Cantwell, Bipartisan Senators Call for Greater Access to Early Childhood Education for Families of Disabled Military Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to Assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Lynn Johnson, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and a bipartisan group of senators called on HHS to ensure disabled post-9/11 military veterans and their children are able to access high-quality early childhood education through the Head Start program.

“High-quality early education is a proven strategy for achieving a competitive workforce. It is vital that all children are able to benefit from it, and that we reward veteran families with access to opportunities like the Head Start program,” the senators wrote.

In the letter, the senators urge the HHS to make Head Start available to veterans with a disability rating of 60 percent or above and whose disability payments would otherwise make their families ineligible for consideration. Under current regulations, veteran disability payments are used in Head Start eligibility calculations. Roughly 600,000 veterans call Washington state home, including more than 70,000 post-9/11 military veterans.

“By removing barriers to include the children of more veterans, we can help provide these families access to the support they need to succeed in school, work, and life after service,” said the senators in their letter. “For decades we have opened the door to higher education for millions of service members and veterans. It is time we do the same for their children.”

In Washington state, more than 20,000 children attend 46 Head Start programs, as well as 39 Early Head Start programs, every year. Recent studies have found the program provides up to $8.60 in benefits to society for every $1 spent.

“Head Start does an incredible job of serving the children of veterans. But unfortunately many children of disabled veterans don’t qualify for the program because their VA benefits push them slightly over the very rigid income guidelines for qualifying for Head Start. This small adjustment to how we determine income can make a huge difference in honoring disabled veterans for their sacrifice and ensuring that their children get the help they need to be ready for kindergarten and later life. I applaud Senator Cantwell for tackling this issue and working to open access to some for our most at risk children—children of disabled veterans,” said Joel Ryan, Executive Director of the Washington State Head Start Association.

Joining Senator Cantwell in signing the letter are U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

The full letter can be viewed HERE.