Military spouses gain new education benefits as VA implements Merkley legislation

 Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley commended today’s announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that the Fry Scholarship will be available starting on November 3, 2014 to spouses of servicemembers who died on active duty. This expanded scholarship comes as a result of legislation authored by Senator Merkley and passed into law this summer.

“Our military families face so many challenges and when tragedy strikes they deserve a chance to rebuild their lives through education opportunities,” said Merkley. “I was honored to fight for this change in Washington and it’s great news that the VA has been quick to put this legislation into action.”

Prior to the passage of Senator Merkley’s legislation, spouses of fallen service members were only eligible for limited education benefits. Merkley’s Spouses of Heroes Education Act makes them eligible for the Fry Scholarship, which currently provides full in-state tuition and fees to children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty. This change will allow spouses to receive the full cost of public, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, plus a monthly living stipend and textbook allowance as well. 

Senator Merkley introduced the Spouses of Heroes Education Act in 2013 with bipartisan sponsorship from Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).  The idea for this legislation came from Oregon veteran Robert Thornhill, who contacted Senator Merkley and suggested the idea of expanding the scholarship to spouses of servicemembers who died on active duty.

The VA will identify surviving spouses eligible for this program and send them a letter with comparative information on the benefits available and instructions on how to make an election. Information about this program is available on the VA’s website and the GI Bill website (