Veterans

Eileen Pace

Just ahead of Memorial Day, a day meant to remember all those who died serving this nation in the armed forces, veterans in the Texas House are gearing up for a fight over a bill that limits those who could make use of a state tuition relief program known as the Hazlewood Act.

The bill by retired Army Colonel, Senator Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Grandbury, would make changes to the program, which offers qualifying veterans and their families’ education benefits, primarily a substantial number of hours of tuition exemption at state-funded colleges and public universities in Texas.

Currently when veterans don’t use state tuition benefits, they can pass on that benefit to their children.

Texas Senate OKs Tougher Rules for Veterans’ Free Tuition Program

May 6, 2015
Eva Hershaw / The Texas Tribune

In an effort to contain growing costs, the Texas Senate voted Tuesday to make it harder for veterans to pass free in-state tuition benefits on to their children. 

By a 24-7 vote, senators approved new restrictions to the Hazlewood program, which offers free school to veterans after they serve in active duty, and can be passed on to children if the benefits are unused. Under the new version, veterans would need to serve longer and pass on their benefits sooner if they wanted one of their dependents to be eligible. The proposed changes follow universities’ pleas for help with the spiraling costs of the program.  

Senate Bill 1735 will now go to the House, where similar legislation is already being considered. Supporters said the bill is necessary to keep the Hazlewood program alive. And even if the changes go into effect, Hazlewood will remain the most generous state-run veterans’ tuition program in the country, they said. 

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the last of four reports this week about the National Guard.

It was December 2007 and Darryl Davidson was driving down a busy San Antonio street when something flew off the truck in front of him. He thinks it might have been a car battery, but he still isn't sure.

Eileen Pace

SAN ANTONIO — H.W. “Bill” Sparks never had trouble scheduling his annual physical at a Veterans Affairs clinic in El Paso until his doctor left early this year. Now he’s been left in limbo, waiting several months to be paired with a new physician.

Sparks, a retired Army warrant officer, said the clinic has tried to reduce wait times since an audit last summer revealed it had one of the nation’s worst backlogs. Yet it still struggles to attract staff and build enough capacity to treat a large veteran population. “They don’t have enough staff to do it,” he said. “So why promise something you can’t deliver?”

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