VA reform law opens education doors for Widows of American Military
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Posted by: Shelley Cook
Birmingham, Alabama - On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 3230, the Veterans' Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 into law, paving the way for many surviving spouses of active duty service members who died after 9/11/2001 to receive the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship. The new law also affords some survivors in-state tuition under chapter 30 and chapter 33 benefits.
“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 Gold Star Wife and signing ceremony attendee 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.
Ms. Horton, along with other members of the Gold Star Wives of America Government Relations Committee(GRC), played an integral role in ensuring the benefit was included in the Veterans Administration(VA) reform bill.
“We anxiously await the release of many of the details regarding how the VA will handle this benefit for surviving spouses who started to use their chapter 35 benefits and would like to switch to the Fry Scholarship,” said GSW board member and Education Chair, Renee Monczynski. “We will closely monitor the transition and provide input to the VA Office of Survivor Assistance regarding the needs of these surviving spouses.”
“We have worked tirelessly for 4 years to increase these education benefits,” said Jamie Tomek, Chair of the GRC. “We are so thankful to the Joint Veterans Committee and members of the House and Senate who set aside partisan differences to do what was right for survivors who have already endured so much.”
The Fry Scholarship will be available after January 1, 2015 to post 9/11 active duty surviving spouses. The benefit covers the full cost of tuition, as well as a geographically rated monthly basic allowance for housing at an E5 level, and a $1000 yearly stipend for books and fees. Unlike chapter 35 benefits, The tuition covered by the Fry Scholarship is directly paid to the school.
Qualifying surviving spouses will be required to make a one time irrevocable choice to use the Fry Scholarship.
“Our work is not yet finished,” noted GSW national President Harriet Boyden. “We will continue to work to ensure that all military surviving spouses who wish to pursue a degree are provided benefits that reflect the current cost of education in this country.”
For more information about ongoing efforts to improve benefits for military surviving spouses, contact Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. at 888-751-6350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.