Submission For The Record of Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.
Chairmen Flores, Ranking Member Takano and Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. is grateful for the privilege of presenting testimony for the record on issues pertaining to surviving spouses of our Nation’s veterans.
Gold Star Wives of America (GSW), founded in 1945 and Congressionally Chartered in 1980, is an organization of surviving spouses of veterans who died while serving on active duty or died of a service-connected cause. Current members are survivors of military members who served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and every period in between. GSW is an all-volunteer organization encompassing approximately 8,500 members.
GSW’s primary mission is to support survivors after the death of their spouse and provide a place for them to connect with each other. GSW also provides information about survivor benefits and assists survivors in obtaining these benefits. We strive to raise the awareness of Congress, the public, the veterans’ community and the military community to the many inequities existing in survivor benefit programs.
Recent proposed legislation (H.R. 357 and S.257) requires states to provide in-state tuition rates for Veterans using Federal education benefits. To ensure that Federal education dollars are spent most effectively and efficiently, surviving spouses and dependents using Chapter 35 education benefits should be included in legislation to require that states provide in-state tuition rates. Further, such protections should be extended to all VA Education Chapters.
Gold Star Wives of America has additional concerns regarding VA educational benefits for surviving spouses and children and would welcome the opportunity to discuss them. It is difficult to determine how many surviving spouses of active duty and service-connected deaths are using education benefits because the VA is unwilling or unable to provide that information.