President Donald Trump signed the so-called Shauna Hill bill into law Wednesday. The new law allows veterans to reassign their education benefits in cases where the designated beneficiary dies.
Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador led the effort to change the law after the death of 16-year-old Shauna Hill of Eagle. Shauna’s father is Capt. Edward “Ted” Hill, a retired Navy pilot with 28 years of service. Shauna, a junior at Eagle High School, died in 2012 as a result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident. She had been her father’s beneficiary. After his daughter’s death, Edward Hill discovered he wasn’t allowed to transfer his GI benefits to his surviving daughter.
Labrador introduced the Shauna Hill Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transferability Act in February. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee included the bill in the larger Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act, H.R. 3218. In its report to the House, the committee said it was a matter of fairness to extend benefits to survivors.
The Colmery Act, the most significant expansion of the GI bill in a decade, passed both the House and Senate unanimously, according to a news release from Labrador’s office.
“Shauna had a strong sense of justice and would be gratified to know her story helped veterans and their families,” Shauna’s parents, Edward and Heidi Hill, said in a news release. “She had great affection for veterans, including her grandfathers who served in World II and Korea. Being associated with a law named for Harry Colmery, the architect of the first GI Bill, would have made her very, very proud.
“Shauna cheerfully accepted the lifestyle of a Navy brat, attending seven different schools and considered herself her dad’s partner in the effort to protect and defend America,” the Hills said in the release. “At military events, she always made an effort to visit with service members. As her parents, we take comfort in knowing her untimely passing has helped bring relief to veteran families.”
The Hills’ surviving daughter, Haley, has undergraduate and master’s degrees, but may one day seek a doctorate. Should she do so, she would be eligible under the new law to obtain the education benefits assigned to her sister.
“Working with the Hills has been a profound honor,” Labrador said in the news release. “Through unspeakable loss, they told a compelling story that has changed the law of the United States to help veteran families in times of greatest need. Now, Shauna Hill’s legacy includes providing solace to countless veterans in the future.”
Labrador met the Hills in 2013, when he helped present the family with a Congressional Bronze Medal awarded to Shauna for public service, personal development and physical fitness.
Hill later sought Labrador’s help in working with the Navy in hopes of obtaining a waiver to reassign the education benefit to his surviving daughter. Unable to negotiate an administrative fix, Labrador sought a legislative remedy to ensure that no veteran would find themselves in a similarly tragic situation.
Shauna was a competitive figure skater and ice dancer. She played the violin in the Eagle High School Orchestra, including at a performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The accident occurred when she was on her way home from orchestra practice.