House Passes Kind Bill Ensuring Benefits to Sole Survivor' Veterans
The House of Representatives Tuesday evening unanimously passed the Hubbard Act,' H.R. 6580, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), which guarantees benefits to sole survivor' veterans who voluntarily discharge from the Armed Forces because their service-member siblings have died in combat.
"Not only have these veterans lost their loved ones, they've lost the benefits they are owed for honorably serving our country - and that's wrong," Rep. Kind said. "Whether or not their full service obligation was completed, through their hardship and commitment to this country, sole survivor veterans have earned their benefits. I am proud that the Hubbard Act will correct this oversight in law."
The bill is named for the Hubbard Family of California, whose experience prompted the legislation through their representative, Devin Nunes (R-CA). In November 2004, 22 year-old Jared Hubbard was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq. Six months later, in honor of their fallen brother, Nathan and Jason Hubbard decided to enlist together. Tragically, in August 2007, a Blackhawk helicopter carrying Nathan Hubbard and 13 other soldiers crashed. Jason Hubbard, who served in the same Army platoon but was in a different helicopter, was immediately redeployed to the United States and offered a "sole survivor" discharge.
However, upon being discharged, Jason was asked to repay significant portions of his enlistment bonus, and denied transition healthcare and GI Bill benefits. Currently, there are no standard benefits available to those who voluntarily separate from the Armed Forces under the "sole survivor" policy. This legislation will allow "sole survivors" to qualify for the same benefits provided to those who do so involuntarily but honorably.
The cost of the bill is paid for through a provision introduced by Rep. Kind last year that eliminates the cap on Qualified Funeral Trusts, which currently allow people to put aside up to $9,000 to use for their funeral. Given the cost of funerals today and the customized options available, many families have found this to be too small a sum. The cap was also putting a significant administrative burden on funeral directors who manage the trusts.
"This bill will allow people to save responsibly for their funerals and alleviate what can be a huge financial burden on their families," Rep. Kind said.