New Bill Would Give GI Bill to Surviving Spouses

May 23, 2013 | Terry Howell

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced a bill today that would amend the Post-9/11 GI Bill to include spousal eligibility for the Fry Scholarship.  Under the Spouses of Heroes Education Act, spouses of fallen servicemembers could receive the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees, plus a monthly living stipend and book allowance.  Spouses would need to use this benefit within fifteen years, and would not remain eligible if they remarried.

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship provides full undergraduate education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the children of a member of the Armed Forces who died in the line of duty.  This benefit, however, is not available to the spouses of servicemembers who are killed in action, or who die while on active duty.  The surviving spouse, who has suddenly undergone the tragic loss of their life partner, also becomes the sole breadwinner for his or her family.  In many cases, they do not have the educational background that allows them to take on this increased financial responsibility.

Currently, spouses of fallen service members are only eligible to receive federal education benefits under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance (SDEA) program.  This program provides an allowance of up to $936 a month, but it often does not cover the full cost of tuition and fees.

The Congressional Budget Office has issued a preliminary cost estimate, indicating that the bill is expected to cost about $200 million over the next ten years.

The Military Officers of America (MOAA), the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), the Air Force Sergeants Association, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and Student Veterans of America have endorsed this bill.  In addition, the Veterans Legislative Committee of The Military Coalition (TMC), a coalition comprised of 33 organizations representing more than 5.5 million members of the uniformed services and their families, has established a goal of authorizing surviving spouses to have the same educational benefits as their children.

Let your elected officials know how you feel about providing Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to surviving spouses of fallen heroes.

About Terry Howell

Before becoming the Managing Editor for, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.


  1. purpleheartpark says:

    Only those Killed in Combat Operations……….Don't Morph this into " Bob got killed in a Car wreak, Jack jumped off a Bridge, Leon died of an Over dose, John forgot to open his Chute, Leon had a Stomach Infection etc etc…..

  2. Idmtmedic says:

    Sounds like a wonderful idea to me!!!!!!

  3. Purpleheartpark…..I think that they are talking about the guy who lives for years AFTER the war, but finally dies as a result of his injuries that he received there. Or the guy who comes down with ALS, heart disease, etc..

    • Are you saying that the child of someone who died years later can go to college on this money?

  4. All,

    "The Congressional Budget Office has issued a preliminary cost estimate, indicating that the bill is expected to cost about $200 million over the next ten years."

    LMAO, here we are cutting the DOD Budget by Billions,, yet we still have plenty of monies to give the soldiers spouse when he dies under certain circumstances.

    Anyone know where DOD is going to get the monies if Congress forces this down DOD's throat?????.

    • THis would not come out of DoD's budget…it will come out of VA's budget. And VA was not affected by the sequestration

      • kb325,

        Ok, won't argree about that, but will just ask, where is the 200 Million coming from????? Either way, we keep talking about cutting this and cutting that, and all I see is more ways to give away monies then anything being cut.

        • Idmtmedic says:

          How about all that tax refund money that goes to illegals…….mmmm but
          not concerned about that, only concerned because it's going to a widow?

          • idmedic,

            Stay on subject and stop trying to stear is away from the GI Bill going to the wifes. If you want to post about Illegals, then go to that thread and post about them. Now move along idmedic nothing more for you to post to here.

          • Idmtmedic says:

            Lmao….lmao. You asked where the money is going to come from, now get ON topic

          • idmedic,

            You say that about everything. Now, where is this new monies coming from. I know, raise Tricare x 2 to pay for the spouse. I know, I know, not in my back yard.

          • Idmtmedic says:

            Back on topic Charles. Where is the money going to come from? BILLIONS in tax return money to illegals? FACT CHECK! Your response? That's ok but education benefits for widows is not right?

        • The guy who died, that's who. It's HIS GI Bill money.

          There is always the "this is going to cost me money" comment…

          so she gets her husband's GI bill benefit… so what? If he had lived, he would have gotten it and used it. So what's the difference? The 2 hundred million? Do you really think that's a lot of money? The last lottery winner got that.

          A hero died serving our country so you could bitch freely. Let his wife have his education benefits. It's no skin off your teeth.

