(TRENTON) – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Vincent Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Gordon Johnson, Whip Wilson and Paul Moriarty to provide scholarships to the children of military personnel who have died, become permanently disabled or are missing in action received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
“Military families are our nation’s real unsung heroes,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We know that freedom isn’t free and it’s only fitting that we honor the sacrifices of those who have worn the uniform by helping their children and spouses attain their highest educational goals.”
“These men and women are the most honorable among us, as they have dedicated their lives in the name of freedom and democracy,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We preserve their legacy by helping their families ‘Be all they can be.’ “
The bill (A-2849) establishes in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority the Military Dependent Scholarship Fund. The fund will be used to provide scholarships to the spouse, child or other eligible dependent of a New Jersey resident who is killed, missing in action or totally and permanently disabled as a consequence of Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn. The scholarships will be provided to pay for the costs of undergraduate study at a public or independent institution of higher education.
“Our men and women in uniform place their lives on the line everyday to preserve American values,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “When we encourage and enable their families to pursue their goals we pay homage to their parent or spouse self-less service to our country.”
“Members of our military are deployed around the world to protect the freedoms and democracy we take pride in,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “It is important we continue to honor the service and sacrifice of our military families in ways that help them to strive. A scholarship program is one of those ways.”
“The hardships of those who serve in defense of our nation impact their families in ways most of us – because of their selflessness – will never know,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation is about making sure that the family members of the brave men and women who made the greatest of sacrifices for this country can pursue an education in their honor.”
The bill also establishes a board of trustees of the fund which is authorized to award scholarships from the Military Dependents Scholarship Fund. The board will have the following duties: determine eligibility for a scholarship from the fund; determine the amount of each scholarship award; report annually to the governor and the legislature on the performance of its duties; solicit and raise private funds to finance the Military Dependents Scholarship Program; and receive and disburse such contributions to the fund as may be forthcoming from private and public sources.
Under the bill’s provisions, to be eligible for the scholarship they will have to demonstrate that the applicant will be or is enrolled in a full-time undergraduate program of study leading to a degree at an institution for the award, regulation and administration of scholarships from the fund. Eligibility for the scholarship program, in the case of a spouse, will be limited to a period of 15 years form the date of death of the person, the date the person is officially listed as “Missing in Action” or the date upon which the person is certified to have been totally and permanently disabled for initial receipt of the benefits. In the case of a dependent child, eligibility will be limited to period of eight years following graduation from high school.
The bill was approved 40-0 by the Senate and 76-0 by the Assembly.