to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits -- meaning service members, family members, dependent children -- are aware of all the benefits, and of some changes that have been made," Lenahan said.
During the briefing, Lenahan explained key changes to the bill, especially the change in service members' ability to transfer their education benefits, which takes effect Aug 1.
Starting Aug. 1, all service members who sign up to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a dependent will incur a four-year additional service obligation, or ADSO, regardless of their time in service. The four-year ADSO is concurrent with other service obligations.
"If you have 25, 30 years (in), if you want to transfer those benefits starting (Aug. 1) or thereafter, you incur a four-year ADSO," Lenahan said.
Previously, service members with 20 years of service could transfer benefits and only be required to serve one to three additional years, depending on when they hit the 20-year mark. Now, those who cannot commit to four more years, such as those with a mandatory retirement date, cannot sign up to transfer their benefits. (However, they can still use the benefits themselves).
Service members who signed up to transfer benefits before Aug. 1, are not subject to this change.
Lenahan also used the briefing to discuss how a service member can transfer those benefits.
Transferring benefits service members must be on active duty for a minimum of six years (after Sept. 10, 2001) to transfer their benefits to a spouse or dependent.
Those who aren't sure when they plan to separate or retire from the military should sign up now to transfer their benefits, just in case, Lenahan said. He also recommended an "insurance policy" of giving at least one month of benefits to every possible beneficiary before retiring. Once they retire, they can still change the number of months different beneficiaries get, or even cancel benefits.
To transfer benefits, visit www.gibill.va.gov , or visit the Barden Education Center located at 9625 Belvoir Road. Education counselors can help walk service members through the process.
The process is quick and easy, Lenahan added.
"On an average, it might take 10 minutes," he said.
Kim Seldon, an Army veteran, military spouse and USO volunteer, is currently using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to put one of her sons through college. At the briefing, she encouraged all eligible service members to sign up for benefits, or to transfer them, as soon as possible, to ensure they don't miss out on this educational opportunity.
"It's a really great program," she said. "It's worth thousands of dollars. I just hope all of the service members and their families can take advantage of the program."
Service members (and their spouses, if they receive transferred benefits) can use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for up to 15 years after the service member's retirement. Children must use the benefits between the ages of 18 and 26.
For more information, call the Barden Education Center at (703) 805-9270. The education center is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Service members can also visit www.gibill.va.gov  or call Veterans Affairs at (888) 442-4551.
Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part series on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The second part of the series will focus on eligibility and the Yellow Ribbon Program.