WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) – ranking member and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – to expand in-state tuition eligibility for the families of veterans who die from service-connected disabilities.
The Dependents Education Assistance (DEA) program provides VA education benefits, including tuition, housing and book stipends, to the children or spouse of a servicemember who is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability, died while on active duty prior to 9/11, or dies as a result of 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 will help reduce the out-of-pocket education costs for surviving spouses and children.
“Military service is family service,” said Sen. Moran. “This country has made a commitment to care for the families of fallen servicemembers. The Senate acted upon that commitment and passed this legislation that will 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. I urge my colleagues in the House to quickly pass this legislation.”
“Military families make incredible sacrifices on behalf of this nation, and in return, it’s our responsibility to ensure their education doesn’t come with a high price tag,” said Sen. Tester. “The Senate’s unanimous passage of our bill is a critical step in our push to make education both affordable and accessible for all servicemembers, veterans, and their families. Once signed into law, this legislation will cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for those who’ve fought to defend us.”
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 1, 2011 have access to both the Fry Scholarship and DEA, this legislation would make certain families, like Colonel McHugh’s family, are eligible to receive the in-state tuition rate when using DEA benefits.
This legislation will now be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.
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