Sequestration Slashes Scholarships for Children of Iraq and Afghanistan War Casualties and Military Members

PHOTO: Due to the sequestration, scholarships for children of troops who died fighting in that conflict are being cut by thousands of dollars.
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On the 10-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, scholarships for children of troops who died fighting in that conflict are being cut by thousands of dollars, thanks to sequestration.

The awards, called the Iraq and Afghanistan War Grants, go to undergraduate students whose moms or dads died "as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11," according to the Department of Education.

Awards that have already been established are safe, but as of March 1, the dollar amount for each new grant is being reduced by 37.8 percent from what a student would have received last year.

That means young adults will receive up to $2,133.81 less if they apply for a grant for the first time this year.

The Iraq War officially ended in December 2011, but these grants are not only for children of recent casualties. Children whose parents were killed in earlier years of the wars when they were very young are now old enough to go to college and could be eligible for the grants.

In the past few weeks, four of the five military branches have reported that military families will be hurt in another way by sequestration cuts: Active duty members of the Army, the Marines, the Coast Guard and most recently, the Air Force won't be able to receive tuition assistance for upcoming courses during the rest of the fiscal year.

These branches blamed the automatic budget cuts caused by sequestration for the suspension of their tuition assistance programs. Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley said those who have already had assistance approved will still receive it, but about 115,000 will be affected by the cuts.

For almost two years before the sequestration cuts went into effect, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that they would reduce the military's readiness and could endanger benefits to those who serve.

The White House, government agencies and businesses reliant on their contracts have announced a myriad of cutbacks since the $85 billion budget cuts took effect March 1, but this was one austerity measure members of the public were not about to take lying down.

A person identified only as "W.B." from Spring Lake, N.C. started a petition on the White House's We the People website on March 8, asking President Obama to reinstate the tuition assistance programs and prevent branches from cutting them in the future.

Within 10 days, the petition had surpassed the 100,000-signature mark, making it mandatory for the White House to respond, though there is no rule for when they have to speak out on the issue. By the end of the day Monday, it had 112,938 signatures.

Amanda Harrison, who identifies herself as the wife of an active-duty Marine, filed a second petition filed on the website Change.org.

Harrison's petition will be sent to the two Houses of Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Public Affairs Officer to the Commandant, as well as the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force if it gets another 12,200 signatures.

Harrison's letter describes how her husband saw the military as an avenue for earning a college degree before he enlisted.

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