Today, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) was joined by Marine Reservist Jim Vesterman to announce passage of his amendment that helps additional military servicemembers qualify for student loan cancellation. Jim first brought the idea to the Congressman's attention.
"Our veterans put their lives on the line to keep our families safe," said Congressman Murphy. "The least we can do is to make sure these heroes can afford a good education after they come home."
"It's great to have representatives in Washington such as Patrick Murphy who are willing to listen to ideas from people back home and act on them," said Vesterman, who was unable to get his student loans cancelled because of current limitations in the program.
Under the Federal Perkins Loan program, students are given need-based loans to help pay for college or graduate studies. Under current law, schools must cancel up to 100% of a Perkins Loan if the borrower has served a full year on active-duty in a combat zone.
There's only one problem: many servicemembers serve in units that see shorter deployment periods and thus fail to qualify for this financial assistance.
Congressman Murphy's amendment lowers that threshold to six months - as opposed to a full year - to ensure that servicemembers whose normal tour lengths are shorter (ie. Marines, who generally serve seven months tours) still qualify.
Vesterman is a Marine Reservist who deployed to Anbar Province, Iraq in 2004 and first brought this situation to Rep. Murphy's attention after learning he was ineligible for the education benefit. At 31, he deferred admission to an MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School in order to join the Marine Corps' Special Ops unit called Force Recon. Vesterman's tour lasted the standard seven months -- not enough to qualify for Perkins Loan cancellation that would have helped cover his loans for the MBA program. He contacted the Congressman's office last year to make sure Rep. Murphy was aware of this issue.
In response, the Congressman introduced an amendment to fix the situation by lowering the threshold, legislation that passed the House last week as part of the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.