(CHILDREN OF FALLEN SERVICE MEMBERS)
The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 ("Choice Act") was recently signed into law.
Section 701 of the Choice Act expands the Fry Scholarship to include the surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. Prior to this law, only children of those who died in the line of duty were eligible for this benefit. We have had the honor to have served 1,279 children under the Fry Scholarship in FY 2013 and we look forward to now honoring the surviving spouses.
The law states eligible spouses are entitled to receive:
- 36 months of full benefits, equal to 100% level of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, this includes tuition and fee payment, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies.
- Training must start on or after January 1, 2015. Training prior to January 1, 2015, is not eligible to receive benefits under Section 701.
- A spouse has 15 years from the date of the Service Member's death to utilize benefits. If a spouse remarries, benefits end the date of the remarriage.
Some spouses currently eligible for, or already receiving, benefits under the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program may now be eligible for the Fry Scholarship. DEA is an educational program offering up to 45 months of education benefits to eligible dependents of Veterans who died while on active duty, as well as dependents of Veterans who died as a result of a service-connected condition or are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition. Surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001, will have to make a one-time irrevocable election to receive either the Fry Scholarship or DEA.
- The children of military personnel who died in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001 can apply for an educational scholarship similar to the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. Benefits are retroactive to Aug. 1, 2009.
- The scholarship, which is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are named after Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry, 28, a Texas native who died in Iraq in 2006 while disarming an explosive. He was survived by three young children.
- "The Fry scholarship represents this nation’s solemn commitment to care for children whose mothers and fathers paid the ultimate price for our country," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
- VA begins accepting applications for the Fry scholarship on May 1, 2010. For more information or assistance applying, call toll-free 1-888-GIBILL-1 (1-888-442-4551), or visit the VA GI Bill Website at www.gibill.va.gov.
- VA estimates nearly 1,500 children will receive benefits under the Fry scholarship program in 2010. Recipients generally have 15 years to use their benefits, beginning on their 18th birthdays.
- Eligible children attending institutions of higher learning may receive payments to cover their tuition and fees up to the highest amounts charged to public, in-state students at undergraduate institutions in each state. A monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies are also paid under this program.
- VA will begin paying benefits under the Fry scholarships on Aug. 1, 2010. Eligible participants may receive benefits retroactively to August 1, 2009, the same day the Post-9/11 GI Bill took effect
- Eligible children may be married. Recipients are entitled to 36 months of benefits at the 100 percent level.
- When dependents also serve in the military, the reserves or are Veterans in their own right, eligible for education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill for Active Duty, the Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserves or the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP), then they would relinquish their eligibility under those programs to receive benefits under a Fry scholarship.