Special to the
Opelika Observer

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) has cosponsored new legislation, called the GI Education Benefits Fairness Act, to support military families by extending Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to foster children and legal wards. The legislation was recently introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
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 their 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.
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 to receive the education funding they were promised, including providing retroactive pay for those foster children and wards who were previously approved for GI education benefits only to have them revoked.
“I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation that will help all military children access the educational benefits their families have earned,” Jones said, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “These brave men and women have sacrificed for our country and we owe them the full benefits they were promised.”
Along with Senator Jones and Senator Durbin, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The legislation is supported by Student Veterans of America, the National Military Family Association and Paralyzed Veterans of America.