A bill crafted with the help of The American Legion would, if enacted, correct a “bureaucratic nightmare” that has caused some service members’ children to be billed for thousands of dollars in educational benefits for which they were originally approved. The Legion-backed corrective legislation, “GI Education Benefits Fairness Act”, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 22 by Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. A letter of support for the bill has been signed by American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger.
In a conference call to members of the press on Nov. 26, Foster explained his legislation. “The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits to service members who serve on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001,” he said. “Many of our active troops can transfer their benefits. Under current law, the Department of Defense includes wards and foster children in the definition of ‘eligible child’ who can receive their parents’ GI Bill education benefits. However, the Veterans Administration does not.
“This has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for members of the … services and their families. One hundred wards and foster children were initially approved by DOD for education benefits and money was paid out to their schools. Then, in mid semester, the VA revoked their benefits, and the students and their families were notified that they would have to pay back all the money.”
In his letter of support to Foster, Dellinger said, “According to The American Legion’s Resolution No. 27 …The American Legion seeks and supports any legislative or administrative proposal that improves GI Bill education benefits so service members, veterans and their families can maximize its usage, This bill would do this ….”
Foster said the legislation was inspired by the case of one of his constituents, Army Sgt. 1st Class Angela Dees. Several years ago, Dees transferred her Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to her legal ward, Christopher, so that he could attend the University of Illinois in Chicago. The benefits transfer was approved originally but later rescinded, leaving Dees and her ward with a bill exceeding $10,000.
“I had straight As,” Christopher said. “I graduated third in my class and I had no other funding available. I didn’t think that I would need it. So for that to be taken away after I was already in school is heartbreaking. I think this legislation is very important – not only to me, but to hundreds of other kids that have been or will be affected.”
The bill’s sponsors solicited the support and aid of The American Legion as the proposed law was being written.