The Facts: The G.I. Bill for the 21st Century

Why is President Bush Threatening to Veto Legislation Supported by Major Veterans Organizations and Bipartisan Majorities in Congress?

This month, Congress passed the G.I. Bill for the 21st Century — critical legislation providing a full, four-year college education to the men and women of the U.S. military who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001. The bill helps make our troops and veterans part of a new economic recovery, just like the Greatest Generation did after World War II. But despite bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate and overwhelming support from veterans groups, President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

Some of the Veterans & Other Organizations Supporting the G.I Bill for 21st Century

American Legion
National Guard Association of the United States
Non-Commissioned Officers Association
Disabled American Veterans
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Student Veterans of America
Military Officers Association of America
Veterans of Foreign Wars
National Association of Black Veterans
Vietnam Veterans of America

Key Republicans Supporting the G.I. Bill for 21st Century

Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia) — 2nd-Ranking Republican and former Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee; Secretary of the Navy (1972-1974); Navy (1944-1946); Marines (1950-1964)

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) — Ranking Member and former Chairman, Senate Intelligence Committee; Marine (1958-1962)

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) — 2nd-Ranking Republican Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Army (1967-1968)

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) — Ranking Member, House Veterans Affairs Committee; Colonel in the Army Reserve; Army Reserve (1980-1984; 1987-present); Army (1984-1987)

Key Republican Senator Calls Pentagon Claims that Bill Would Hurt Retention “Thin and Tenuous”

Republican Former Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner calls the Pentagon's opposition “very thin and tenuous…The flip side of that is putting a big piece of cheese out there will induce more qualified people to join just to get this. It should be a tremendous incentive for recruitment.” [Politico, 4/ 30/08]

Editorial Boards on the new G.I. Bill:

New York Times Editorial, “Mr. Bush and the G.I. Bill
May 26, 2008

“President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.

“He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers' lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break…

“Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan…

“Mr. Bush — and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain — have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put…

“This page strongly supports a larger, sturdier military. It opposes throwing ever more money at the Pentagon for defense programs that are wasteful and poorly conceived. But as a long-term investment in human capital, in education and job training, there is no good argument against an expanded, generous G.I. Bill…

“As partial repayment for the sacrifice of soldiers in a time of war, a new, improved G.I. Bill is as wise now as it was in 1944.”

Austin American Statesman (Texas): “Never mind costs: GI Bill repays a debt
May 23, 2008

“Dissenting voices in the U.S. Congress warned that a broad array of entitlements contained in the GI Bill of Rights costs too much – an argument that sounded rather hollow in 1944.

“The GI Bill, which included benefits for armed forces veterans returning to civilian life, not only gave ex-GIs a ticket to the middle class but turned out to be an economic shot in the arm. Education increased earning power for millions of veterans…

“Costs too much? The bill is estimated to cost $45 billion in the first 10 years – chicken feed compared to the $500 billion cost of the war we're asking our military personnel to fight. According to a government audit, the Pentagon cannot account for $7.8 billion paid to contractors in Iraq between 2001 and 2006. According to news accounts, the payments skirted billing rules, with some violations egregious enough to invite potential fraud. Throwing away that kind of money makes the “costs too much” argument rather meaningless.

“The bill enjoyed bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate and was tacked onto a military spending bill that President Bush threatens to veto…

“…How much is too much for people we ask to walk into bullets?

“Supporting the troops is more than plastering a yellow decal on a car. Real support means a commitment of money. Mere money doesn't match the commitment we asked the troops to make.”

Roanoke Times (Virginia) Editorial: “Enhanced GI Bill would show support
May 25, 2008

“Some people have a funny way of showing their support for the troops.

“President Bush, for instance, is threatening to veto Sen. Jim Webb’s proposal to enhance the GI Bill to ensure that it covers full in-state tuition at public colleges for vets returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

“Bush and Republican presidential nominee John McCain worry the bill will discourage soldiers from re-enlisting at a time when the Pentagon needs every soldier it can get.

“But if soldiers who faced multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan are willing to re-enlist, it’s doubtful that the lure of an improved education benefit will be sufficient to change many of their minds…

“If Bush wants to veto a bill to reinvigorate a benefit that veterans have earned, and McCain wants to support him in the rejection, let them explain themselves to the American people…

“Webb should be proud of working to make the GI Bill what it used to be. Bush and McCain should be ashamed of standing in the way.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin): “A GI Bill that works
May 25, 2008

“There is much in the catch-all war funding bill the U.S. Senate passed recently that, in a perfectly germane world, might not belong. But a revamp of the GI Bill does. Tying war funding to how we treat those who return from fighting that war is very much a case of apples and apples.

“President Bush should not, as promised, veto this bill if it emerges from the House in good shape.

On this Memorial Day, Americans honor those in uniform who died defending them. But there is also an obligation to honor those who serve and return…”

Sacramento Bee (California): “A new GI Bill for a new generation of veterans
May 26, 2008

“…Before World War II, less than 10 percent of Americans went to college and home ownership was unreachable for most. The GI Bill spurred a college education and home ownership boom. It has been rightly called the 'Magic Carpet to the Middle Class.'

“The nation should have a similar package ready when those who have served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq move from active duty to civilian life. Each year, about 375,000 return. We should prepare for their demobilization.

“To that end, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., introduced a 21st century GI Bill of Rights (S. 22). Most soldiers in the current war enlisted right after high school, so 90 percent do not have a college degree. As Webb notes, current law is designed only for peacetime service…

“Webb’s bill would create benefits that mirror the college and job training benefits provided to returning soldiers after World War II. The benefits would cover the cost of in-state public college fees and provide a stipend for housing and books.

“The cost: $2 billion a year. That’s less than one week of the Iraq war.

“President Bush, in a galling display of misplaced frugality, says he will veto the bill. Despite his veto threat, senators passed it Thursday, as part of a supplemental appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan, with a 75-22 veto-proof majority. The House passed its version on May 15 on a 256-166 vote, not enough to override a Bush veto…”

Highlights of the G.I. Bill for the 21st Century:

· Increases education benefits for those who have served at least 3 months on active duty since 9/11. Under the bill, a full, four-year college education would be available to all members of the military who have served for at least three months on active duty since September 11, 2001.

· Links educational benefits to amount of active duty served since 9/11. Those who have served on active-duty for three years or more would qualify for the full educational benefit — i.e., the costs of a four-year education up to the level of the most expensive in-state public school. Those who have served between three months and three years of active duty would qualify for a proportion of that full benefit.

· Covers up to the cost of the most expensive in-state public school. The bill allows veterans pursuing an approved program of education to receive payments covering the established charges of their program, up to the cost of the most expensive in-state public school — covering 100 percent of tuition, fees and books. The bill also provides a monthly stipend equivalent to housing costs in their area. It would allow additional payments for tutorial assistance, as well as licensure and certification tests.

· Matches voluntary contributions for more expensive schools. The government will agree to match, dollar for dollar, any voluntary additional contributions from institutions whose tuition is more expensive than the maximum educational assistance provided under this legislation.

· Provides veterans more time to use educational benefit. The bill provides veterans up to 15 years — instead of the current 10 — after they leave active duty to use their education assistance entitlement.

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