Oklahoma Senate Bill 486 again advances, would increase school benefits for veterans, families

OKLAHOMA CITY - A House subcommittee approved a bill Monday that would increase veterans' benefits in the state and further extend them to their families.

Senate Bill 486 was approved 6-0 Monday, and appears well on its way to a House vote.

SEE THE BILL (http://media2.kjrh.com/html/pdfs/SB486.doc)

The bill, spearheaded by Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Pat Ownbey, would allow 100 percent disabled veterans injured after Sept. 11, 2001 and their family members to attend any state higher education institution or state-supported technology center without paying tuition or fees. 

SEE LIST OF SCHOOLS (http://bit.ly/X8Bmip)

Family of military members killed in action or in the line of duty after Sept. 11 would also be eligible.

"These individuals have made a great sacrifice on behalf of our country,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. "This bill basically says we are going to ensure they and their families have access to higher education in Oklahoma.”

The legislation, which would apply to all active and reserve branches of the military, would require all eligible children enroll prior to turning 21. It would also make U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Post 9/11 G.I. Bill students eligible for in-state tuition.

The House is expected to soon vote on another bill aimed at improving the wellness of veterans and their families.

Senate Bill 527 (http://bit.ly/SB527PTSD), which would create pilot programs for deployed Oklahoma National Guard members returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries, was unanimously approved in the Senate earlier this month.

According to the Associated Press, the proposal could cost $2.3 million if only one family member uses the benefits for the state's average college tuition.

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