WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee members – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Representatives Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and David Trone (D-Md.) – introduced legislation to expand in-state tuition eligibility for the families of veterans who die from service-connected disabilities.
The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA) program provides educational benefits to survivors of veterans who died from a service-connected disability. While any veteran, servicemember or survivor qualifying for the Fry Scholarship, or any dependent using transferred entitlement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, is eligible for in-state tuition at any state school in the country, DEA recipients are currently excluded by law from receiving the same in-state tuition benefit.
The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act would require public colleges and universities that receive GI Bill benefits to provide in-state tuition rates for students using DEA. Named after U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh, this legislation would help reduce the out-of-pocket education costs for surviving spouses and children.
“Military service is family service, and the family of Colonel John McHugh knows the pain of losing their husband and father as a result of his service to our nation,” said Ranking Member Moran. “This country has made a commitment to care for the families of fallen servicemembers, including the spouses and children of veterans who have passed away due to service-related disabilities. The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act would expand in-state tuition eligibility to reduce education costs for the spouses and children of veterans who rely on DEA to pursue an education. It’s incumbent upon us as a nation to make certain the families of servicemembers who have died from disabilities from their service to our country receive the benefits their loved ones have earned for them through their service.”
“Families of our nation’s fallen servicemembers endure the unimaginable,” said Chairman Tester. “In return for their sacrifice, we have a responsibility to ensure their education doesn’t come with a high price tag. Our bipartisan, bicameral proposal puts surviving families and their educational benefits first by relieving the burden of having to cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.”
“In 2010, U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation when he was killed in action by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan,” said Rep. Moore. “Like many Americans, he dreamed of building a better life for his family, and we owe it to his family and millions of Americans in their situation to help realize this dream. My legislation secures critical in-state tuition benefits for dependents and survivors of eligible veterans, and I am proud to lead this bipartisan effort to get these families the long overdue support they deserve.”
"We can never forget the sacrifices that families make alongside servicemembers,” said Rep. Trone. “Should something bad happen to a member of our armed forces, we have a responsibility to take care of the servicemember and their family. I'm proud to partner with Ranking Member Moore to improve the educational assistance programs for surviving families and show our continued, bipartisan support for members of the military, veterans, and their families."
"My family and I are honored and humbled that the COL John McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act is named after my dad,” said Kelly McHugh Stewart, surviving daughter of Colonel John M. McHugh. “My father believed in the power of education and knowing, in his memory, that Gold Star children will now have access to college educations, regardless of which state the university they wish to attend is located, would have meant the world to him. As a military child, "home" is all over the country, sometimes all over the world. By the time I graduated high school, I'd moved eleven different times. I didn't call just one state home, rather, I called the U.S. as a whole, the nation my father would die for, my home. Having the chance to attend Kansas State University was a wonderful opportunity for me while we were stationed at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Now, as family resides in the state of Alabama, my younger siblings will benefit from this change for in-state tuition as well. The chance to go to any university in this great country is a huge opportunity for children like my siblings and me, and we're grateful to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Senators Moran and Tester and Representatives Moore and Trone for making it happen."
“Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is grateful to Senators Moran and Tester and Representatives Moore and Trone for introducing the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act to bring parity to Chapter 35 recipients eligibility for in state tuition,” said Bonnie Carroll, president and founder TAPS. “Chapter 35 recipients are often forgotten in legislation and this is a huge step forward in ensuring they have equitable benefits. We look forward to seeing it passed into law.”
U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2010 while he and his family were stationed at Fort Leavenworth. His daughter was attending Kansas State University at the time of his death. While children whose parent died before August 8, 2011 have access to both the Fry Scholarship and DEA, this legislation would make certain Colonel McHugh’s family would be eligible to receive in-state tuition when using DEA benefits.
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