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VA, partners provide education benefits for surviving spouses, children of fallen servicemembers

Posted: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:47:20 +0000

While hundreds of millions of dollars in private scholarships and education benefits exist for families of fallen military service members, many of these families struggle because they do not know these benefits exist.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors also known as TAPS, recently stood up their new Military Survivor Education Support Services Program in an effort to provide one-on-one counseling to bereaved military families who may be eligible for education benefits.

VA is one of several partners in this program committed to informing military families of their earned benefits.

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Royse Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Royse Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

“I think it is very important to note that government can’t do this alone,” said Royse Cloud, senior advisor for Veteran employment at Veteran Affairs.  “We are going to work together to ensure that every surviving spouse and child understands all of the benefits their parent or spouse earned for them.”

VA has a tradition of supporting private-public partnerships. The Fry Scholarship was founded by Malia Fry, the surviving spouse of U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry. Due to her tireless effort and many supporting partners, the scholarship was made law. It amended the Post-9/11 GI Bill (chapter 33) to include the children of service members who die in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001.

Recently, the Fry Scholarship was expanded to include our military spouses of fallen Servicemembers.

Lina Caboteja hopes to one day use the Fry Scholarship

Lina Caboteja, daughter of a fallen Marine said she looks forward to using the Fry Scholarship for college and that it will help her when she is president of the United States.

Ashlynne Haycock started compiling resources for the new TAPS program in September, 2013. The database now includes 56 private scholarships and 45 state benefits in addition to VA benefits. A survivor herself, she knows firsthand how difficult finding education assistance is.

“I was in a situation where I had no idea how I was going to pay for my last year of college. No one knew the answer, but there were all these resources available,” she said.

Now, TAPS offers a one stop shop for military family survivors via the Military Survivor Education Assistance website. The portal identifies the survivor’s situation and displays all of the available benefits.

Survivors are also able to receive counseling from TAPS education support services.

If you are interested in the Fry Scholarship or other resources, visit http://explore.va.gov/spouses-dependents-survivors or other partner websites such as www.taps.org. There is no wrong door.