WASHINGTON - A recent Defense Department policy change widens the eligibility window for some reserve-component troops who want to use their Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits, a senior DoD official said Tuesday.

The DoD policy now aligns with Department of Veterans Affairs rules, which say National Guard members and Reservists are eligible to receive Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits for the period covering the amount of time they served on active duty, plus four months, said Mr. Tom Bush, principal director for manpower and personnel within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.

After studying the matter over the past few months, DoD agreed to align its policy with the VA's, Bush said during a joint Pentagon Channel/American Forces Press Service interview. DoD's previous policy, he said, only recognized the amount of active-duty time as applied to the G.I. Bill coverage period for reserve-component members but still required the member to continue to serve in the Selected Reserve.

"The change, from the DoD perspective, is that the benefit now can be used by somebody who leaves the Selected Reserve for the amount of time that they've served on active duty, plus four months," Mr. Bush said. Guard and Reserve members who attend regular drill training and meetings are considered part of the Selected Reserve.

The total amount of G.I. Bill coverage for reservists is still 36 months, Mr. Bush said. "So, if you've used part of that (G.I. Bill benefit) it may eat into that 36 months," he noted.

Mr. Bush said Reservists normally have 14 years to use their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits. However, that time might also be extended, he noted, by the amount of time Guard or Reserve members serve on active duty, plus four months.

Senior Guard and Reserve officials, as well as demobilization sites, have been alerted to the policy change, Mr. Bush said.

About 370,000 Guard and Reserve members on drill or active-duty status have signed up to use Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Mr. Bush said.

The Reserve Education Assistance Program, established by the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, is another DoD education initiative for members of the Guard and Reserve, Mr. Bush noted. To be eligible, servicemembers must have served at least 90 consecutive days of active service after Sept. 11, 2001, in response to a Presidential or Congressional call-up of military forces for wartime or other emergency service.

Guard and Reserve members who served for two continuous years on active duty in support of a contingency operation would qualify for both the Montgomery G.I. Bill and REAP and could select which program they want to use, Mr. Bush noted.

Servicemembers can determine if they qualify for the Montgomery G.I. Bill and REAP by contacting their local education office.