New Bill Would Give Hiring Preference to the Children of Fallen Troops

Silver Star gold star family
Maj. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), presents the Silver Star to the children of Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Cribben during a ceremony at Fort Carson, Colorado, May 2, 2018. (Will Reinier/U.S. Army)

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform unanimously agreed to send two bills to the House acknowledging two groups it said have previously gone unrecognized. The legislation would offer benefits to Gold Star children, or children of service members who died while in uniform, and covert air transport employees who served in military conflicts.

The Gold Star Children Act would extend federal hiring preferences to the children of veterans who died during a war or campaign or who are totally disabled as a result of their service.

Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas, authored the Gold Star Children Act.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the committee, said that she "strongly support[s]" it, adding that the notion that children in Gold Star families do not receive veterans preference is "just plain wrong."

"There are more than 15,000 children in the United States right now who have lost a mother or father to war. Many other children have a parent who was permanently and totally disabled as a result of their military service," she said. "The bill would finally right this wrong by extending the veterans preference to these children in recognition of the sacrifice that they too have endured."

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the ranking member of the committee, also offered his support.

"This bill will help America honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice by ensuring that children are able to bring their experiences, talents and skills to the American people's federal government," Comer said. "It's clear that the children of veterans who die or become disabled as a result of their service in the armed forces will face incredible hardships. They have endured a trauma that our country should never forget."

Maloney also expressed her support for the Air America Act of 2021. Employees who worked for Air America, the Central Intelligence Agency’s proprietary airline, actually conducted search and rescue for pilots and personnel during the Vietnam War and provided vital transportation for thousands of troops, refugees and rescues in Laos.

"The employees of Air America have never been recognized as federal employees, and therefore were never deemed eligible to receive a federal pension," she said. "It's now clear that, while their employees were nominally working for Air America, they were really working for the federal government. This legislation would classify time employed by Air America as creditable service, making those employees, or their heirs, eligible for federal retirement benefits."

The bill has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the sponsor for the Senate version of the bill, and co-sponsors Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, expressed their support in a May 12 letter.

"Air America was a government-owned corporation that conducted covert operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War," the letter states. "The fight to ensure Air America employees receive the benefits they have earned is not a partisan issue, nor is it a new issue. … It is time for Congress to act."

Those who served with Air America offered key assistance in Laos and Vietnam, according to Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis..

"There are about 1,000 people who flew for Air America," Grothman said. "They were very important to what we were doing in Laos, as well as the end of the Vietnam War."

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