April 15, 2013
By Charles Zuckerman
Many service members take advantage of the post-9/11 GI Bill. The useful benefit provides considerable assistance to soldiers looking to further their education once they leave the armed forces, and a growing number of soldiers are transferring their benefits to their children and spouses, according to new statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The increase in family members taking advantage of the benefits has happened relatively quickly. For instance, in 2011 the number of military spouses to use the benefits stood at about 32,000, and that number jumped to 54,000 in 2012, which is a 70 percent increase. While the spike wasn't quite as high for military children, their number rose to 93,500 during 2012, which was about a 13 percent increase compared to 2011.
Experts say there are a number of reasons for the increased enrollment among all groups - service members included - but one of the biggest causes is the drawdown from operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Michael Dakduk, the executive director of Student Veterans of America.
"There's a drawdown occurring right now," he told Army Times. "I think you're going to see a rise in usage from veterans and from spouses and children."
Education benefits have been at the center of discussion over the last several weeks. In the wake of sequestration, the tuition assistance program was temporarily suspended. The popular benefit helps many troops earn degrees, licenses and other certification. After much debate, the popular program was restored for the remainder of the fiscal year - until 2013 - but it remains to be seen whether it will continue after that.