SPOKANE, Wash --- The president signed a new law that lets veterans reassign education benefits when they die.
President Trump signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act (H.R. 3218), Wednesday. The new law includes a provision from Representative Raúl Labrador that fills a gap in veterans’ education programs by permitting reassignment of education benefits in cases where the designated beneficiary dies.
Labrador’s bill was prompted by the death of a constituent’s father. Shauna Hill of Eagle, Idaho’s father was a retired Navy pilot with 28 years of service, and he learned the law prohibited transferring his benefits under the GI Bill to his surviving daughter.
Labrador, R-Idaho, introduced the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Educaiton Benefits Transferability Act in February. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee included the Labrador bill in the larger Colmery Act. The committee said it was a matter of fairness to extend benefits to survivors. H.R. 3218, is the most significant expansion of the GI Bill in a decade, and it passed both the Senate and the House unanimously.
“Shauna had a strong sense of justice and would be gratified to know her story helped veterans and their families….She had great affection for veterans, including her grandfathers who served in World II and Korea. Being associated with a law named for Harry Colmery, the architect of the first GI Bill, would have made her very, very proud…..Shauna cheerfully accepted the lifestyle of a Navy brat, attending seven different schools and considered herself her dad’s partner in the effort to protect and defend America…..At military events she always made an effort to visit with service members. As her parents, we take comfort in knowing her untimely passing has helped bring relief to veteran families,” said Shauna’s parents, Capt. Edward and Heidi Hill.
The Hill’s surviving daughter, Haley, has undergraduate and master’s degrees, but may one day seek a doctorate. If she does, she would be eligible under the new law to obtain the education benefits assigned to her sister.
“Working with the Hills has been a profound honor. Through unspeakable loss, they told a compelling story that has changed the law of the United States to help veteran families in times of greatest need. Now, Shauna Hill’s legacy includes providing solace to countless veterans in the future,” said Labrador.
Shauna Hill was a junior at Eagle High School in 2012 when she died as a result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident.
Labrador met the Hills in 2013, when he helped present the family with a Congressional Bronze Medal awarded to Shauna for public service, personal development and physical fitness.
Capt. Hill later sought Labrador’s help in working with the Navy in the hope of obtaining a waiver to reassign the education benefit to his surviving daughter. Unable to negotiate an administrative fix, Labrador sought a legislative remedy to ensure that in the future no veteran would find themselves in a similarly tragic situation.