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U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Virginia veteran, benefits post-9/11

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Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan and Sen. Tim Kaine, both of Virginia, celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday in Rudisill v. McDonough, Secretary of Veteran Affairs.

The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of James Rudisil and held that veterans who served multiple tours have the right to access all educational benefits they are entitled to under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. The ruling follows an amicus brief led by McClellan and Kaine and signed by 14 members of the House and Senate.

“James Rudisill represents the very best of our Commonwealth and served our country with honor and distinction. I am thrilled the Supreme Court ruled in his favor and upheld his right to access the benefits he was promised and rightfully deserves,” McClellan said. “This ruling is a win for Mr. Rudisill and the more than 1.7 million veterans eligible for both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I was honored to join Senator Kaine in leading an amicus brief to the Court. I will always fight to ensure our servicemembers and veterans have access to the resources they need.”

Kaine said that America’s veterans sacrifice “so much to keep our country safe, and we owe it to them to keep our word and administer the benefits they were promised in return. I commend today’s Supreme Court decision in favor of Virginia veteran James Rudisill, who was denied the full benefits he earned under the G.I. bill. I am proud to have led a bipartisan, bicameral group of my colleagues in submitting an amicus brief in support of Mr. Rudisill’s case and will continue to do all I can through my work on the Senate Armed Services Committee to advocate for servicemembers, veterans and their families.”

FBI Special Agent James Rudisill of Richmond served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during three periods of active-duty military service: 2000 to 2002 as an enlisted member and 2007 to 2011 as a commissioned officer. After completing his first tour, Rudisill applied for and received education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill to complete his undergraduate degree. Following his subsequent periods of service, Rudisill applied for the more generation education benefits offered under the post 9/11 GI Bill in order to attend divinity school and return to the Army as a minister. The Department of Veterans Affairs unfairly denied him the benefits he was promised, and Rudisill had to forfeit his offer to divinity school as a result.

“James Rudisill bravely served his country with courage and selflessness, yet was denied the benefits he earned through his multiple periods of military service,” said Virginia Sen. Mark R. Warner. “The purpose of the Post-9/11 GI Bill was to ensure that the men and women of our armed services received appropriate earned benefits for their service to our country. Attempts to deny or limit these benefits run counter to the spirit of the law, meant to honor and support the millions of veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation both before and following 9/11. I am thrilled that the Supreme Court has stood by our servicemembers to ensure that they may receive the entirety of the benefits they deserve.”

The landmark decision will be life-changing for post and pre-9/11 veterans, according to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“The Supreme Court ruling guarantees that James Rudisill and other veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will have full access to the educational benefits they earned when they volunteered to go to war. We have a sacred obligation to care for those who bore the battle when they return home and this decision reaffirms that promise,” Blumenthal said.

In August 2023, McClellan and Kaine led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Rudisill. In the House, McClellan was joined by Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Adriano Espaillat of New York, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson of Georgia, Stephen Lynch of Maine, Grace Meng of New York, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia and Robert Wittman of Virginia. In the Senate, Kaine was joined by Sens. Blumenthal, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Warner.

“Thanks to James Rudisill, thousands of veterans across the country will have full access to the educational benefits they earned,” Fetterman said. “We have a sacred obligation to care for those who served our nation in uniform and I am proud to have joined my colleagues to stand with James in his fight to ensure we live up to that promise.”

Connolly said he is thrilled with the Supreme Court decision.

“Our veterans sacrifice enough without having to face bureaucratic hoops and hurdles at home. May this be an opportunity for all of us to recommit ourselves to the care and wellbeing of our veterans when they return home,” Connolly said.

Scott said the decision is a win for Rudisill and veterans across the nation.

“I was proud to be the original House sponsor of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Veterans have earned their educational benefits, and I will continue to advocate for the benefits they are entitled to through their service to our country,” Scott said.

Spanberger, a former law enforcement officer, said the ruling upholds “that veterans have access to the educational benefits they’re entitled to under the GI Bill. Every American servicemember who accepted the risk and answered the call to serve our country should receive the full support and benefits they’ve earned through their service — and I am hopeful that this ruling will help provide many servicemembers and Veterans across our Commonwealth and our country with the opportunities they were promised.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.