  5. bob barker says:

    I'm sure one could get a BA/BS with the $500,000 SGLI, why do they need more? They already qualify for almost $1,000 a month in freebie education already. It's a nice warm fuzzy feeling but someone has to pay for that, maybe you or your kids!

    • bob barker,

      Exactly, those wifes are already getting well over 1/2 Million when their hubby dies in Combat. Yes, well over 1/2 Million.

    • Idmtmedic says:

      Just look at it like a CARROT or an incentive to have more soldiers sign up to DIE so their family will have a brighter future. How much you figure your spouse is worth?

      • idmedic,

        The carrot has already been expended, and not needed anymore. Hell, why do think they are getting rid of it. We talked about before on that other thread, seems you forget everything said to you on other threads and pick up new on all new ARTICLES only most as if your brain clears your mind each and everytimes.

        A wife is worth what she is worth, but DOD/VA should NOT be giving away soldier benefits to familys, the retired community doesn't have the monies to do it, and I don't care what you think.

        • Idmtmedic says:

          Well thank god we have you to determine what is just…..lmao
          I don't include you as we in this discussion for retiree community!

    • The SGLI is $400,000 and there is NO guarantee it would be going to the spouse at all. The Service Member can have that money going to whoever he/she wishes whether it is the spouse, trust fund for children, his/her parents, his mistress, their dog or some charity.

      • guest,

        So because of what you posted is true, we (the Government) needs to come up with ideas like this to insure the wife gets something whether the soldier wants it that way or not.

        I have a better idea, do a quick survey into what other spouses get that who's husband or wife has never been in the service. I mean, what do regular spouses get when their spouse's die?????

        I think that wifes who want the same benefits that their husbands has/had, then they need to join the service as did my coaxing of my first wife caused her to do.

        • Idmtmedic says:

          Regular spouses??? Lmfao. Yea I see the correlation.

          • idmedic,

            Hum, yea, regular spouses (those not married to someone in the military)!

            "the correlation".

            What are you talking about now?????

          • Idmtmedic says:

            I could post what I really want to say to you, however, it is a DAY of remembrance. For me in this case, I will make it a day of forgetting about YOUR continued lack of respect for the fallen.

          • Idmtmedic says:

            Remember Charles? They did what they did and you did what you did? What they sacrificed has no bearing on your benefits? Now widows need to join the service to get the benefits? A wife is worth what she is worth?

  6. Face it. This is another out of control government giveaway. It's gone too far.
    Another nice to have we can't afford.

    Before you attack let me say I've spent 25 years on AD, so I'm vested too.

    • badbob,

      We need to take a survey, and those that support this should have the cost withdrawn from there pay monthly. Now, as support dwindles that that are paying will have more and more coming out of there pay, up until they are forced to go back to work to foot the bill for those spouses going to school.

      LMAO Big Time

      • Idmtmedic says:

        You working? I support it 100% :) I am working. If bags of money can go to a foreign leader and you don't have a problem with that then write your CON-gressman…lmao? Funny I noticed you didn't mention it coming out of a congressmans salary and they make over half a million in 4 years.

        • idmedic,

          Stay on subject and stop trying to stear is away from the GI Bill going to the wifes. If you want to post about foreign leaders and/or Congressmen, then go to those threads and post about them. Now move along idmedic nothing more for you to post to here.

          • Idmtmedic says:

            Did you just post where that money is supposed to come from????? Let me read it again…uhuuuuuu yup right there. Lmao your site do surveys???? Of course not, nobody goes to it.
            Later gator

          • idmedic,

            Why do you post to me, then post to the post you just made. You seem to do this each and every time you post????? Why is that. Do you have a glitch in your hand that holds the mouse?????

  7. ablessedwidow says:

    I honestly believe there are positives and negatives, speaking as a surviving spouse of a husband killed in Iraq. As long as they put stipulations on it, I believe it would be great. No one knows what struggles a widow might face. They may have a lot of kids or may not of got the SGLI. Their husband could of planned on retiring but was killed before then. I am blessed to be making it with whatbi have but not everyone is that fortune. if it passed it will be a blessing and if not I will continue to work hard with what I got.

