Prev | List | Random | Next
You may or may not have noticed some of the slowly growing media coverage of the new GI Bill. If not, I suspect you will - this is the sort of story that tends to catch on.
I hope it doesn't - at least not for the reasons I suspect it will - but you'll have to read on to see why.
First: I've never been a fan of the current GI Bill. It's been badly in need of reform on several counts for a long time. Here's what I wrote from Iraq in October last year:
Give the GI Bill to all active duty troops along with Guard/reserve forces activated for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. By "give" I mean ELIMINATE THE "BUY IN" - stop forcing junior troops to decide between feeding their families and tucking some money away for college. And while we're at it, increase the benefit to equal what the troops returning from WWII received. If it could be done for the largest Army in American history, it certainly could be done for the smallest.(See also here.)
Who has that power? Only one group of people can do it. It's not the military. It's not the President.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's the most unpopular institution in the history of the United States: your Congress. (Who are working on another pork-leaden defense spending bill even as we speak...)
And now, lo and behold and glory hallelujah:
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2008 – The national commander of America's largest organization of combat veterans is demanding that Congress pass S. 22, the "Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act."And those who already doled out the cash for their future GI Bill benefits would have that money refunded. To me the whole deal sounded too good to be true. But any doubts I had about the significance of the benefit were erased entirely when I read the best possible endorsement it could ever get:
"A new GI Bill for the 21st century must be passed," said George Lisicki, who leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., a veterans' service organization that includes more than 70,000 Afghanistan and Iraqi war veterans among its 1.7 million members.
S. 22 was introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to mirror the original World War II educational benefit. It would repeal the $1,200 enrollment fee, match tuition at the highest in-state rate, and provide for books and fees, and a living stipend. For those veterans accepted to private institutions, S. 22 would also provide a dollar-for-dollar tuition match for those colleges and universities who choose to participate in the program.
Lisicki is hopeful that strong bipartisan support will finally help the new GI Bill for the 21st century become reality.
Gates also restated long-standing Pentagon opposition to GI Bill educational benefits that are too generous, making it more likely for service members to leave the military to attend college. “Serious” retention issues are expected if benefits exceed the average monthly cost for a four-year public college, including tuition, room, board and fees, Gates said.Read into that comment a little bit and you'll realize that it's also an acknowledgement that the current Montgomery GI Bill isn't a threat - it ain't good enough to hurt retention, even in an army at war. However, Secretary Gates also draws attention to an undeniable shortfall in S.22 - benefits can't be transferred to dependents:
Transferability, Gates said, “is the highest priority set by the service chiefs and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and the fleet,” Gates said.I concur. But not for these reasons:
Transferring benefits is good for the family but also good for the services by helping to keep people in the military while family members are using the benefits, Gates said.So, enter a competing bill - from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
Graham’s bill would raise fulltime MGIB benefits to $1500 a month, up from $1101, for all users. That would include veterans and retirees who left service long before the attacks of 9-11.All very nice - and as a guy with over 20 years time in, I think I'd come out ahead compared to Webb's offer. BUUUUTTTTT...
It also would offer new enticements – including eligibility to transfer benefits to spouse or children -- for current members who meet new MGIB-enhancement thresholds at six and 12 years of service. After six years, members could transfer half of any unused MGIB benefits to family members. After 12 years’ service, the monthly benefit would pop up to $2000 a month, and members could transfer 100 percent of any unused portion to spouses or children.
Other attracted features of S 2938 include an extra $500 a year for books and a fresh chance to buy into the MGIB for roughly 5000 members still on active duty who first entered service when the only education benefit offered was the anemic Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)....there's that "buy in" again. Put your life on the line, spend time in war zones far from home, and you're eligible to purchase educational benefits if you can afford them (AND LOTS OF LOW RANKING PROPLE CAN'T - please don't argue that it's a reasonable price). I wonder which bill most military members and veterans would prefer?
Anyhow, although I hate to lend credence to anonymous officials, this quote sounds legit:
A senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of not being identified, said the McCain bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Burr of North Carolina, “is retention friendly. It gives education benefits a big boost, but not more than average national costs. We can manage retention at those levels, but S 22 is a retention killer.”Except that it's not the McCain bill - he is a co-sponsor, but it's Lindsey Graham's bill. But you'd be hard pressed to find that data point in most of the coverage. (More on that politicization of the issue shortly.)
First, for the record, I'm in full agreement with Paul Rieckhoff on the retention issue
Support for expanding GI education benefits in some fashion is widespread. Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a strong proponent of Webb's legislation, said concerns that the bill's expanded benefits will encourage service members to leave the military is a "very short-sighted argument."So let me introduce my dream-scenario GI Bill:
Expanded benefits are "a recruiting tool, readiness tool, and a moral obligation," he says. "The overall net gain is going to outweigh any potential retention problems."
1. No "buy in"
2. Webb's benefits for short term service, growing to Graham's numbers for career service members.
3. Transferability per Graham's bill. ( I really can't find anyone's defense of the lack of this provision in Webb's bill.)
