UPDATE: 05/01/2008 #1 son points out in the comments that now 7 of 8 of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have signed on to this legislation. The only holdout is Michelle Bachman. As of this date 261 members of the House of Representatives have signed on as cosponsors. END UPDATE
As hundreds of thousands of men and women return from serving their country in the military they are finding that the current G.I. Bill is woefully inadequate. Senators Jim Webb(D) and Chuck Hagel(R), hope to change that with the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act” (S.22/H.R. 5740). The current list of cosponsors include 58 in the Senate and 250 members of the House. Both of Minnesota’s senators have signed on to the bill. Six of Minnesota’s eight representatives in the House have signed on, including my congressman, Tim Walz. This legislation has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the following veterans and educational groups:
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars(VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The American Legion, the Military Officers’Association of America (MOAA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), AMVETS, the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the Student Veterans of America (SVA), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Partnership for Veterans’ Education, a consortium of military, veterans, and higher education associations such as the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Democratic presidential hopefuls Clinton and Obama are cosponsors. Republican presidential candidate John McCain has introduced alternative legislation which is a slap in the face to our veterans and especially to our national guard and reservists. VoteVets.org issued a press release last week in which they repudiated the McCain-Graham-Burr bill. Here is and excerpt from the press release:
The veterans stated that the McCain-Graham-Burr bill falls flat in its key differences from the Webb-Hagel Bill, which has the support of 57 members of the Senate, from both sides of the aisle.
1) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation creates a flat education benefit, not taking into account the cost of state colleges where veterans live. This would mean veterans in states where the cost of education is higher than the benefit would have go to into debt to get an education, or uproot themselves and their families to move to a place where the benefit would cover college. The Webb-Hagel Bill determines the education benefit based on the highest state college tuition in a veterans’ home state, allowing veterans to come home and attend college, without upheaval in their lives.
2) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation creates second-class veterans, by offering those who serve in the military for 12 years the chance to transfer their education benefits to their children. This says to a veteran who serves for two years and loses both of his legs in combat that his service isn’t as valuable as someone who has served for longer.
3) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation leaves the National Guard and Reserve out in the cold. In the current conflicts, the National Guard and Reserve have served faithfully alongside their active duty compatriots, and deserve equal benefits. Yet, the McCain bill does nothing to reward our Guard and Reservists for their cumulative service. Under the McCain bill, over 160,000 members of the Guard and Reserves who have done more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan would get no credit towards an education for their additional sacrifice.
If this is an example of John McCain’s leadership and support for the troops, then we don’t need him. He is proving once again that he is out of touch with reality. If we are going to go to war then we must consider all costs, and that includes education.
A fact sheet on S. 22 is available here.
Watch the video from VoteVets.org.
Peace & solidarity,