WASHINGTON – Today, the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act – legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – was signed into law. This law expands in-state tuition eligibility for the families of certain servicemembers who died while on active duty and veterans who die from service-connected disabilities.
“Today we were able to deliver more certainty to families who lose a loved one due to their military service,” said Ranking Member Moran. “Military service is family service, and this country has made a commitment to care for the families of fallen servicemembers. This sensible law will allow the surviving families of fallen servicemembers to receive the education benefits their family earned through their service to this nation and greatly lessen the financial burden on their dependents, to attend school.”
“Today marks a huge step forward for surviving family members in Montana and across the country who will now have expanded access to affordable, in-state tuition in return for their sacrifices,” said Chairman Tester. “This new law is a testament to what Congress can accomplish when we row in the same direction, and I’m proud to have worked alongside Ranking Member Moran and veterans’ advocates to deliver this critical support to the families of our nation’s fallen heroes.”
“We can’t thank Senators Moran and Tester enough for their work in getting this bill passed,” said Kelly McHugh, daughter of Colonel John M. McHugh. “Education was important to our father, so having his name attached to a bill that will assist other Gold Star families as they pursue their college educations is a huge honor.”
“TAPS is grateful for the passage of the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act, which passed the Senate in June and was signed into law this morning,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder. “The law will ensure that the over 150,000 Chapter 35 recipients will be able to afford to attend the college of their choice, by guaranteeing in-state tuition for all surviving spouses and children.”
Sen. Moran and Sen. Tester join Kelly McHugh, daughter of Colonel John McHugh, at the bill signing ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The Dependents Education Assistance (DEA) program provides VA education benefits, including tuition, housing and book stipends, to the children or spouse of a servicemember who is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability, died while on active duty prior to 9/11, or dies as a result of a service-connected disability.
While any veteran, servicemember or survivor qualifying for the Fry Scholarship, or any dependent using transferred entitlement under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, is eligible for in-state tuition at any state school in the country, DEA recipients are currently excluded by law from receiving the same in-state tuition benefit.
The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act requires public colleges and universities that receive GI Bill benefits to provide in-state tuition rates for students using DEA. Named after U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh, this legislation helps reduce the out-of-pocket education costs for surviving spouses and children.
U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2010 while he and his family were stationed at Fort Leavenworth. His daughter was attending Kansas State University at the time of his death. While children whose parent died before August 1, 2011 have access to both the Fry Scholarship and DEA, this law makes certain families, like Colonel McHugh’s family, are eligible to receive the in-state tuition rate when using DEA benefits.
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