VA Bill Contains Survivor Education Piece

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On August 7, President Obama signed the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 into law. This bipartisan legislation  will make sweeping changes to veterans’ access to health care. The new law also provides educational benefits to surviving spouses by expanding eligibility for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship.

The law expands eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to include surviving spouses of members of the Armed Forces who died or die in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. The scholarship may be used for up to 15 years after the service member’s death unless the surviving spouse remarries. The surviving spouse would also have to make an irrevocable decision to choose either the Fry scholarship or the Dependent Education Assistance (DEA) benefits – choosing one, but not both. A fact sheet comparing the benefits is available online.The new provisions will be effective January 1, 2015.

The Fry scholarship provides up to 36 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill-like benefits at the 100 percent level, to include full tuition and fees, housing allowance and stipend for books. The DEA benefits provide up to $1003 per month as a full time college student without stipends for housing or books. The surviving spouse in this case would be eligible to use the DEA benefit for up to 20 years after the death of the service member or to the date the spouse remarries.

This is a huge benefit improvement for surviving spouses of the recent wars, one that has been on the list of legislative goals for the National Military Family Association and the Military Coalition.

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