Prev | List | Random | Next
Here's the latest on the GI Bill for the 21st Century. (Links to earlier related entries are provided at the bottom for those who might need to catch up.) I'm going to steal Lt Nixon's good, bad, and ugly format for this one, because it fits perfectly.
The Good: The House will vote on the new GI Bill today (more on that shortly). Meanwhile, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee conducted hearings yesterday:
At Wednesday’s hearing, three major veterans’ groups — the American Legion, AmVets and Paralyzed Veterans of America — are expected to endorse S 22, the benefits bill sponsored by Sen. James Webb, D-Va., over the Republican bill, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.The Republican alternative bill offers significant improvement over the current Montgomery GI Bill, and would offer better benefits to those who've served longer (I'm among that group) than S22 - but has no chance of passing in a Democrat-controlled congress. I can accept reality on that issue - the Webb bill is fine by me, too.
Veterans’ groups also are expected to directly contradict Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ opposition to S 22 on the grounds that it would hurt the all-volunteer force by encouraging people to get out of the military.
The bad - back to those Senate hearings:
The Department of Veterans Affairs seemed to be standing in front of a fast-moving train Wednesday when a top official said VA would need two years of preparation to come up with a payment system for a proposed overhaul of GI Bill education benefits.That's a valid concern - and there are other "21st Century" details to work out:
The warning flags were waved by Keith Pedigo, VA’s associate deputy undersecretary for policy and program management, who said meeting an Aug. 1, 2009, effective date for the benefits increases, under what lawmakers are calling the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights, would be extremely difficult.
Because the proposal calls for the maximum benefit to be different in each state, payments would have to be manually, rather than automatically, processed, Pedigo said.
“VA does not now have a payment system or the appropriate number of trained personnel to administer the program,” Pedigo said, predicting it would take two years to develop a payment system to provide the new benefits.
Pedigo also warned of fundamental unfairness in a proposed housing allowance that would be based on where a school is located, rather than where a student lives, which could encourage veterans to enroll in online learning programs offered by schools in high-cost areas.And, meanwhile...
The Pentagon, VA and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget oppose S 22, either as a separate bill or combined with the supplemental...but it is a "fast-moving train" - for now.
The Ugly - meanwhile, over in the House...
Setting up their last major battle over war policy with President Bush, House Democrats yesterday unveiled a plan to link their favored domestic spending projects and a troop-withdrawal timeline to additional funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan requested by the White House....and there's the rub. They aren't debating the Gi Bill as a stand-alone - that would be unstoppable legislation, no one could oppose it and survive. They're tacking it on to the war funding bill, along with these measures:
House Democrats, defying President Bush's threat of a veto, will offer a supplemental appropriation bill tomorrow that continues funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but includes other provisions opposed by the White House. The three amendments include:Some of those add-ons won't make it through the Senate next week. But others will, and the President has vowed to veto any bill that exceeds his original $108 billion request.
· $162.6 billion to continue funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into 2009.
· A requirement to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 30 days of passage, with a goal of having all troops out of Iraq by December 2009 (except those providing embassy security).
· A mandate that any unit deployed to Iraq must meet Pentagon requirements that it be "fully mission capable."
· An anti-torture provision that requires the CIA to comply with interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual.
· $1.2 billion for global food aid.
· $5.8 billion to repair levees in Louisiana.
· An additional $11 billion over 10 years for unemployment compensation.
· An expansion of education benefits for returning troops.
But Democrats are less interested in passing a new GI Bill and more focused on creating political advertisements for the upcoming campaign season. Any House or Senate Republican who opposes the "Big Bill" for reasons other than the GI education benefits can (and will) be accused of voting against the new GI Bill. And the Democrats have spent years developing "Veterans Groups" who are actually political wings of their party and are now standing by to aid and abet the effort through a very willing and supportive media. Democrats win, veterans lose (in a big way - there will be no chance of a Bill in a non-election year like 2009) and Republicans won't know what hit them.
Update: Good News/Bad News
Sounds like politics in Washington as usual, and it's mostly focused in The Ugly.Posted by LT Nixon at May 8, 2008 01:44 PM
I have met Jim Webb and I would like to think he will push the revised GI Bill through in 2009 if it does not pass in some form this year. He really walks the walk in terms of commitment to the welfare of the troops as versus many in Congress and the administration. Witness all the problems at Walter Reade, Fort Bragg etc. etc. f
I have met Senator Webb too, and he is a pompous glad-hander who no more cares about enlisted Marines and their problems than Obama does. What Webb does care about is sticking it to his "enemies" at the Pentagon and about his own self-aggrandizement. F him; I am embarrassed to call him a Marine after seeing what he really is.Posted by Targeted Outrage at May 8, 2008 04:57 PM
Wbhat is the position of John McCain?Posted by fred lapides at May 8, 2008 08:19 PM
I've never met Senator Webb and don't think I'd want to. He's the kind of guy who gets others to take the rap for his unauthorized firearms charges:
Last I heard, McCain favors the Graham/Republican version that includes tying benefits to time in service, and a provision to allow transfer of education benefits to family members. I don't think the Webb version allows that.
Where do most of the military stand on this bill? Should there be a mass effort to lobby for the Republican version? In this political climate, there's a case to be made for a Dem version that pays no attention to retention in a growing force, or extending benefits to families.
We're supposedly trying to expand the military, yet the Webb bill, according to the Secdef, encourages people to leave. It's another "soft on defense" Democratic stumble, although you don't want to politicize this more than it already has been.
Are most military members supportive of the McCain/Graham version?Posted by jordan at May 8, 2008 10:15 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(6) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)