U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI-05), today announced that a Flint-native and decorated Navy veteran, retired Senior Chief Russell Dotson, will receive tens of thousands of dollars of G.I. Bill higher education benefits owed to his family after the U.S. Navy denied this assistance because of a bureaucratic paperwork mistake.
The acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, has indicated to Durbin, Duckworth, Kildee, and retired Senior Chief Dotson that the Navy will provide him with full reimbursement and allow him to transfer his military G.I. bill benefits to his daughter, Paige Dotson, who was a student at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. These benefits are worth tens of thousands of dollars and are intended to cover an entire college education.
"Mr. Dotson's GI Bill benefits were wrongly pulled from him because of an error by the Navy. Because of this, the Acting Secretary of the Navy came to my office to tell me they were going to make this right for Mr. Dotson and his family. I'm glad there is a good ending to this that restores Mr. Dotson's hard-earned benefits," Durbin said.
"If anyone knows why we need to streamline benefits for Veterans and their families, it's me. I had to go through a physical at the VA to prove that my legs had not grown back before I could get my benefits. People willing to sacrifice in uniform for our country don't deserve this sort of red tape, and I'm pleased the Acting Secretary of the Navy is finally doing something to help this family. I'm going to keep working to get to the bottom of this problem and make sure anyone who's earned the ability to transfer their GI Bill benefits to a child is able to do so, full stop. It's just common sense," Duckworth said.
"I am pleased that the U.S. Navy acted swiftly to fix Retired Senior Chief Dotson's case and make sure that his family receives the military benefits he earned," Kildee said. "Retired Senior Chief Dotson served our country for 22 years and did everything right, yet because of a bureaucratic failure was denied his military education benefits. I commend the acting Secretary of the Navy for acting quickly on this case."
Both Kildee and Durbin also had telephone calls with the acting Secretary Modly in recent days to discuss retired Senior Chief Dotson's case. Durbin met with acting Secretary Modly last week to discuss the case.
Retired Senior Chief Dotson served 22 years in the U.S. Navy, in both active duty and the reserves. After reportedly being counseled by the Navy that he could transfer his G.I. Bill benefits to his daughter, Paige Dotson, Senior Chief Dotson retired from the Navy. When his daughter began her university studies at DePaul University, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initially began paying her tuition and housing benefits as a part of the G.I. Bill, only later to rescind the G.I. Bill after being informed by the U.S. Department of Defense that the Navy miscalculated Dotson's transfer eligibility date by days. In addition, the VA was required by statute to demand that the Dotson family repay more than $20,000 in benefits, including interest, resulting in further hardship for the family.