Durbin Introduces Bill to Support Military Families By Fixing Inconsistency in GI Bill Benefit Transfer Eligibility

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation that would support military families by extending Post-911 GI Bill education benefits to foster children and legal wards.  The GI Education Benefits Fairness Act was introduced last year on a bipartisan basis in the House of Representations by U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).


“The Post-9/11 GI Bill - the most comprehensive education benefits package for service members since 1944 - granted members of the military the opportunity to transfer some or all of their unused benefits family members,” said Durbin.  “While this sounds clear, much confusion has been created over whether foster children and legal wards are eligible recipients.  My bill today clarifies that.  Men and women who have served our country should be able to share the benefits they earned with the children they consider their own.”


“Family members of the men and women who have served our country honorably shouldn’t be denied the benefits they were promised because of a bureaucratic oversight,” said Foster.  “These servicemen and women have honored the promise they made to serve our country, we need to honor the promises we make to them.”


“We know that when a parent joins the military, it’s not just a job, but a family commitment. These brave men and women in uniform have protected our nation in hope of a better and brighter future for generations to come,” McMorris Rodgers said. “We can all be a part of fulfilling that dream by giving children these important education benefits. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Military Family Caucus, I am extremely proud to support this legislation that will help military children across the country.”


The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits to veterans and service members who serve on active duty after September 10, 2001.  It also allows active duty troops to transfer his or her unused education benefits to a spouse or child.  Under current law, while the Department of Defense (DOD) includes wards and foster children in the definition of an eligible child, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not.  This has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for some members of the armed services and their families.


Several wards and foster children were initially approved by DOD for GI education benefits, and money was paid out to their schools.  Then, 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 immediately.  These students now face unexpected amounts of crippling debt.


The GI Education Benefits Fairness Act would amend the definition of an “eligible child” for the purposes of transferability of benefits under the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program to include the DOD definition of a child – which includes wards and foster children. Doing so would allow foster children and wards who were approved for GI education benefits, then had them revoked, to receive the education funding they were promised.


This bill is supported by the Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Student Veterans of America, National Military Family Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Association of the United States Navy, and the Foster Parent Association of America.