Herron, Pinion to co-sponsor scholarship fund for veterans
NASHVILLE — Citing the inability of the G.I. Bill to meet the rising costs of a college education, state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, announced that during the next session of the General Assembly he will sponsor the “Helping Heroes Act of 2008.”
It will be a scholarship funded by lottery proceeds that will provide a maximum of $8,000 in higher education assistance to Tennessee veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Herron will be joined in sponsoring the bill by his Democratic House colleagues from Senate District 24, state Reps. Willie “Butch” Borchert, D-Camden; Mark Maddox, D-Dresden; Phillip Pinion, D-Union City; Randy Rinks, D-Savannah; and John Tidwell, D-New Johnsonville.
“We can never forget that our responsibility to support our troops continues after they come home,” Herron said. “Many of our veterans struggle with the rising costs of getting a college education. After all they’ve done for us, we should offer them a helping hand.”
The Helping Heroes Act will provide up to $1,000 per semester for Tennessee veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who attend approved state institutions of higher learning on a full-time basis. Total benefits are capped at $8,000 and must be used within eight years of the end of military service.
Eligible veterans must have been honorably discharged from the military and must have received the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, or the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. They must also meet all residency requirements established by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued a statement of support for the legislation (Click here for a copy of the IAVA letter).
“The current Montgomery GI Bill, as created in 1984, was conceived in peacetime and falls well short of covering the average cost of education in Tennessee,” Patrick Campbell, IAVA legislative director, wrote. “IAVA believes that the Helping Heroes Act will be remembered as a wise investment in Tennessee’s future.”
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Tennessee veterans attending college receive approximately $39,000 in benefits from the G.I. Bill. With the addition of the Helping Heroes Act, a college education will be virtually free for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Tennessee.
“Over 12,000 Tennesseans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Herron said. “I can’t think of a better cause than giving educational assistance to these brave men and women.”
Governor Phil Bredesen also offered his support. “Tennesseans greatly appreciate the sacrifices that our veterans make to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” he said. “After their service to us, the least we can do is help our veterans get the education they need to be productive in the 21st Century economy.”
The estimated cost of the scholarship program is $6-8 million annually.
Published in The Messenger 11.15.07