Surviving Military Family Members to Benefit from Forever GI Bill

TAPS Among VSOs that Advocated for Passage of Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017


ARLINGTON, Va. -– After passing both the House of Representatives and Senate with unanimous bipartisan support earlier this month, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 has now become law.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) joined more than 25 other veteran service organizations (VSOs) in support of the new GI Bill, which represents the largest overhaul package for the Post 9/11 GI Bill since its inception in 2008. Of the $3.4 billion package, $1 billion has been earmarked for upgrades to survivor education benefits under Chapter 33 (Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Fry Scholarship) and Chapter 35 (Dependents’ Education Assistance).

“TAPS is proud to have been part of the effort to bring forth a bill that will improve education benefits for our nation’s military heroes, their dependents and their surviving family members, and we’re grateful to our nation’s leaders for the care they demonstrated for those who serve,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder. “These are lasting improvements to a benefit that has been the cornerstone in providing long-term economic opportunity for our veterans and their families, and preserves the GI Bill for future generations who will soon take their turn defending our nation’s freedom.”

Provisions of the GI Bill that affect surviving military family members are:

  • Yellow Ribbon Program for Fry Scholarship recipients -- Surviving children and spouses who are receiving the Fry Scholarship and attending a private university will be able to tap into additional tuition assistance to help offset the difference in tuition through the Yellow Ribbon Program. This provision goes into effect Aug. 1, 2018.
  • Consolidation and increase of DEA -- Survivors using DEA will see an increase of $200 per month, bringing the rates to $1,224 per month. New survivors (losses after Jan. 1, 2018) will only be eligible for 36 months of benefits, just like for all other educational programs provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This will go into effect Oct. 1, 2018.
  • Changes to transferability -- If the veteran transferred the Post 9/11 GI Bill before passing, the beneficiaries already listed will be able to adjust the allocation of months amongst themselves. No new transferees may be added, and transfer must have already been completed before the death of the service member. Families be allowed to make these changes beginning on Aug. 1, 2018.
  • Removal of the 15-year deliminating date -- All surviving spouses who are Fry eligible will no longer be held to the 15-year “use it or lose it” deliminating date. This provision is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001. Spouses will remain eligible for Fry for life, unless they remarry. Children whose parent died before Jan. 1, 2013 will still have until age 33 to use the Fry Scholarship, while children whose parent died after that date will be able to access it for life. This change goes into effect immediately.


The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes and has offered support to more than 70,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).