House Bill 1324, known as the Pennsylvania GI Bill, was signed in to law July 1, 2019. The Bill authorized the Military Family Education Program (MFEP) which allows spouses and children of Pennsylvania National Guard members to attend college at no or reduced cost.
Under the PA GI Bill, Pennsylvania National Guard members who commit to an additional six years of service can receive five years of higher education benefits for their spouses and children. The program will provide for 10 semesters of tuition-free education for family member(s). The benefit must be used at a Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) approved educational institution, and at the tuition rate set by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
Q: What is MFEP?
A: An educational assistance grant for dependents (spouse or children), earned by Army and Air National Guard members for their commitment to and service in the Pennsylvania National Guard. The MFEP grant can be used for a degree granting curriculum or certificate granting curriculum, course of study or training programs required for entrance into a specific career as determined by PHEAA at an approved PHEAA institution of higher learning, including technology fee, for up to five academic years. The member can assign the entire benefit to one dependent or a portion of the benefit to more than one dependent.
Q: What are the eligibility requirements for MFEP?
A: PA Guard members may extend their current service obligation or reenlist for MFEP after completion of their initial service obligation in PA National Guard. In order to be eligible, the PA Guard member must be eligible to service in PA Guard for an additional 6 years from the date of extension or reenlistment and be in good standing/satisfactory participant in the PA Guard. Additionally, PA Guard members who are not Pennsylvania residents are eligible to apply for MFEP grant for use at an approved PHEAA institution of higher learning in Pennsylvania.
Q: Are M-Day, Technician and AGR T32/T10 Officers, Warrant Officers and Enlisted Soldiers eligible for MFEP?
Q: When will MFEP become effective?
A: The MFEP benefit will be available for use by dependents during the 2020/2021 Academic Year. Open enrollment for eligible PA Guard members will begin with publication of MFEP Pennsylvania Military Regulation (PMR) O/A 1 OCT 19. An eligible member’s 6 year service obligation for MFEP will be back dated to the effective date of House Bill 1324 (1 JUL 19), if member can demonstrate completion of their initial service obligation in PA Guard and has extended/reenlisted for an additional 6 year service obligation to PA Guard on or after 1 JUL 19.
Q: Who are considered eligible dependents?
A: Dependents who meet criteria IAW Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
Q: Can a PA Guard member enroll, extend or reenlist for MFEP without having dependents at the time?
A: Yes, the PA Guard member may earn the MFEP benefit for their future dependents. If PA Guard member completes both their initial and subsequent 6 year service obligation to PA Guard, and is later separated under honorable conditions, the member will be issued a certificate of eligibility for use within the guidelines of the program.
Q: Can a PA Guard member change the dependent(s) assigned to receive the MFEP benefit during or after service in PA Guard?
A: Yes, PA Guard members can change dependent(s) assigned to receive the MFEP benefit while serving as a PA Guard member, as well as after separation within the guidelines of the program.
Q: How long are dependents eligible to use MFEP?
A: A spouse can use the assigned MFEP benefit up to 6 years after the member’s separation from PA Guard. Children can use the assigned MFEP benefit before reaching 26 years of age.
Q: Can dependents of PA Guard members receive the MFEP benefit if the member was separated or discharged with an Other Than Honorable characterization?
A: Yes, if the former PA Guard member’s service during the 6 year obligation for MFEP was served honorably.
Q: May PA Guard members assign the MFEP benefit to their spouse if the spouse is also a PA Guard member?
Q: Is a dependent’s MFEP benefit capped at 5 years or can a dependent receive 10 years of benefits, if both parents are PA Guard members that enrolled in MFEP?
A: A dependent may receive 10 years of benefits, if both of a dependent’s parents are PA Guard members who have both enrolled in MFEP and they both assigned their benefits to the same dependent.
Q: What if a dependent child uses MFEP and then enlists into PA Guard, can they use both EAP & MFEP?
A: In this example, the dependent child could use both MFEP and EAP concurrently for themselves. Requires subsequent obligation for 6 years to transfer to their own dependent.
Q: What are the rules if PA Guard member is divorced?
A: MFEP benefit could be considered marital property under Pa.C.S.A. § 3501(a) Defines Marital Property.
Q: How do I apply for MFEP and what supporting documents are required?
A: Upon commencement of open enrollment O/A 1 OCT 19, PA Guard members can apply for MFEP by submitting an application through their unit, to PA National Guard Education Office. The application will consist of a signed PHEAA MFEP Promissory Note, a completed MFEP Form 1 (MFEP Statement of Understanding) and the following supporting documents: the previous service contract that demonstrates the member’s completion of initial service obligation to the PA Guard and reenlistment/extension contract that demonstrates the member subsequent 6 year obligation. Members can designate/change the assignment of the MFEP benefit to dependent(s) using an MFEP Form 4 (Designate/Change Dependent Recipients) with a copy of the member’s DD 1172 (DEERS Enrollment Application). Once the MFEP benefit is available for use by the assigned dependent(s) during the 2020/2021 Academic Year, the assigned dependent(s) must submit an MFEP 2 (MFEP Application) to the PA National Guard Education Office between 1 MAR xx and 30 JUN xx, each year to access the tuition grant. Timelines for applications, validation that the PA Guard member is in good standing/satisfactory participant and institution disbursements will mirror the EAP process. Dependents must submit a MFEP Form 3 (MFEP Change of Enrollment) to update changes to the original application.
Q: May PA Guard members and their dependent(s) use MFEP in conjunction with other tuition/education benefits?
Q: Has the State of Pennsylvania appropriated funding to support MFEP?
