WASHINGTON — An overhaul of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs means new education benefits will kick in next month for the spouses of servicemembers who died since 9/11 in the line of duty, according to the department.
Surviving spouses will be eligible Nov. 3 for the Fry Scholarship — named Marine Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 — which includes payment of tuition and fees, a housing allowance and a stipend for books and school supplies. The benefit has previously only been available to children of fallen troops.
The expansion of education benefits was tucked into a massive $16.3 billion law passed over the summer and designed to fix the VA health care system following a nationwide scandal over wait times and records manipulation.
“For the spouses of those who gave their lives to defend this country, this educational benefit will provide significant help in allowing them to move forward,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who added the measure into the VA law, said in a statement released Tuesday.
The scholarship makes up to 36 months of education assistance available through the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the surviving spouses of troops who died after Sept. 10, 2001.
The VA said it will mail out notifications to those who are eligible with an explanation of benefits and how to apply. It will begin accepting mailed applications next month.
Some spouses may also be eligible for the Dependents Educational Assistance program and must choose between the two programs by Jan. 1.
More information is available through the VA call center at 888-442-4551 (888-GIBILL-1) or at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/