Special Ops Survivors is pleased to announce that on Dec. 16, 2016, President Obama signed into law H.R. 6416, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, which will make a number of improvements to VA health care, the disability compensation process and other veterans services including expanding the amount of time that certain widows and widowers may receive and utilize Post 9/11 G.I. Bill educational assistance benefits under the Fry Scholarship.
For surviving spouses, this change means that the Fry Scholarship has been extended for those survivors whose service member died between Sept. 11, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2005 and will essentially be treated as if the spouse died on Jan 1, 2006. The bill also includes a provision to reselect so if a surviving spouse chose the old DEA Chapter 35 benefit because they didn’t have enough time for the Fry Scholarship benefit, they can reselect without penalty. They can utilize the Fry Scholarship benefit even if they have already used their old VA benefit.
Special Ops Survivors would like to extend its gratitude to all the surviving spouses engaged with the organization who were strong advocates of the passage of this bill and worked tirelessly to engage the organization’s supporters to contact their legislators and others in support of this bill.
“We are excited that this legislation has been signed into law as it will greatly help surviving spouses in our network continue with their education,” says Sara Wingerath-Schlanger, executive director of Special Ops Survivors. “We are also very happy that those in our network took such a leadership role in helping to ensure the bill passed.”
The Fry Scholarship, named in honor of Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry who lost his life in 2006, was originally created for children of fallen military personnel. Scholarship benefits were extended to surviving spouses in August 2014 and went into effect on January 1, 2015, but included a time limit to utilize the benefits. The law cuts off Fry Scholarship eligibility for surviving spouses 15 years following the date of the service member’s death, putting those who lost their loved one shortly after 9/11 at a disadvantage. This new bill will expand the time to utilizes these funds.
The expansion proposed by this legislation will allow our nation to honor its commitment to the families of military personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Special Ops Survivors will continue to provide information about this extension as it becomes available.