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Bilirakis's Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Fry Eligibility Passes the House of Representatives

July 24, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC:  Congressman Bilirakis is proud to announce passage of his bill to extend eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to spouses and children of members of the National Guard and Reserve who died of service-connected causes but whose deaths did not occur when the member was on active duty. The Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active duty on or after September 11, 2001. Originally filed as H.R. 2221, this provision passed the U.S. House of Representatives last night as part of a larger legislative package, which was also sponsored by Bilirakis, H.R. 3504.


“We must do everything in our power to support the families of fallen service members. This bipartisan bill closes a loophole in statute that prevented the spouses and children of Reservists who die from a service-connected condition but were not on active duty at the time of their death from receiving education benefits. These brave men and women have paid the ultimate price in defense of our nation, and this is the least we can do to honor their sacrifice,” said Bilirakis. 


This bipartisan legislation enjoys widespread support in both the House and Senate.  Rep. Mike Levin (D-Cali.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity is a co-author of the bill, and  Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.  The bill is also supported by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and many other Veteran Service Organizations.

We must do everything we can to support the families of servicemembers who died while serving their country, and expanding eligibility for GI Bill benefits is a commonsense step we can take to help fulfill that responsibility," said Chairman Levin. "I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on this bipartisan legislation in the coming weeks and months."

“The women and men serving in our nation’s National Guard and Reserve continue to support our country, in return, our nation should strongly support their families,” said Senator Lankford. “The bipartisan bill to expand the Fry Scholarship to include the surviving families of members of the National Guard and Reserve who have died as a result to their selfless service to this nation is one that should pass this Congress without hesitation. I’m grateful for our colleagues  in the House for their leadership on this bill, and I encourage the Senate to pass this bill in the days ahead.”

“Since 1944, the G.I. Bill has transformed our country and the lives of millions of veterans, including me," said Senator Carper. "Today, it continues to give millions of veterans and their family members the chance to learn a skill, go to college and gain access to economic opportunities that never before had been possible. But right now, there is a technicality under the law that is leaving behind many families of those service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. My bill with Senator Lankford aims to fix that by providing the Fry Scholarship to spouses and children of members of the National Guard and Reserves who died of service connected causes but whose deaths did not occur under active duty. We owe it to these surviving families to ensure they receive the full benefits of the G.I. Bill – one of the greatest pieces of legislation we have ever passed in this country.”

“Families of fallen National Guard and Reserve members who have made the ultimate sacrifice due to their service deserve our support, regardless of whether or not their death occurred while they were on active duty.” Said Ranking Member Roe. "This legislation would ensure that they have access to GI Bill benefits similar to the families of other fallen servicemembers. I am grateful to Congressman Bilirakis and Congressman Levin for their work on this legislation and their commitment to fight for the families of America's heroes.”

“It is our responsibility to support the families of servicemembers killed while serving our country — whether they serve in the active duty component, the Guard, or Reserve,” said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Cali), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "I’m proud of the bipartisan work on this bill to ensure these surviving family members get the support they deserve to pursue higher education and a brighter future.”

"Creating parity for Guard and Reserve surviving families has long been a priority for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)," said Ashlynne Haycock, TAPS Deputy Director of Policy and Legislation. "TAPS was founded in response to an Army National Guard loss in 1994, so this issue holds particular significance for our organization. We are incredibly grateful to Rep. Bilirakis and Rep. Levin for introducing the Fry Scholarship Improvement Act of 2019, which will benefit approximately 1,500 Guard and Reserve surviving spouses and children by giving them access to the same education benefits available to survivors of active duty service members."

If a member of the National Guard or Reserves dies while not on active-duty, their surviving spouse and children are not eligible for the Fry Scholarship - regardless of whether or not the death is otherwise considered service-connected for the purpose of receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This legislation would correct that discrepancy by extending eligibility for the Fry Scholarship to surviving spouses and children of deceased National Guard and Reserve members whose deaths are deemed service-connected by VA, but who died while not on active-duty and if the death occurred within four years of the servicemember’s last discharge. Click here  for more information. Read the bill here.