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November 2, 2012

NEWS AND TRIBUNE LETTERS: Nov. 3-4, 2012

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I am writing to correct misinformation that appeared in an Oct. 30 letter to the editor [“Reader calls for Clere’s ouster”]. The letter stated that I “said no to the children of disabled veterans of Indiana.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We owe everything to our veterans, including the author of the letter, Mr. Chuck Simons.

The letter did not specify the legislation in question. It was Senate Enrolled Act 577 from 2011. It passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan 68-25 vote [roll call vote No. 629, April 11, 2011]. The legislation was supported by all of the major veterans organizations, and I am proud to have voted for it. SEA 577-2011 did not take away anything from the children of disabled veterans. To the contrary, it made changes intended to increase accountability and ensure the future availability of college financial aid.

With one exception, the changes apply only to children of veterans who enlist after June 30, 2011. Those future recipients will have to enroll in school by the age of 32 and will be required to maintain a minimum grade-point average [for freshmen, “satisfactory academic progress” as defined by the college or university the student attends; for sophomores, a 2.25 GPA on a 4.0 scale; and for juniors and seniors, a 2.5 GPA]. In addition, the student must complete a degree within eight years of starting it. This provision is the exception. It applies to everyone, including the children of veterans who enlisted prior to July 1, 2011, although the eight-year clock will start over for them if they previously attempted studies under the old law and later return to school under the new law.

Under the new law, the benefit level will be based on the veteran’s disability level. A child of a veteran with a disability rating of 80 percent or more will receive full tuition and fees at an eligible Indiana college or university. If the parent’s disability rating is less than 80 percent, the student will receive 20 percent plus the disability rating. For example, a student whose parent is 40 percent disabled will receive 60 percent of tuition and fees. Again, these changes apply only to children of veterans who enlist after June 30, 2011. As of today, according to the Division of Student Financial Aid, no one has lost any benefits.

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