    • Idmtmedic says:

      God bless you and thank you for your sacrifices and I am sorry for your loss. He IS a hero and I certainly hope this bill comes to fruition.

      • Maricel Murray says:
        • Idmtmedic says:

          Maricel, thank you also for giving your time and effort to support your husband and i am sorry for your loss. Seems it's ok to forget about the families once a service member is killed. The bills don't change after he dies do they? Half a million is equal to less than 4 years of a congressmans salary. Seems a bit light to me. Let's figure in the INCREASE IN BILLS without your spouses income? Let's forget about the sacrifices you and your family made? Can't afford it according to who? How much did the families of 9/11 get?

  8. what the wives that have husbands that are wounded in combat? I think those wives deserve just as much attention as a surviving spouses

    • JennHunt says:

      If they are the breadwinner because the husband can not work then I think that is totally a acceptable request. Widows should receive education benefits because they are the sole providers for the children and many relied on their husband's income/education before death.

      • JennHunt,

        How about the spouse getting off their tail, and getting a job like the rest of us spouses. This setting back with your hands out always wanting more and wishing the laws would change to give you more and more is just plain ridicules.

  9. what about the wives that have husbands that are wounded and Injured in combat? I think those wives deserve just as much attention as a surviving spouses!!

    • Armywidow09 says:

      I am only agreeing with this because i have seen the benefits that a wife of an active duty military person receives, which was more than i got as a widow. I think it should be the same across the board, all of us should receive the same, despite my husband is dead and you still have yours.

      • Armywidow09,

        I think the husband and wife should work together in deciding what is needed when and if he dies and then purchase what they want, just like those that are not in the Military.

  10. Idmtmedic says:

    It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a hell it is, and it's always the war widows who lead the Memorial Day parades.
    Paddy Chayefsky.
    As all Veterans observe this day in whatever context, remember what void is left for wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends……………..
    Educational opportunities for families that have lost a loved one in action is a money issue? Let us all remember the true cost of service to our country and the families that endure it, sacrifice for it, and lose their heroes.

  11. Like mentioned above, the SGLI does not in all cases go to the surviving spouse, or not all of it in most cases. $ 400.000 sounds like a lot, it’s about $1700 a month for the next 20 years. If your spouse would have been still alive, you would have had more beneficial financial security. I was enrolled in a 7 month program in college, $ 19000. DEA payed $930 a month, means I have to pay over $12000 out of pocket or in my case get a loan! I don’t know why that would upset anyone… Sincerely, a widow.

    • wrightstuff says:

      I agree my husband died in action Iraq Desert Storm Storm I was alone with a 3 month old and 5 year old daughters. I went to school and received dea $930 to cover the extra expenses day care, school supplies and tuition to name a few. I now owe 70,000.00 in student loans. I'm trying to help my daughter pay tuition because she received sea $930 not nearly enough. I'm grateful for the help we have received but I don't understand the huge gap between Fry and chapter 35. My husband died on active duty in conflict during Desert Storm. It seems like Sgt. Fry would apply to all children of soldiers that died during a conflict.

  12. Brian Jones says:
  13. Yea!! I don't mind the families that lost a husband or a wife get the benefits,because they truely DESERVED them and some. The problem is this gov. have not compensated us the revolving door vets YET, Some of us have been fighting for service connected injuries for 25 & 30 years and more . A lot of us EARNED the benefit of doubt, YOU KNOW U ARE WRONG,

  14. In regards to sgli as a surviving spouse you have a choice on a lump sum or monthly payments. I know this for a fact for I did causality affairs paperwork for my fellow comrades that I lost during OIF. Now in regards to the Post 911 GI bill and Montgomery GI bill I just learned that my daughter nor my other children are not
    eligible because I didn’t transfer before I got off of active duty. I was never informed I was or had to transfer prior to leaving active duty. I am 100% permanently unemployable disable army vet with 12 yrs and 4 months of serving in the army and just learned that a week ago. My 19 yr old is started college last Aug and just now got qualified for the only program offered chapter 35.

    • Armywidow09 says:

      this goes for deceased members as well, if they did not transfer before death then it won't after death. Also we(widows) do not get to choose if we get a lump sum or payments, the service member decides that when they do the paperwork. Which I think is silly. But it is what it is.

