Bill would educate kids of disabled veterans

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, January 20, 2007

The children of some disabled veterans would get a free education at state universities and community colleges under a bill proposed in the Mississippi House.

Rep. John Read, a former Navy diver, said the bill would provide an education for the children of veterans who are 20 percent or more disabled. The child must be under the age of 23.

“If a person has gone and made a sacrifice then I feel like we owe that much to them to help their children receive an education,” said Read, R-Gautier.

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The bill could be especially helpful to Guard and Reserve soldiers whose injuries were too severe to allow them to return to their civilian jobs, Read said.

“If a person comes back wounded and can not carry on the livelihood that they had, I just think it’s a prudent thing to do,” he said. “If anyone falls in that category then they should call their representative and ask them to support this legislation.”

Adrian Grice, executive director of the state Veterans Affairs Board, said some disabled veterans get compensation for their children but it doesn’t necessarily go toward an education.

“A disabled veteran’s kids would be at a disadvantage in getting an education compared to a normal person,” Grice said. “So certainly it would benefit these veterans.”

Grice said the bill should be amended to include the children of soldiers who gave their lives in the line of duty.

“I just wish that there was some provision for children of veterans that were killed,” he said. “I mean those guys have made the ultimate sacrifice and we ought to honor that sacrifice.”

A bill that would have educated the children of both fallen and disabled soldiers died last year in the Senate Appropriations Committee when the estimated cost of the program was mistakenly inflated by millions of dollars.

Information from the state College Board had suggested the program would cost between $48 million to $64 million per year when backers said it actually would cost only a fraction of that amount.

The board had based its findings on 24,000 people being eligible for assistance. The College Board later revised its findings, saying only about 400 people would qualify, but a filing deadline had already passed and the bill was not revived.

Florida has had a similar program on the books since 1976. The state spent roughly $400,000 in 2005 to educate 207 children of fallen or disabled soldiers. In 2004, Florida spent some $322,000 to educate 157 students, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The bill is House Bill 864.