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04-16-08, 11:59 AM #1
GI Lost Brothers in War, Then His Benefits
Please contact your local Congress person and urge them to pass the Hubbard Act - this should be treated as an honorable discharge, not an early separation!
Lawmakers aim to guard sole survivors of the U.S. military
GI lost brothers in war, then his benefits
By Garance Burke
April 16, 2008
FRESNO – Army Spc. Jason Hubbard was forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, but once at home the soldier faced another battle: The military cut off his health care, stopped his GI educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.
It wasn't until Hubbard petitioned his congressman that he was able to restore some benefits.
Now that congressman, Rep. Devin Nunes, plans to join three other lawmakers in introducing a bill today that would ensure full benefits to all soldiers discharged under the sole survivor policy. The rule is a holdover from World War II meant to protect the rights of service people who have lost a family member to war.
“This is a man who asked for nothing and gave a lot,” said Nunes, a Republican who represents Hubbard's hometown of Clovis, a city of 90,000 near Fresno. “Jason is one person who has suffered tremendously and has given the ultimate sacrifice. One person is too many to have this happen to.”
Hubbard, 33, and his youngest brother, Nathan, enlisted while they were still grieving for their brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, who was 22 when killed in a 2004 bomb explosion in Ramadi.
At their request, the pair were assigned to the same unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq the next year.
In August, Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, 21, died when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Kirkuk. Jason Hubbard was part of the team assigned to remove his comrades' bodies from the wreckage. Hubbard accompanied his little brother's body on a military aircraft to Kuwait, then on to California. He kept steady during Nathan's burial at Clovis Cemetery, standing in dress uniform between his younger brothers' graves as hundreds sobbed in the heat.
But Hubbard broke his silence when he found his pregnant wife had been cut off from the transitional health care the family needed to ease back to civilian life after he was discharged in October.
“On the one side, I was dealing with the second tragedy of the loss of my brother, and this came down soon after,” Hubbard told KFSN-TV yesterday. “It was frustrating. But on the other side, it wasn't anybody's fault per se. The military just hadn't had specific guidelines set up to deal with these types of specific situations.”
Hubbard went to Nunes, who began advocating for the former soldier in December, after hearing the Army was demanding he repay his $6,000 enlistment bonus and was denying him up to $40,000 in educational benefits under the GI bill.
After talking with Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Nunes managed to get the repayment waived and Hubbard's wife's health care restored. Hubbard and his 2-year-old son never got their health coverage back.
But the congressman also started wondering about the plight of the 51 other sole survivors whom the Department of Defense has identified since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Hubbard Act, scheduled to be introduced today, would for the first time detail the rights of sole survivors, and extend to them a number of benefits already offered to other soldiers honorably discharged from military service.
The bill – co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. – also would waive payback of their enlistment bonuses, allow them to participate in GI educational programs, give them separation pay and access to transitional health care.
Meanwhile, Hubbard, his wife, Linnea, and his son Elijah have permanent health coverage because he's once again working as a Fresno County sheriff's deputy, the job he left in 2004 to serve in Iraq. He was sworn in yesterday in a ceremony in the Fresno County supervisors' chamber.
The Army will adopt to any changes in policy springing from the legislation, said Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks. “Foremost, the Army itself sympathizes with him for the loss of his brothers . . . (and) do everything within our means to rectify this issue. He is still one of ours,” he said.Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.
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04-17-08, 03:34 AM #2
Damn, thats up by me. I remember reading about that funeral and there is a thread here on it.
This really sucks. I guess the military does some strange things.
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