Last Wednesday, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) along with Congressman Anthony G. Brown (D-Md. 4th) and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md. 5th) announced in a news release that they have secured provisions within the Senate and House Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to provide the family of slain ROTC Graduate Richard W. Collins III with the benefits they’re owed following his death. The amendments were introduced by Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Brown and cosponsored by Senator Cardin and Congressman Hoyer, and are expected to pass alongside the full NDAA when the Senate and House come back into session later this month.
On May 20, 2017, Richard W. Collins III, an Reserve Officer Training Corps graduate of Bowie State University who had been commissioned into the U.S. Army, was murdered just days before he was scheduled to go on active duty. Following Lt. Collins’ tragic death, the Collins family has faced difficulty in receiving the recognition and benefits Lt. Collins and his family would have received had he been on active duty.
Last year, both the House and Senate passed legislation introduced by the Members to ensure that an ROTC graduate who dies between commissioning and their first assignment is treated as having served in the military for the purpose of death benefits. Unfortunately, the bill as-adopted applied only to future cases. The amendments secured by the Members in this year’s NDAA will ensure that the Collins family receives the benefits of this legislation.
“Lt. Richard Collins’ tragic death was made even more painful for his family through the challenges they faced in receiving the proper benefits and recognition for Lt. Collins,” Van Hollen said in the release. “Nothing will ever fill the void of their loss, but I’m hopeful this provision brings the Collins family some peace of mind.”
“Lt. Richard Collins’ family will finally receive the much-deserved recognition of their son’s commitment and dedication to the Army and serving our nation,” Cardin said in the release. “While we pray no family has to endure the loss experienced by the Collins family, we hope this will set a precedent for the future.”
“We must ensure that what happened to Lt. Collins’s family does not occur again to another servicemember’s loved ones,” Brown said in the release. “Let us not take for granted the preparation, training, commitment, and service that ROTC graduates pledged to the American people but honor their memory and support their loved ones.”
“Nothing can bring back Lt. Richard Collins or make sense of his horrific murder, but I hope this small action will bring some relief to the Collins family,” Hoyer said in the release. “I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues to secure the benefits due to the Collins family.”