DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR CHILDREN OF FALLEN HEROES SCHOLARSHIP

The Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship (CFH) is a new Federal Grant (Scholarship). It was established by Congress as part of the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill passed last march. Beginning with the 2018-2019 award year, children whose parent or guardian died in the line of duty while serving as a public service officer are eligible for maximum Pell Grants, Direct Loans and Campus-Based funds based on a zero Expected Family Contribution. Schools are responsible for determining eligibility for CFH and documenting students’ eligibility.

According to a recent electronic announcement from Federal Student Aid, to qualify for CFH, there are several conditions that a student must meet.

First, a student must be Pell-eligible. In addition to having a Valid EFC between 0 and 5486, the student must meet all other eligibility requirements (i.e. resolved all C-Codes, completed Verification, etc.). CFH is only available to students who are 24 years old and under or enrolled at an institution of higher time of his or her parent’s or guardian’s death.

To determine if a student qualifies, it is important to understand what a public safety officer is. For purposes of the Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship, a public safety officer is defined on one of two ways. Since this is a Federal Law, a public safety officer is primarily defined by Federal Statutes but the CFH rules include in its definition of a public safety officers certain state and local fire police.

The Federal definitions are found in section 1204 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796b). It includes a variety of individuals serving public agencies in various capacities such as chaplains, firefighters and law enforcement officers, including unpaid volunteers such as volunteer firefighters (who aren’t compensated) as long as they are serving in an official capacity. Law enforcement officers can also be police, corrections, probation, parole, and judicial officers. Public Service Officers may also be members of certain public or non-profit rescue squads and ambulance crews that provide rescue services or emergency medical services as part of an emergency response system. Finally, Section 1204 includes in its definition of public safety officers, FEMA employees who performed duties hazardous duties related to a major disaster or emergency.

A state or local fire police officer, is defined for CFH purposes as an individual who is a fire police officer who was serving in accordance with State or local law as an officially recognized or designated member of a legally organized public safety agency and provides scene security or directs traffic in response to any fire drill, fire call, or other fire, rescue, or police emergency, or at a planned special event.

Recent guidance from FSA notes that a single, national data source of individuals who died in the line of duty while serving as a public safety officer doesn’t exist, so school Financial Aid offices will have to make a determination of eligibility on a case by case basis in conjunction with each student. Students who meet the criteria for CFH must provide supporting documentation to the Financial Aid Office in order to determine a student’s eligibility for CHF. The Financial Aid office must gather certain supporting documentation and maintain it on file as supporting documentation along with documentation of their eligibility determination. That documentation should include evidence that the student was less than 24 years of age or enrolled at an institution of higher education at the time of his or her parent’s or guardian’s death. FSA provided some examples of acceptable documentation that may be used to determine eligibility for this scholarship:

• A determination letter acknowledging eligibility for certain federal benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB) program administered by the Department of Justice;
• A written letter of attestation or determination made by a state or local government official with supervisory or other relevant oversight authority of an individual who died in the line of duty while serving as a public safety officer as defined above;
• Documentation of the student qualifying for a state tuition or other state benefit accorded to the children or other family members of a public safety officer consistent with the definition in 42 U.S.C. 3796b, or as a fire police officer as noted above; or
• Other documentation the school determines to be from a credible source that describes or reports the circumstances of the death and the occupation of the parent or guardian.
• Institutions must maintain all evidentiary documentation related to the determination of the student’s eligibility for the Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship.

Once a student’s eligibility has been determined a student will continue to be eligible in future award years, as long as the student remains Pell eligible and continues to be enrolled.