      • That's not true. I am a widow and I was given the choice when my husband was killed. I was given a choice of monthly payments or the lump sum amount for SGLI.

        If you weren't given the choice someone screwed up… Which is NOT shocking.

  15. oldbrokendownretiree says:

    I will probaly get slayed for this but, I don't beleive the spouses or the children deserve one dime of educational assistance from the government. I spent 24 years on AD and when the post 9/11 GI Bill was enacted, I had retired. I spent two tours in Ashcanastan and three tours in Iraq and I couldn't transfer any of that money to my college age daughter who could have used it to defray some of her $24,000 worth of college loans. To say that these spouses and children are somehow "better" than my daughters because their spouse/fathr/mother was killed is bullcrap. Suck it up butter cup, if ain't covered under the SBP, you ain't entitled to it. My last question would be, what did the surviving spouse do with the $400,000 death benefit paid under SGLI, that certainly could have gone to foot tuition at a moderately priced university.

    • oldbrokendownretiree,

      Actually, they get close to 1/2 million when their spouse dies. This is like most things and the way people approach things. If it doesn't effect them, just say yes, yes, yes.

    • Widowed says:

      Actually, I don't even know why I tried to explain it to you. Please add up what you made in your 24 years of active duty service (24 x lets say, $36,000 = $864,000) and how much you get for retirement (EVEN MORE MONEY) and tell me why you can't pay your daughter's loans. Why can't you pay your daughter's college loans??????

      • Widowed,

        You can, they can. I can make and pay any bill I want too.

      • MSgt, USAF says:

        Listen dear, over those 20+ years your family lived off that money. You got free medical and dental. You need to add that up as well. As for the retirement pay, if your enlisted, is doesn't really add up to much these days. One must get another job. If able to, we must keep our family in the comfort that they are accustomed. If your real lucky ones spouse has a job.
        If hubby dies on active duty, the spouse gets many benefits . Learn how to live within those benefits, get a job and live with the reality that life is not free. So many benefits out there for spouses and children of the fallen.
        Sorry for your loss, now wake up and move on pumpkin.

    • Actually we are entitled. My husband paid into his GI bill and since um gee wow so sorry he went and died he wasn't able to use it. It's a benefit JUST LIKE the SGLI (which for the record service members CAN and do sometimes deny taking, reference the widow suing because her husband declined coverage and she got nothing), and other benefits. What'd you offer for your 24 years? Lots of pushing papers in a fat padded chair? Why not pay your daughters loans with all that money you made and STILL make on retirement? My SBP is a JOKE and is about 1/4 of what my husband would've been making had he retired which was 3 years away when he was KIA.

      But hey thanks for your brotherhood support of taking care f the fallen members families. You're a real gem. Jealous sick puke.

  16. Joseph Diggs says:

    Good decision simply because it will cause a spouse to improve their lifestyle and provide for a better life for the family too.

    • Joseph Diggs,Ret. says:

      I am a Retiree and i am not sure if i understand the "Selfiness" that my fellow retiree are saying "Nergatively" about approving lifestyles of fallen comrades spouses and their children?????Where are you Guys Morals were you in for yourselves? I am sdhocked and dismayed.

  17. What about career veterans retiring before August 1, 2009? They fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer of benefits option, but never had a chance to transfer benefits to a spouse or their children. Nobody seems to want to fight for them to receive their sponsor education benefits.

  18. If one is a VETERAN the benefit has to be used within 10 years of separation from active service. WHY should the spouse have 15 years? There's no logical reason why a spouse would need 5 years more. I was raising my family AND working AND attending school and completed within the 10 year limit. Go figure

    • It is annoying that the deadlines are different. However, they are considering transferring the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which allows 15 years for veterans.

    • Other than the fact that it takes years to get over the loss of our husbands and we are busy raising their children!!! I am offended!

    • You should get your facts straight. Vets have 15 years too. Good for you that you did all that but did you also lose your spouse? No? Ok then you have nothing to compare to me who did lose their spouse. Mmm k?

  19. If there was no SGLI payment, the service member is to blame for that one. If they don't fill out the paperwork and don't pay the premium every month and don't update beneficiaries as family circumstances change, s/he is the bad guy in this picture. And