The final 2009 Supplemental Appropriations bill (H.R. 2346), which funds U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, includes a provision to expand GI Bill benefits to children of fallen U.S. soldiers. The provision, authored by Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX), expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefit to cover the full cost of a college education for all children of fallen soldiers. The new benefit will be known as the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship in honor of a fallen soldier with three young children from Edwards' district.
Under the current GI bill, beneficiaries must serve 6 years with an additional 4 year commitment in order to earn the right to transfer their benefits among their dependents. Edwards' provision extends the full benefit to each dependent child and does not impose a minimum of military service to qualify.
"If a parent gives their life in service to country, their surviving family members shouldn't be forced to choose which child gets to go to college," said Edwards.
The new education benefits for the children of people who die on active duty allows children to use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that could have been transferred to them if their military parent had lived. Transfer rights are a key part of the new veterans' benefit that is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1.
The supplemental amends the 9-11 GI Bill so that children of those who have died on active duty since 9/11 qualify for the education benefit; eliminates the requirement that the deceased parent must have completed a minimum of military service in order for their benefits to be transferred to their children; and eliminates the cap on transferred benefits which is currently 36 months of benefits in total for all surviving children. The new Fry scholarship is slightly different than the normal family transfer option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill in that the scholarship will qualify dependents for their own full 36 months of benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows more than one person to receive transferred benefits, but no more than 36 total months can be transferred.
Upon passage of the bill, all children of fallen soldiers would qualify for the maximum benefit:
The bill is expected to be approved by the House and Senate next week and sent to the president for his signature. Because this is a last-minute edition to the veterans' education benefits program, the bill includes language giving the Veterans Administration until Aug. 1, 2010, to create a process for applying for Fry scholarships and promised retroactive payments to dependants who use the benefits between Aug. 1, 2009 and Aug. 1, 2010.
Publication Date: 6/15/2009