WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bill to ensure that surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty receive the same educational benefits as the family members of servicemembers who elect to transfer their benefits today advanced through the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The Fry Scholarship Enhancement Act of 2015 would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the allowance set by the post 9/11 GI Bill. This bill was included as a broader omnibus package that will move to the Senate floor.
“The families of servicemembers killed in action have sacrificed so much and they have our respect and our gratitude,” Brown said. “Expanding the Yellow Ribbon Program will ensure that they have full access to the educational benefits they deserve.”
The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001. Tuition and fees at private institutions, however, can exceed the amounts provided under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. At institutions that volunteer to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, in addition to GI Bill benefits, the VA will match funds that the institution chooses to contribute to eligible students. Currently, spouses and children of servicemembers who died in combat may not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, while veterans and the spouses and children of servicemembers who elected to transfer their benefits may do so. This forces some military families to pay out-of-pocket for their education.
The Fry Scholarship Enhancement Act of 2015 would make surviving spouses and children eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, ensuring equitable support for these military families. The bill is supported by The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Gold Star Wives, Gold Star Moms, and the National Military Family Association.