Two U.S. Senators, Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), are currently pushing bipartisan legislation that would allow spouses of seriously wounded soldiers to obtain educational benefits sooner.
Under current law, when a servicemember is discharged from the military as a "permanently and totally disabled" veteran, the veteran's spouse is eligible for education benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, through a program called Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance. "The problem is that the discharge process for some individuals can take years. Speeding up the benefit process will help families and ensure a better transition to civilian life," said Sen. Craig, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Craig and Akaka have incorporated their amendment into legislation which authorizes funding for the construction and renovation of several VA hospitals (S. 3421). The change will allow spouses to have immediate eligibility for educational benefits when the servicemember is hospitalized or receiving treatment and awaiting discharge from the service. The amendment was prompted by a meeting Sen. Craig had two weeks ago. "I met with Jeff Mittman who was blinded after an attack in Iraq and is being treated at Walter Reed. He has undergone some 20 surgeries already and faces two more years of recovery while he remains on active duty. His wife Christy needs to return to school so that she can eventually earn more money to help sustain their family. But because Jeff is still on active status, under current law, his wife cannot access VA's educational benefits now and won't be able to for two more years," said Sen. Craig. "Our change will allow him to get the treatment he needs while his wife gets the education their family will need. This change will be a win-win for all. It's simply the right thing to do."
For more information, visit U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.