EAGLE -- Rep. Raul Labrador, R- Idaho, is pushing legislation that would turn a deep, tragic loss into something positive for military families across the country.
On Thursday, the Congressman introduced the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transferability Act (H.R. 1112) to fix what he says is an oversight in current law regarding benefits under the GI Bill. Its intention is to right a wrong: to fill gaps in veterans' education benefits.
This legislation is named for Shauna Hill, a 16-year-old Eagle High School student who was killed in a car crash in December 2012.
"She was a pretty extraordinary little girl," Shauna's mother, Heidi Hill, said. "She was a gift."
Shauna's father, Capt. Edward Hill, was the motivator behind Rep. Labrador's work to push this bill forward; legislation intended to change the current law and provide comfort to families dealing with a devastating loss.
For years before she passed away, Shauna talked about wanting to study at Stanford.
"She would have made it," Edward said. "She was super talented."
Capt. Hill assigned his GI education benefits to Shauna while he was still serving in the Navy.
"It's very robust and very excellent for a kid going to Stanford," Capt. Hill added.
But after she passed, he tried transferring them to his other daughter, Haley.
"Haley was going to play soccer so I assigned entire benefit to [Shauna] not even foreseeing the possibility of something happening," Hill said.
Unfortunately, he hit a road block: he had just retired from the military after 28 years and found out that under current law he wasn't able to transfer his benefits. Edward called Veterans' Affairs and they told him once you've retired, you can no longer reassign.
"It's part of the rigidity of the whole program," Capt. Hill added.
Capt. Hill reached out to Labrador for help in working with the Navy in hopes of obtaining a waiver to reassign the education benefit to Haley. When they were unable to negotiate an administrative fix, Labrador and his team pursued legislation.
"That is a stellar thing to have your Congressman take that much attention to just a regular person," Hill said.
Four years later, Labrador introduced this bill that would allow veterans to reassign their education benefits to a surviving child or spouse in cases where the original beneficiary passes away - making a difference for not only the Hills, but veterans across the country.
"There's probably many other cases that are exactly the same," Hill added.
The Hills say Shauna would be humbled, but wouldn't want it to be about her.
"She had a real sense of justice," Heidi said. "That's what I love about this bill being in her name. She would want families that really need it to be able to have the opportunity to have it and transfer it around."
Although she's no longer here, Shauna's lasting impact can be felt throughout the community, and if this legislation moves forward, the entire country.
"I think good things come of this," Heidi added. "She was a patriot and I think she would be charging hard in life and doing a lot of great things."
The hills say they are extremely thankful to the Congressman and his team.
Twelve of Labrador's colleagues joined him in introducing this act and it is backed by the Concerned Veterans for America organization.
Labrador's team said U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R- Idaho, also introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
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