A: Yes, and same guidelines as EAP; if insufficient funding in any given year, the agency (PHEAA) and TAG may reduce the maximum amount of either MFEP or EAP grants or set limit on the number of participants to ensure that sums expended do not exceed appropriations.
Q: If a member is flagged or “not in good standing/unsatisfactory participant”, can they enroll and/or dependents use of MFEP?
A: PA Guard members cannot enroll, nor can their dependents use the MFEP benefit if member is not in good standing/unsatisfactory participant. If the member was in good standing/satisfactory participant at the time of enrollment but later becomes not in good standing/ unsatisfactory participant, the dependent(s) may not use the benefit until the member again becomes in good standing/satisfactory participant. However, if the member completes their entire 6 year service obligation and subsequently becomes not in good standing/unsatisfactory participant or is later separated; the dependent(s) can use benefit.
Q: How will involuntary separations (ie. MRD, Age 60, QRB, SRB, ASMB, Medical, Death, AGR Retention Control Point, etc…) effect dependents ability to use benefit if member was not able to complete the 6 year obligation for EAP and MFEP?
A: Enrollment into program requires the PA Guard member to have the ability to complete an additional 6 year obligation in PA Guard. Officers are required to have 6 years on MRD at the time of execution of a statement of understanding. Soldiers/Airmen must be able to complete the 6 year obligation before reaching age 60, unless age waiver is granted per regulatory guidance. Involuntary separations (ie. QRB/SRB/ASMB/Medical/Death) will not impact dependents’ ability to use the benefit. However, AGR Soldiers meeting Retention Control Point can enroll in MFEP and dependents may use benefit, if the remainder of the PA Guard member’s 6 year obligation is fulfilled in M-Day status.
Q: When does a 6 year obligation begin for MFEP?
A: For currently serving PA Guard members who have completed their initial service obligation to the PA Guard, their service obligation for MFEP will be back dated to the effective date of House Bill 1324 (1 JUL 19), if member can demonstrate completion of their initial service obligation in PA Guard and has extended/reenlisted for an additional 6 year service obligation to PA Guard on or after 1 JUL 19. Below are three examples:
PA Army National Guard
Situation #1. Eligible PA Guard member completed initial service obligation to PA Guard and on 1 JUL 19 reenlisted for a 6 year service obligation to PA Guard – member meets criteria for MFEP.
Situation #2. Eligible PA Guard member completed initial service obligation to PA Guard and on 1 JUN 19 reenlisted for a 6 year service obligation to PA Guard. Member would need to extend for one month to demonstrate a 6 year service obligation – member would then meet criteria for MFEP.
PA Air National Guard
Situation #3. Eligible PA Guard member completed initial service obligation to PA Guard and shall complete a new reenlistment contract effective 1 JUL 19 – member would then meet criteria for MFEP.
In both situations, PA Guard members must sign a PHEAA MFEP Promissory Note and complete an MFEP Form 1 (Statement of Understanding) concurrent with their service contact; as the supporting document is military service contract for 6 year obligation for the MFEP benefit.
Officers, previously completing initial service obligation to PA Guard and meet eligibility criteria on 1 JUL 19, will use 1 JUL 19 as the start date of service obligation. Applications received 60 days after the PMR is published (29 NOV 19), service obligation begins the date the Officer signed the PHEAA MFEP Promissory Note and MFEP Form 1 (Statement of Understanding).
Q: What constitutes a PA Army National Guard, Prior Service Officers’ first obligation to PA Guard to qualify for MFEP?
A: All Prior Service Officers owe remaining service obligation (including Reserve Service Obligation) or 2 years, whichever is longer, to PA Guard.
Q: What constitutes the initial service obligation for a traditional ROTC Officer appointment into PA Guard to qualify for MFEP?
A: The Officer’s initial 6 years of service in the PA Guard; if a Cadet in Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP), including enlisted service time in PA Guard.
Q: What constitutes the initial service obligation for a PA Guard Enlisted member, who is later appointed as commissioned Officer through an Officer commissioning program (ie. OCS/WOCS), within their initial 6 year obligation to PA Guard, to qualify for MFEP?
A: The Officer’s initial 6 years of service to the PA Guard, including enlisted service time in PA Guard.
Q: Are PA Air National Guard Aviators on 10 year service contract eligible for MFEP after 6-years of service?
A: Yes, upon completion of initial 6 years of service to the PA Guard, member signs PHEAA MFEP Promissory Note and completes an MFEP Form 1 (Statement of Understanding), committing to serve for an additional 6 years in PA Guard.
Q: If a PA Air National Guard member has their initial service obligation to the PA Guard completed and is mid-contract otherwise, will the member be able to reenlist and enter a new contract?
A: Yes, Airmen can complete a new contract to achieve 6 years to allow eligibility for MFEP.
Q: If a PA Air National Guard member is under a contract in which they earned a bonus, will the new 6 year reenlistment contract negatively impact the bonus?
Q: Are previously separated PA Guard members eligible for MFEP if they re-join the PA Guard?
A: Yes, previously separated PA Guard members are eligible for MFEP if they enlist for a 6 year service obligation, had previously completed their initial service obligation in the PA Guard and were separated under honorable conditions.
Q: Do Prior Service members (Active Duty, Reserve or other State/Territory Guardsmen), who complete their initial service obligation in the PA Guard, have a choice to use either EAP or MFEP?
A: Yes, if PA Guard member accepts an obligation to serve in the PA Guard for 6 years they can choose to enroll in either EAP or MFEP. (See Service Obligation Options document for examples of prior service scenarios).