President Signs Feinstein-Chambliss-Nunes-Costa Legislation to Protect Benefits of America’s Military “Sole Survivors”
- Hubbard Act fixes flawed “sole survivor” policy, honors California’s Hubbard brothers -
Aug 29 2008
Washington, DC – President Bush today signed into law the Hubbard Act, to protect the benefits of America’s military “sole survivors,” introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and Representative Jim Costa (D-Calif.).
The law is named in honor of California’s Hubbard brothers. Jared and Nathan Hubbard lost their lives serving their country in Iraq. Jason Hubbard was discharged as a sole survivor, but was denied separation benefits when he left the Army early to return to his job as a Fresno County sheriff’s deputy.
The Hubbard Act will provide sole survivors a number of benefits already offered to other soldiers honorably separating from military service. In addition, sole survivors will not be required to repay any portion of their enlistment bonus; may participate in the Montgomery GI Bill educational program; and may receive separation pay and transitional healthcare coverage.
“The Hubbard Act honors the sacrifice of brave Americans who have served their country honorably in the face of tremendous personal tragedy,” Senator Feinstein said. “I’m pleased that the President has signed it into law, putting an end to a policy that was unfair and deeply flawed. Finally, America’s ‘sole survivors’ will get the benefits they deserve.”
“Our military men and women and their families have made sacrifices on behalf of our freedom and democracy,” said Senator Chambliss. “When these families experience tragedy and loss, their situation should not be made more difficult as a result of poorly constructed policies and procedures. I’m pleased the President has signed the Hubbard Act into law, which will ensure sole survivors are not penalized when they separate from the military, and that the benefits and pay to which they are entitled are consistent with personnel who are involuntarily separated under honorable conditions.”
"Today is a great day for all of the sole survivors in our nation, as this bill rights a wrong for our brave men and women in uniform,” said Representative Costa. “I am also pleased that President Bush signed this bill into law with Jason Hubbard's family in attendance."
Under the Department of Defense’s “sole survivor” policy, service members who lose all their siblings in war were not allowed to return to a combat environment. The policy – portrayed in the film, “Saving Private Ryan” – was intended to protect American families from losing all their children to war.
But recent experience with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that the policy was deeply flawed. Sole survivors who leave military service early under the policy have been asked to repay all or part of their enlistment bonuses. They have also been denied access to the separation benefits veterans need when transitioning out of the Armed Forces, including the GI Bill, transitional veterans health care, and the Veterans Home Loan Guarantee Program.
The Hubbard brothers of California illustrate the flaws with this program.
In November 2004, Jared Hubbard, a Marine, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Six months later, his brothers Nathan and Jason Hubbard enlisted together in the Army – to honor Jared and to serve their country.
Nathan and Jason Hubbard served in the same unit in Iraq. Last August, the brothers were returning from a scouting mission in two Blackhawk helicopters south of Kirkuk. The helicopter carrying Nathan crashed, and he was killed. Jason Hubbard’s helicopter landed nearby, and he was ordered to help secure the crash site.
Jason Hubbard was required to leave the combat theater because he had become a “sole survivor.” When he voluntarily separated from the Army under this policy, he was asked to pay back his enlistment bonus. He was also denied transitional health care and the GI Bill.
The Secretary of the Army personally intervened to resolve Jason Hubbard’s health care and bonus issues. But he is still not allowed access to the GI Bill unless he goes through the lengthy process of changing his discharge code.
Jason Hubbard is one of 51 sole survivors identified since the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.
Following is a summary of the Hubbard Act of 2008:
The law will allow a service member who voluntarily separates under sole survivorship to qualify for the following provisions, many of them retroactive to September 11, 2001. It specifically:
- Waives the requirement to pay back any portion of their enlistment bonus upon separating from the military;
- Authorizes participation in the Montgomery GI Bill educational program, as long as they initially participated in the program;
- Authorizes full separation pay;
- Authorizes transitional health care coverage for 120 days. (Not retroactive);
- Authorizes use of commissaries, base exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation for two years;
- Authorizes entitlement to the Veterans Home Loan Guarantee program;
- Authorizes conversion of Service Members Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy to a term policy called Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI);
- Authorizes veterans’ preference in government employment, if applicable when applying for a government position. (Not retroactive);
- Authorizes unemployment compensation. (Not retroactive); and
- Authorizes veterans employment and training through Department of Labor. (Not retroactive).