Senators Scott, Kaine, Lankford, Tester Introduce Bill to Protect Federal Student Aid for Gold Star Families

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Friday, June 14th, 2019

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), James Lankford (R-OK), and Jon Tester (D-MT) reintroduced the Protecting our Gold Star Families’ Education Act, legislation that would expand the Pell Grant program to include the children and dependents of those killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 to offset their educational expenses.

 “Gold Star families have paid the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation and been the bedrock of our men and women in the armed forces. It is an honor to join my colleagues in ensuring that we do our best to make higher education more affordable for their children,” Scott said.

“Gold Star families have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Helping them afford college is the least we can do,” Kaine said. “We should give our servicemembers peace of mind that if anything happens to them, the nation they served will look out for their kids and help them access a high-quality education.”

“I am grateful to partner with Senator Kaine on this important bill to help better serve the education financial assistance needs of young adult survivors of heroes we lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan following 9/11,” said Lankford. “The Protecting our Gold Star Families’ Education Act ensures Pell Grants are made available to this important population of current and future students and gives certainty that the program to help cover a portion of college tuition will continue for our surviving Gold Star young adults. Their mother, father, or guardian gave his or her last full measure of devotion to our nation. We can and should ensure the survivor benefits we owe them are accessible and fully funded.”

“Montana’s Gold Star families have sacrificed so much for our country,” Tester said. “So if they want to pursue higher education, we have a responsibility to help them pay for it. Our servicemembers should rest easier knowing that their kids will be able to access Pell Grants in order to afford a quality education.” 

"TAPS is grateful to Senators Kaine, Lankford, Tester, and Scott for introducing the Protecting our Gold Star Families Education Act. This legislation ensures surviving families are not prevented from using the Pell Grant based on how their survivor benefits were paid. This is a priority for surviving military families at TAPS and we are hopeful it will be included in this year's HEA reauthorization,” said Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

Currently, students whose parents died as a result of military service in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 are eligible to receive federal student aid for postsecondary education that is equivalent to the maximum Pell Grant award through the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. However, as a result of sequestration, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to institutions requiring them to reduce the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant awards by about 6.2% (or almost $400 per recipient) for the 2018-2019 award year. The Protect our Gold Star Families’ Education Act would move the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant to the Pell Grant program – which is exempted from the effects of sequester – to stabilize the funding source for these awards and ensure Gold Star families have access to the maximum the Pell grant funding available. 

 

The Protecting our Gold Star Families’ Education Act would:

Ensure that all children of veterans who died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11 will receive financial support by aligning eligibility requirements between the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs.

Ensure Gold Star dependents are awarded the maximum Pell Grant for that award year.

The bill is supported by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and the Student Veterans of America.