What I'd gladly welcome: Webb's bill (even though I think I personally benefit more from Graham's.)
And now let me tell you what I think is more likely "New GI Bill": NOTHING. ZIP. NADA, NO CHANGE.
And here's why:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democrats are discussing a proposal to add money and conditions to a war funding bill despite President Bush's specific objections.The little screaming cynic living in my head is telling me that the entire thing is a scam ro be crammed into a bill that has no chance in hell of surviving a Presidential veto for other reasons - then used as a political commercial in the upcoming campaign season to hammer anyone who "denied veterans" their just due.
The proposal would add a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq as a condition for the funding, several Democratic leadership aides said.
It would also add money for some of the Democrats' domestic priorities, including unemployment assistance, a new GI bill to fund education benefits for military veterans and a package of tax credits for renewable energy sources.
Democratic sources say the $178 billion measure would include $108 billion the president requested for military spending in 2008 and $70 billion to cover war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan through early 2009.
But then again, the screaming little cynic isn't always right. Maybe for the first time in decades congress will do the right thing and send the best possible GI Bill as a stand alone measure to the White House.
You can bet I'll be watching developments closely.
The text of Graham's bill (S 2938) isn't available yet - it's too new.
Updates - see also:
I agree with your sentiments of the "buy in" portion of the G I Bill. I retired as an enlisted soldier in '99 but prior to getting out I realized that any benefit available to me would be far dwarfed by any benefit I could take advantage of before getting out. So with that in mind I really cracked the books in the last couple of years of my active duty status, and I was fortunate to have a final assignment that would allow for me to attend college.
I was also one of the "tweeners" as far as the education benefits offered in the Army. The Vietnam Era GI Bill was not available when I joined and the Montgomery Era GI Bill was still a couple of years away. My options were to contribute $100 a month to the education program offered, which for somebody making $400 a month at the time, made it cost prohibitive or to just for go it and hope to save enough or that something would come along.
I wound up never contributing to any education benefit that came along, crammed in my education where I could, and while I fell a few credits short of a Bachelors degree I have managed to do alright for myself in the civilian world.
Anyway I am all for any sort of GI Bill that would not require a monetary contribution from the soldier. I believe the equity they have earned through their blood, sweat, and tears more then makes up for it.
I'm with you Mudville Gazette. When I came in, at basic they lectured us on the GI Bill and told us that if we got the GI Bill, then we couldnt' use tuition assistance while in. That and the $100 a month out of my $700 pre-tax pay (E-3) didn't look appealing.
Thankfully, a couple years later the govt came through and offered to allow us to reconsider the GI Bill. Seems that for about a 2-year period, info out of basic training was flawed (like the above). So I bought in (E-4 at the time). I used my GI Bill when I got out in 1994 (not all of it...I still have some left). That was back when you got $300 a month.
We need a new GI Bill.
Amen to this. I had VEAP and had to buy in from my $558.00 month E-1 pay. Also, while you received a check each month, it was not the same as the old GI Bill as it did nothing for tuition. my father's GI BIll paid his tuition PLUS a onthly check and moey for books. One of my best buddies was ecstatic that he received a 10% disability because that meant the VA paid his tuition, books and monthly stipend.
As you said, ideally give them the same thing that GI's received when they fought in wars past.Posted by The Opinionator at May 2, 2008 06:30 PM
I will tell you that I would gladly pay the taxes required to make your dream bill come true, as well. I'd rather send your kids to college than someone who hasn't a clue what service, duty and honor are all about. It will be a better future, IMHO!Posted by Barb at May 3, 2008 01:27 PM
I agree totally that our veterans NEED the new GI Bill.
for those worried about a retention "problem", that could be solved that by offering those who serve 8 (or more) years should receive a "sweetener" over the benefits 4 years of service earns you. or they can increase basic pay, improve housing and improve the availability of medical services. but improving the GI Bill (which I hope includes continued access to health insurance) is a good start.
The coverage of this issue is oversimplified, and presupposes an either/or solution.
But there's no reason why the recruitment, readiness and moral imperatives to provide these benefits can't be met within the confines of retention needs. Reickhoff and the media don't seem to get that.
My understanding is that McCain is four-square behind improving benefits, but he wanted to impose a sliding scale that would reward time in service. Seems totally fair to all concerned, the soldier, the taxpayer, the nation, and even political advocates like Rieckhoff.
No one is saying there shouldn't be a new bill, but they're portraying it that way in an opportunistic attack against McCain -- which he opened himself up to by not being forceful and clear about what his position was.
It seems McCain, the Secdef and Graham are united on this, a formidable group.
Webb previously suggested McCain might even co-sponsor his bill. His version is more in line with Obama's defense drawdown plan as stated in his TV spot: Youtube In 52 Secs Why Obama Cannot Win a General Election. (Just google.)
They all should be able to come up with a compromise version that addresses all these concerns. After all, presumably Webb and Rieckhoff don't have anything against retention, do they?Posted by jordan at May 4, 2008 06:05 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(6) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)