Earlier this year, the Department of Defense rolled out a change to its GI Bill transfer policy that would keep long-serving troops from passing those benefits on to their dependents.

But that won’t apply to service members who have been wounded in combat, Pentagon officials announced today. Purple Heart recipients will be able to transfer their benefits, regardless of how many years they have served in the military or whether they are able to commit to a longer period of service.

What, exactly, are the changes? And who is — and is not — affected?

"Secretary Mattis has been clear, we must recognize the sacrifices these service members have made,” Stephanie Miller, director of accessions policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said in a statement announcing the change. “This policy reflects our continuing commitment to Wounded Warriors and their families.”

Under the new GI Bill transfer policy, which has been highly controversial, service members who have been in the military for more than 16 years will no longer be able to transfer GI Bill benefits to their dependents as of July 12, 2019. That’s a change from current policy, which doesn’t place a cap on time-in-service for transferability, provided service members can commit to four more years in the service.

The new policy also put an immediate end to the eligibility of some service members to transfer their benefits, including those who could not commit to the additional service requirement because of mandatory retirement, high-year tenure or medical issues.

These changes will no longer apply to Purple Heart recipients, though “all other laws and DOD policies concerning the transferability of unused Post-9/11 educational benefits remain in effect,” according to the Pentagon’s statement Wednesday. Since announcing its new policy, Pentagon officials have said the changes reflect the original purpose of the benefit as a recruiting and retention incentive.

Troops affected by the new 16-year cap still have several months to transfer their benefits before the new policy goes into effect.

Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.

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