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Senators Lankford, Carper, Reps. Bilirakis, Levin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Fry Eligibility

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Tom Carper (D-DE), Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Mike Levin (D-CA) announced the introduction of legislation to extend eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to spouses and children of members of the National Guard and Reserves who died of service-connected causes but whose deaths did not occur when the member was on active duty. The Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001. The bill is also cosponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN). It is supported by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and many other Veteran Service Organizations.

“The women and men serving in our nation’s National Guard and Reserve continue to support our country, and in return our nation should strongly support their families,” said Lankford. “The bipartisan bill to expand the Fry Scholarship to include the surviving families of members of the National Guard and Reserves who have died as a result to their selfless service to this nation is one that should pass this Congress without hesitation. I’m grateful for our colleagues  in the House for their leadership on this bill, and I encourage the Senate to pass this bill in the days ahead.”

“Since 1944, the G.I. Bill has transformed our country and the lives of millions of veterans, including me,” said Carper. “Today, it continues to give millions of veterans and their family members the chance to learn a skill, go to college and gain access to economic opportunities that never before had been possible. But right now, there is a technicality under the law that is leaving behind many families of those service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. My bill with Senator Lankford aims to fix that by providing the Fry Scholarship to spouses and children of members of the National Guard and Reserves who died of service connected causes but whose deaths did not occur under active duty. We owe it to these surviving families to ensure they receive the full benefits of the G.I. Bill – one of the greatest pieces of legislation we have ever passed in this country.

“We must do everything in our power to support the families of fallen service members,” said Bilirakis. “This bipartisan bill closes a loophole in statute that prevented the spouses and children of Reservists who die from a service-connected condition but were not on active duty at the time of their death. These brave men and women have paid the ultimate price in defense of our nation, and this is the least we can do to honor their sacrifice.”

“We must do everything we can to support the families of servicemembers who died while serving their country, and expanding eligibility for GI Bill benefits is a commonsense step we can take to help fulfill that responsibility,” said Levin. “I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on this bipartisan legislation in the coming weeks and months.”

“Families of fallen National Guard and Reserve members who have made the ultimate sacrifice due to their service deserve our support, regardless of whether or not their death occurred while they were on active duty.” said Roe. “This legislation would ensure that they have access to GI Bill benefits similar to the families of other fallen servicemembers. I am grateful to Congressman Bilirakis and Congressman Levin for their work on this legislation and their commitment to fight for the families of America’s heroes.”

“It is our responsibility to support the families of servicemembers killed while serving our country—whether they serve in the active duty component, the Guard, or Reserve,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I’m proud of the bipartisan work on this bill to ensure these surviving family members get the support they deserve to pursue higher education and a brighter future.”

If a member of the National Guard or Reserves dies while not on active-duty, his or her surviving spouse and children are not eligible for the Fry Scholarship—regardless of whether or not the death is otherwise considered service-connected for the purpose of receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This legislation would correct that discrepancy by extending eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to surviving spouses and children of deceased National Guard and Reserve members whose deaths are deemed service-connected by the VA who died while not on active-duty and if the deaths occurred within four years of the service member’s last discharge. 

Click here for more information.

Read the bill here.