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Spanberger, Fitzpatrick bill would correct flaw in financial aid system for disabled veterans

(© W. Scott McGill –

Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) today introduced bipartisan legislation to fix an issue in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that has unfairly penalized disabled veterans and their families.

Currently, Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation must be reported in the FAFSA and is taken into consideration when calculating an applicant’s Estimated Family Contribution. Because this tax-free payment remains a factor in the FAFSA process, this requirement has caused many veterans and their families to take on an additional financial burden when sending their children to college.

The bipartisan Honor Our Nation’s Oath to Remember (HONOR) Our Veterans’ Sacrifice Act would fix this issue by excluding veteran benefits, including VA Disability Compensation, from the list of benefits required to be reported in the FAFSA.

“Our nation’s veterans and their families deserve the strongest possible benefits we can provide — and current FAFSA rules unfairly put these families at a financial disadvantage,” Spanberger said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to make a commonsense change to FAFSA forms that will result in increased fairness for those who answered the call, fought to protect their fellow Americans, and kept our nation safe. I’d like to thank Congressman Fitzpatrick for his shared commitment to those who put on the uniform, and I look forward to finding additional ways to make sure no individual is unjustly penalized for their selfless service to our country.”

“We need to be doing everything we can to help our veterans. Our disabled veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and deserve full access to educational opportunities when they return home,” said Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan HONOR Our Veterans’ Sacrifice Act will amend existing law to ensure that VA Disability Compensation is not factored in to FAFSA allocation, to help our veterans receive as much tuition assistance as they are eligible for. We should be making it easier for our veterans to get an education after serving, not harder.”

“My husband, Matthew Ruzicka, served for 24 years in the United States Army, before retiring and beginning to collect Disability Payments for his service-connected injuries. Unfortunately, the amount of financial aid our children received for college reduced dramatically when Matt began receiving these benefits, as they are considered income in calculations for financial aid. These benefits have a specific purpose—to help address my husband’s service-connected injuries,” said Annette Ruzicka, a resident of Midlothian. “To treat these earned benefits as income is unjust and is actively hurting student veterans and veteran’s families like my own. I am grateful to Rep. Spanberger for her leadership on this issue.”

The HONOR Our Veterans’ Sacrifice Act is endorsed by Student Veterans of America.

“Military survivors and disabled veterans receive benefits for the immense losses they have endured and the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our nation, but these same benefits unfortunately can count against beneficiaries when they apply for federal financial aid to pursue higher education,” said Justin Hauschild, Legal Fellow, Student Veterans of America. “SVA supports the HONOR Our Veterans’ Sacrifice Act because it will remove these benefits from federal student aid calculations to ensure military-affiliated students are honored for their sacrifices, and we commend Representatives Spanberger and Fitzpatrick for their leadership on this issue.”

Click here to read the full bill text.