After your loved one has died, it is important for the healing process to build new dreams and goals. Perhaps you may be interested in furthering your education. If you or your children are interested in pursuing higher education, and you are the spouse or child of a service member who was injured or died in the line of duty, there are several scholarship opportunities available for you. Scholarships are an excellent way to finance your post-secondary education because, unlike student loans, the money does not have to be paid back.
Federal financial aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, often referred to as "the FAFSA," is the required application from the Department of Education to determine eligibility for any form of federal financial aid, including Federal Pell Grants. The FAFSA application is a great place to start for anyone trying to find money for higher education. In addition, your children may qualify for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. This grant is intended for students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. This program is for students who do not qualify for a Federal Pell Grant.
To pay tribute to military families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, many organizations provide scholarships and grants to children and spouses of service members killed in the line of duty. Below is a list of a few opportunities that are available:
- Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation — This foundation provides scholarships to the children of military personnel who died on active duty or died as a result of a service-connected injury or illness. Their goal is to bridge the gap in funding between available sources of grants and scholarships that may be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs or federal, state, local and private entities so that no child of a fallen service member has to pay out-of-pocket college expenses or student loans.
- Kikkoman Scholarship — This scholarship fund was established by Kikkoman Foods Foundation, Inc. and the Marcos Foundation for the spouses and children of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 Pentagon and Pennsylvania tragedies to help defray the cost of post-secondary educational expenses. The scholarship fund plans to provide scholarships until such time that the fund assets are exhausted. The intention of the scholarship is to provide for the victims' children and surviving spouses who were living at the time of the 2001 disasters. The Department of Defense mails out scholarship applications annually to eligible surviving spouses and children whose loved one was killed as a result of injuries sustained at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. If you have questions about your eligibility as a surviving family member of the Pentagon tragedy, please call 571-372-5319 for more information.
- Heroes' Legacy Scholarship — This scholarship fund, established through the Fisher House Foundation, is for the children of fallen and disabled service members to honor those who have fallen in battle or who have died or become disabled through their active-duty service since Sept. 11, 2001.
- American Legion Legacy Scholarship — This scholarship fund offers scholarships to children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
- Defense Commissary Agency — This program offers a scholarship at every commissary location where qualified applications are received. The scholarship provides for payment of tuition, books, lab fees and other related expenses.
- ThanksUSA Scholarship Program — ThanksUSA offers more than a thousand scholarships for military spouses and children totaling over $3.5 million.
- Folds of Honor Foundation — The Folds of Honor Children's Scholarship Fund broadens the mentorship of children whose parent has been killed or disabled while serving in a combat zone in Iraq or Afghanistan. This program provides support for their future growth through scholarships to subsidize the costs of tuition, approved tutoring, school uniforms, schoolbooks, fees, after school educational programs and approved educational summer camps.
- For additional information, check out DoD's OurMilitary.mil, which provides links to dozens of scholarships specifically for military children.
Department of Veterans Affairs
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has numerous education benefits for service members, veterans and their family members.
- Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program — Surviving spouses are eligible for educational benefits for up to 20 years after the date of the service member's death. Children are normally eligible to use their educational benefits between the ages of 18 and 26. This benefit may be used to pursue an associate, bachelor's or graduate degree, courses leading to certification, technical or vocational school, apprenticeships and various other educational programs. If a child is eligible for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, he or she may be eligible for the VA Dependents Educational Assistance Program. Although the benefits cannot be used at the same time, a child may be eligible for up to 48 months of benefits between the two programs.
- Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship — Children or spouses of those who died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are potentially eligible to receive the Fry Scholarship. Eligible candidates are entitled to 36 months of benefits at the 100 percent level. Children may use the benefit until they reach 33 years of age, and spouses have 15 years from the service member's death or until remarrying to use the scholarship. Children are eligible for both the Fry Scholarship and Dependents' Educational Assistance, but spouses must elect one or the other.
- Special Restorative or Special Vocational Training — Eligible beneficiaries of the Dependents' Education Assistance over the age of 14 with a physical or mental disability may be eligible to receive Special Restorative Training or Special Vocational Training. These benefits are designed to lessen or overcome impairment so that the student may pursue a program of education, special vocational program or other appropriate goal. Special Restorative Training can involve speech and voice correction, language retraining, lip reading, auditory training, Braille reading or writing or other training of this nature. Specialized Vocational Training includes specialized courses leading to a suitable vocation.
- Post-9/11 GI Bill — If your loved one transferred any months of unused post-9/11 GI Bill benefits before his or her death, you may be able to start using this benefit immediately as a spouse for up to 15 years from the date of your loved one's death. If unused months were transferred to a child, the benefit may be used if your loved one died while serving on active duty or completed at least 10 years of service in the armed forces. Children may use the benefit if they have attained a secondary school diploma (or equivalency certificate) or reached 18 years of age. Children are not subject to the 15-year delimiting date but may not use the benefit after reaching 26 years of age.
- Montgomery GI Bill — The VA will pay a special Montgomery GI Bill death benefit to a designated survivor in the event of the service-connected death of a service member while on active duty or within one year after discharge or release. The deceased must either have been entitled to educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill program or a participant in the program who would have been so entitled but for the high school diploma or length-of-service requirement. The amount paid will be equal to the participant's actual military pay reduction, less any education benefits paid.
Service-specific scholarships and aid
Each military service and its related organization offer financial assistance to family members as well.
- Army Emergency Relief — This organization offers scholarships and grants to spouses and dependent children of soldiers to assist them in paying for their educations. Specifically, the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program offers scholarships for children of active duty soldiers, retirees or those who died in service. These scholarships can be used for undergraduate studies, vocational training or to help a student prepare to enter a military academy.
- Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation — This foundation offers scholarships to children of active, deceased or honorably discharged Marines.
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society — The Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Scholarship and Loan Program provides financial aid to children and spouses of active-duty and retired Marines and sailors. There are also scholarships for the children of those killed in action.
- Air Force Aid Society — This organization's education programs assist eligible family members in pursuing their academic goals by providing a source of education financing through tuition assistance and grant programs.
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance — This organization offers eligible spouses and children a variety of loans and grants to help Coast Guard family members achieve their educational goals.
Achieving your own education dreams or those of your children is a great way to honor your loved one's life. For more information you can visit the National Resource Directory or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.