VA Conference approves Fry Expansion- Awaiting full vote
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Posted by: Suzanne Gerstner
7/28/2014 - VA Reform Bill receives full joint committee endorsement- still pending full house and Senate Vote. Post 9/11 Active Duty Fry Expansion provisions Make it through.
7/27/2014- VA Reform Bill Agreement Reached between Senate Veterans and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairs
6/24/2014- GSW Submits letter to VA Conrees. Issues Press Release on Fry Expansion
GOLD STAR WIVES OF AMERICA URGE CONFEREES TO RETAIN FRY SCHOLARSHIP LANGUAGE
Washington, DC: Gold Star Wives of America today urged House and Senate conferees to retain the Fry Scholarship language during negotiations of S. 2450.
“The Fry Scholarship for surviving spouses is invaluable and vital to the many survivors who are picking up the pieces after unspeakable loss and trying to provide for themselves and their families,” said GSW Jane Horton, whose husband Christopher was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. “It will not only provide us with the tools we need to empower us to start our new lives, but it will help us to achieve the American dream that our loved ones fought, died for, and earned. It is the right thing to do for America's families who have paid the highest price and are too often forgotten,” she said.
Gold Star Wives of America testified last year on the importance of the Fry Scholarship, as well as extending benefits to all Post 9/11 survivors. In a recent letter to Chairman Bernie Sanders and Senator John McCain, Gold Star Wives urged swift action on S. 2450, partly because of this important section.
Joe Racalto, DC Representative for Gold Star Wives added, “We have a rare moment to help survivors with the passage of this bill. We are urging all survivors to contact the conferees and urge them to keep the Fry Scholarship language included in the final bill.”
Originally Posted: 6/14/2014
This week the Senate passed S 2450, Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, which contains provisions to expand the Fry Scholarship to Post 9/11 Surviving Spouses. These provisions are included in Section 701 (Expansion of Fry Scholarship) and 702 (In state Tuition).
The bill is not yet law though. The companion bill HR 3230 passed the house in October 2013. The final bill must hash out any inconsistencies between them before it can head to the President.
In these provisions surviving spouses would trade a 20 year delimitation date for a 15 year delimitation date, 45 months of benefits to 36 months of benefits. However on a positive note, these benefits (when and if they become law) would be paid at a much higher rate then what is currently being paid under VA Chapter 35. This increase would provide not only for 100% tuition up to (approx 19.5k), but also housing stipend and book allowance. Currently Chapter 35 pays only approximately 40% of a surviving spouses tuition with no additional allowances for books or housing (percentage may vary depending on state and degree program). Under the provisions of the bill, surviving spouses would make an irrevocable election and must choose between Chapter 35 or the Fry. The bill makes no provisions as to how it will handle those post 9/11 surviving spouses who have already started using their Chapter 35, or any transition possibilities. It would not even take effect until 2015 if it does pass.
GSW is supportive of the measure to increase Surviving Spouses Educational Benefits and thankful to the Senate and House for passing such a needed improvement.
Under the expansion of the the VA educational programs, remarriage of a spouse (or child) does terminate eligibility for the benefit.
The Yellow Ribbon provisions of the GI Bill do not apply to either the Fry or Chapter 35.
The death period for those still eligible for Chapter 35 is deaths from 1994 to present under the 20 year delimitation date. GSW will continue to push to increase Chapter 35, which Surviving Spouses and Wounded Veterans families are eligible to use. However, an educational black hole of Student Loan Debt remains for
those on advanced degrees using Chapter 35 Benefits and ineligible for the Post 9/11
expansion (varies by state).