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Fixing a tragic flaw
February 17, 2017
By U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador

This week I was honored and humbled to introduce the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transferability Act (H.R. 1112). This legislation will correct an oversight in current law regarding benefits under the GI Bill on behalf of one of Idaho’s veterans.

I first met Captain Edward Hill and his wife, Heidi, in February 2013, when Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and I presented the Hill family a Congressional Bronze Medal posthumously earned by their daughter Shauna for public service, personal development and physical fitness.

Shauna, a 16-year-old junior at Eagle High School, was working on her silver medal when she died as a result of injuries suffered in a December 10, 2012, two-car crash at Idaho 16 and Floating Feather Road near Star, Idaho.

Shauna was a competitive figure skater and ice dancer. She played the violin in the Eagle High School Orchestra, including a performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The accident occurred when she was on her way home from orchestra practice.

When her father, Captain Hill, retired from the Navy after 28 years of service, he assigned his GI Bill education benefits to Shauna in hopes that they would help put her through college. Shauna aspired to attend Stanford University and become a doctor.

After her death, Hill learned he could not transfer his benefits to his younger daughter.

Captain Hill sought my help in working with the Navy in hopes of obtaining a waiver to reassign the education benefit to his surviving daughter.

Unfortunately, current law requires any transfer of benefits to happen before retirement.

Unable to negotiate an administrative fix, my team and I pursued a legislative remedy to ensure that in the future no veteran would find themselves in a similarly tragic situation. Shauna’s Bill will allow reassignment of veterans’ education benefits in cases where the designated beneficiary passes away.

Congress surely didn’t intend to exclude a surviving child or spouse when it expanded GI benefits in 2009. I cannot imagine losing a child, and we honor those who serve by clearing up this inconsistency and providing some small measure of relief.

“We are grateful to Congressman Labrador for his persistent work on behalf of veterans who experience a tragedy similar to our losing Shauna,” the Hills said in a statement. “While the number of affected families won’t be large, it will be a comfort to us and others facing such a terrible loss.”

I’m humbled to be joined by 12 of my House colleagues in introducing this legislation and am happy to have the Concerned Veterans for America and Military Order of the Purple Heart endorsing this legislation.

U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

I will continue to be a strong advocate for our veterans and greatly appreciate the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Though we cannot repay the debt, I work in the House of Representative to ensure our commitments to them are kept. If you or veteran you know needs assistance with a federal agency, please contact me.

My staff and I will do everything we can to help.
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