November 14, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) have introduced a bill to protect the educational benefits of military dependents if the servicemember who transferred them those education benefits is dishonorably discharged from the military due to domestic or sexual assault against a family. The Safeguarding VA Dependent Education Benefits Act of 2023 would ensure that sons, daughters and other dependents would still have full access to benefits even if their household member is dishonorably discharged.
Currently, if a servicemember is dishonorably discharged, their dependents automatically lose all transferred education benefits including tuition, room and board, and living stipends. Additionally, it has the potential to deter victims from reporting abuse or testifying against their abuser.
“Education should never come at the expense of one’s safety or wellbeing – or make these family members suffer further for others’ violent crimes,” said Senator King. “The Safeguarding VA Dependent Education Benefits of 2023 protects dependents and helps victims of abuse feel empowered to speak up while ensuring they’re still able to access critical education benefits. The entire family serves when a military member signs up to serve and we owe it to them to provide the upmost support and protection.”
“Families of servicemembers make many sacrifices in the service of supporting our country. These dependents rely on transferred GI educational benefits and stripping this benefit revictimizes them,” said Senator Cramer. “Our support for servicemembers extends to their families, and this is a small step to support victims of domestic violence.”
"Victims of domestic abuse have already been physically and emotionally betrayed. They shouldn't also have to lose the education benefits they were counting on to make their lives better," said Besa Pinchotti, CEO of the National Military Family Association. "Senators King and Cramer introducing this bill gives hope to military spouses and children who silently serve our country and are fighting for a better future."
"Protect Our Defenders fiercely supports Senators King and Cramer in their recognition and efforts to reinstate educational benefits for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Adelaide Kahn-Fowler, Director of Programs & Policy, Protect Our Defender. “Too often family members of service members who experience sexual and/or domestic violence are forced to stay silent out of the fear of losing the benefits that they are otherwise entitled to. This bill would go a long way towards empowering survivors."
Representing one of the states with the highest rates of veterans per capita, Senator King has been a staunch advocate for America’s servicemembers and veterans. Earlier this year, Senator King cosponsored bipartisan legislation to address food insecurity challenges across the military. This year he also introduced a bipartisan bill to help military spouses build successful careers while their family members serve the country, and in last year’s NDAA, he helped secure a basic needs allowance for servicemembers below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to assist them with affording basic necessities, particularly food.
Additionally, he recently spearheaded the passage of legislation to better track and study servicemember suicides by job assignment. Senator King has also worked to properly honor and recognize the sacrifices of Purple Heart medal recipients, protect veterans from fraud, and expand veteran assisted living services.