Twenty-six veterans groups have come together to support an improved GI Bill which significantly raises benefits for those attending college. The 21st Century GI Bill has been pushed by former Marine, Senator Jim Webb, in an effort to ensure those who have served receive the similar benefits as to what was provided veterans of World War II and Korea. “We need,” said Webb, “to move expeditiously to get this vital piece
of legislation passed this year for our returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The educational benefits in this bill are crucial to a service member’s readjustment to civilian life,and are a cost of war that should receive the same priority that funding the war has received the last five years.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agreed to support the concept of “transferability” which allows family members access to edcuational benefits, but he reaffirmed his opposition to a veteran’s education bill that provides “too generous” benefits. The Webb bill is modeled on WWII benefits since it provides for full tuition payment and a monthly living stipend, but Gates prefers if members of the military use educational benefits while remaining in the service. The Pentagon believes having generous benefits is an inducement to leave the service and pursue a civilian career. As a Pentagon offiical noted: “Congress must understand that the volunteer force relies for its very life on retention– not departure incentives.”
Members of the National Guard and the Reserves had active civilian careers and were not envisioning a life in the military until forced to undergo one deployment after another which impacted their civilian careers. The United States government should not be deciding whether or not a member of the military leaves or remains. The original GI Bill of Rights was designed to recognize the heroic service of those who fought for their nation. Similar benefits should be provided this generation of warriors.