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Durbin, Foster, McMorris Rodgers Urge Congress To Act To Ensure All Veterans Get The Benefits They Deserve

Apr 24, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), along with Senator Dick Durbin, have reintroduced the GI Education Benefits Fairness Act, bipartisan legislation to fix a law that is causing veterans to be denied the benefits they deserve.

The GI Bill has been one of the most successful pieces of legislation in our country’s history, growing our economy and helping veterans assimilate into civilian life. However, one oversight in the law is preventing some veterans from getting the benefits they have earned.

Dozens of families whose children were approved to receive their parents’ GI education benefits had those benefits revoked because of a bureaucratic oversight. The GI Education Benefits Fairness Act has been introduced to fix this problem.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America and the Student Veterans of America.

“The GI Bill has helped millions of veterans realize the America dream, and it has created a larger, stronger middle class. It has been a huge success for our national economy, returning $7 to the economy for every $1 spent,” said Foster. “But because of a bureaucratic oversight, some veterans are being denied the benefits they have earned. Our soldiers have honored the promise they made to serve our country, we need to honor the promises we make to them.”

“This bill fixes a small problem with the Post-9/11 GI Bill that is creating big problems for some service member and veterans families. Men and women who have served our country should be able to share the benefits they earned with the children they consider their own,” said Durbin.

“As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Military Family Caucus, I am committed to making life better for America’s service members and their families – and it starts by empowering them with the tools and education benefits they need to succeed.  That’s exactly what this legislation will do.  We know that when a parent joins the military, it’s not just a job; it’s a family commitment to our country.  And so we’ll continue to work together to protect the brave men and women who have so valiantly defended America,” said McMorris Rodgers.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits to veterans and service members who serve on active duty after September 10, 2001. Many of our active duty troops can transfer their GI education benefits to their children. Under current law, the Department of Defense includes wards and foster children in the definition of an eligible child, while the Veterans Administration does not. This has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for members of the armed services and their families.

More than 100 wards and foster children were initially approved by DOD for GI education benefits, and money was paid out to their schools. Then, mid-semester, the VA revoked their benefits and the students and their families were notified that they would have to pay back all the money. These students now face unexpected amounts of crippling debt.

The GI Education Benefits Fairness Act would amend the definition of an “eligible child” for the purposes of transferability of benefits under the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program to include the DOD definition of a child – which includes wards and foster children. Doing so would allow foster children and wards who were approved for GI education benefits, then had them revoked, to receive the education funding they were promised.

Foster learned of the issue from Joliet native Sgt. 1st Class Angela Dees. More on her story is available here.