FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 17, 2008
Schumer Reveals: "Sole Surviving" Soldiers, Who Come Home After Losing Parents Or Siblings, Shockingly Stripped Of Bonuses, Health Care, Gi Bill Benefits If They Leave Duty Prematurely
Troops Classified As "Sole Survivor" Soldiers If Parent or All Other Brothers and Sisters are Lost At War - Must Leave Active Duty Early to Prevent Families from Being Wiped Out
New Reports Reveal, Despite Requirement to Leave Active Duty Early, DoD Callously Demanding Return of Signing Bonus, Limiting Health Care Coverage and Benefits under the G.I. Bill
With More than 50 Sole Survivors Nationwide and Some in NY, Schumer Unveils Bi-Partisan Hubbard Act of 2008 to Retain All Benefits Earned from Serving Overseas
With reports that “sole survivor” service members returning from service overseas are being asked to return signing bonuses and forego health and GI Bill benefits, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a new bill that would ensure that sole survivors would be entitled to retain all of the benefits of service that they earned by serving in the armed forces, even if they voluntarily separate from their service. The Hubbard Act of 2008, named for Jason Hubbard, an Iraq war veteran who lost both of his siblings in the war, guarantees sole survivors like Jason the same benefits as veterans who serve their full tour of duty. The bill, co-sponsored by Schumer, was introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein.
“It is absurd and unjust to deny full benefits to front-line soldiers who choose the humane option of honorary discharge after losing siblings who are also in active combat," Schumer said. “These brave men and women have sacrificed more for their country than could ever be expected of them, and our country owes them the utmost when they return.”
Six months after the death of twenty-two year old Jared Hubbard in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2004, his only two siblings, Nathan and Jason Hubbard, enlisted to honor his memory. Then, in August 2007, Nathan died as well in a helicopter crash south of Kirkuk, Iraq, leaving Jason as the only surviving sibling. Jason was not allowed to return to a hostile environment by the Department of Defense (DOD) following his brothers’ deaths. But when he voluntarily separated from the Army under the “sole survivor” policy, he was asked to pay back his enlistment bonus and was denied transitional healthcare and GI Bill benefits. Though the Secretary of the Army personally resolved the healthcare and bonus issues, Jason is still unable to benefit from the GI Bill.
Under the Department of Defense’s “sole survivor” policy, service members who lose all their siblings in war are not allowed to return to a combat environment. The policy – portrayed in the film, “Saving Private Ryan” and rooted in the loss of the five Sullivan brothers in WWII – is intended to protect American families from losing all their children to war.
But recent experience with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan show that the policy is deeply flawed. Sole survivors who leave military service early under the policy have been asked to repay all or part of their enlistment bonuses. They have also been denied access to the separation benefits veterans need when transitioning out of the Armed Forces, including the GI Bill, transitional veterans health care, and the Veterans Home Loan Guarantee Program.
Jason’s case highlights the gaping hole that leaves sole survivor service members vulnerable to losing much-needed benefits following devastating losses in their family. Since September 11, 2001, there have been fifty-one recognized sole survivors, who are the only remaining son or daughter in a family where the father or mother, or one or more sons or daughters, served in the Armed Forces, and were either killed, captured, missing in action, or were permanently and fully disabled.
"The bottom line is the the DOD must change this damaging policy. We owe these heroes a deep debt -- and denying or truncating any benefits to those who have not only put their lives on the line for America, but also lost siblings in combat, defies any sense of fairness," said Schumer
To address this glaring lapse, Schumer today announced the introduction of the Hubbard Act of 2008 to ensure that service members who separate from the Armed Services under the “sole survivor” policy, whether or not their service obligation is completed, receive all the benefits they deserve for their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. Specifically, the bill:
- Waives the requirement to pay back the received portions of their enlistment bonus;
- Authorizes participation in the Montgomery GI Bill program as long as a service member initially participated in the program;
- Authorizes separation pay for the time of fulfilled commitment;
- Authorizes use of the Commissary, Base Exchange, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation for two years;
- Authorizes entitlement to the Veterans Home Loan Guarantee program;
- Authorizes transitional healthcare coverage for 120 days*;
- Authorizes Veterans’ Preference in Government Employment -- if applicable when applying for a government position *;
- Authorizes Unemployment Compensation *;
- Authorizes Veterans Employment and Training through the Department of Labor *.
To guarantee that the bill protects those fifty-one service members who have already lost family members, the first five provisions listed are retroactive to September 11, 2001.
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