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Military Spouses and Kids Bear the Burden of Service

3 minute read
Kristine A. Huskey is a professor and director of the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and a Pubic Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project.

A proposed bill (HR 3016) would cut in half certain education benefits to military families granted under the post-9/11 GI bill. This is a slap in the face to American service men and women. The sting will be also be felt by their children.

As any soldier will tell you, when a military member serves, the whole family serves. Since 2001, approximately 2.7 million men and women have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. At least half have deployed more than once and thousands have deployed four or five times over a span of several years. That’s the lifetime of a young child.

Military spouses and children bear the burden of their service. They face absent partners and parents, some experience the loss of a loved one, and some have to grapple with changed personalities when their military member returns. The average child in a military family will move six to nine times during their schooling, three times more than nonmilitary children.

The current post-9/11 GI bill allows service members and veterans to transfer their education benefits to dependents if they have not used them up. These benefits include a housing stipend based on a formulaic cost of living. Proponents of the new bill contend the housing stipend often exceeds the actual cost of living. But if that’s the case, Congress could simply readjust the formula to represent the true cost of living based on the location of the school rather than slash the benefit across the board, penalizing kids.

Furthermore, the stipend is hardly a windfall for soldiers or their families. The service member has to have served six years with the promise to serve four more years or have already served 10 years. These families are in it for the long haul. Having served that long, some service members have already established a trade or gone to school and do not need to take advantage of the educational benefits, so they pass them on to their children. This is a benefit for America. Who better to be the leaders of the next generation than well-educated children who already know what it means to serve their country?

At the University of Arizona’s Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic, we represent close to 200 veterans at any given time. Many of our clients are fighting to receive benefits to which they are already entitled. In most cases, veterans wait months for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make an initial decision—often a denial. It may be a year or more before our client gets any compensation for their injuries. The proposed House bill adds yet another roadblock for veterans and their families to receive a benefit that they earned through their service.

In celebration of the Month of the Military Child, which marked its 30th anniversary last month, the Department of Defense encouraged people to wear purple, which symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue. So, #PurpleUp men and women of Congress! Support our troops by supporting their families and children.

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