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Crapo Sponsors Senate Companion to Labrador Bill to Fill Gaps in Veterans Education Benefits

Constituent service request following family tragedy results in bill to allow transfer of benefits to surviving child or spouse

Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, has introduced the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transferability Act (H.R. 1112) to correct an oversight in current law regarding benefits under the GI Bill.  U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The bill is named for Shauna Hill, a 16-year-old junior at Eagle High School who, in 2012, was killed in an automobile accident. Shauna aspired to attend Stanford University and become a doctor. When her father, Capt. Edward Hill, retired from the Navy after 28 years of service he assigned his GI Bill education benefits to Shauna. After her death, Hill learned he could not transfer his benefits to his surviving daughter.

Labrador first met Capt. Hill and his wife, Heidi, in February 2013, when he and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, presented the Hill family with a Congressional Bronze Medal posthumously awarded to Shauna for public service, personal development and physical fitness. Shauna was working on her silver medal when she died as a result of injuries suffered in a Dec. 10, 2012, two-car crash at Idaho 16 and Floating Feather Road near Star, Idaho.

Capt. Hill then sought Labrador’s 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, Labrador and his team sought a legislative remedy to ensure that in the future no veteran would find themselves in a similarly tragic situation. Labrador’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,” Labrador said. “Losing a child is the worst thing I can imagine 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.”

“The Hill family suffered a devastating loss,” Crapo said.  “This administrative correction would have a huge impact on military families that have experienced the tragedy of losing a child.  Captain Hill chose to pass his benefit to his eldest child not knowing his family would be struck by such loss.  Captain Hill should be able to pass his remaining benefit on to his surviving daughter.  I fully support Representative Labrador’s efforts to help the Hills and other military families.”

Shauna Hill 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. Her organs were donated and her parents have met the 31-year-old woman who received Shauna’s heart. The couple and Shauna’s sister Haley were also honored with the Spirit of the Red Cross award for overlooked heroism.

Congressman Labrador is joined by 12 of his colleagues in introducing this legislation and is happy to have the Concerned Veterans for America organization endorsing this legislation.

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