Monday, May 26, 2008

Webb-Hagel G.I. Bill & Memorial Day

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) supported by Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced a bill last year which would substantially increase educational benefits to veterans. The Webb-Hagel bill would pay a realistic amount in line with World War II veterans' benefits. The original GI Bill provided full tuition, housing, and living expenses for over 8 million veterans. By the mid 1980s, the plan was scaled down so that today a veteran can receive a flat sum of approximately $10,000 a year for four years and must personally invest into the system some active duty pay.

Senator Webb, a Virginia Democrat, has been the guiding force behind this legislation, which has been dubbed the new G.I. bill. The measure is decidedly bipartisan. Mr. Webb’s principal co-sponsors include Republican Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Warner of Virginia, and Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. (All four senators are veterans of wartime service — Senators Webb and Hagel in Vietnam, Warner in World War II and Korea and Lautenberg in World War II.)

Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are on board, as are Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House.

Senator John McCain offered objections to Webb-Hagel and withheld his support. McCain and Pentagon officials believe that Webb-Hagel would hurt the services by enticing service members to reject reenlistment in favor of college and civilian life. McCain has introduced his own bill to counter Webb-Hagel.

The main difference, in the McCain bill is the provision to allow service members to transfer the benefits to family members, up to half after 6 years of service and all after 12 years. Echoing the Pentagon’s arguments, they said that would encourage more service members, especially noncommissioned officers, to make the military a career. Webb-Hagel starts benefits after two years of enlistment.

Today, the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan service of Congress, reported that Webb-Hagel offers more hard benefits to the military than expected. The CBO concluded that departures from the service (around 16 percent) would be more than offset by recruitment gains (over 16 percent).

Sen. Webb’s proposal, first introduced last year, would increase the monthly benefit to the maximum tuition at a public university in each state. On average, the tuition assistance would amount to $1,700 a month. It would also pay up to $1,000 a year for fees and books and provide a housing stipend. Like the current G.I. Bill, it would apply to anyone who served at least three years.

At a cost of $52 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposal is widely seen as generous, which the Pentagon says is exactly the problem. In a letter to the Senate in April, Mr. Gates warned that “serious retention issues could arise,” adding that “significant benefit increases need to be focused on those willing to commit to longer periods of service.”

The McCain bill is also generous, increasing the monthly tuition benefit to $1,500, or roughly the average cost of public university tuition; it would rise to $2,000 for those who serve for 12 years. After new amendments, some as recent as Wednesday, their legislation would also include $1,000 a year for books and fees. The overall cost would be $38 billion over 10 years, financed by an across-the-board cut of a half percent in discretionary spending.

Read the New York Times article and op-ed piece on the Webb-Hagel G.I. Bill here and here.

plez sez: how can the united states be too generous to the people who risk their lives during wartime in military service for this country? yeah, john mccain said the webb-hagel bill was too generous and would discourage those who would otherwise choose the military as a career.

the opposition to this bill continues to tie john mccain to george w. bush's coattails! with his opposition to such legislation and his delay of introducing his own bill (5 years into the iraq war) signals a continuation of the current administration's failed policies (domestic and foreign). this was john mccain's opportunity to break free of w's hold on his short hairs and run as a progressive republican, but i'm afraid, he's just an older model of the same *ISH* we've been subjected to for the past seven and a half years!

Barack Obama was correct to call mccain out on his failure to support this bill (which will win with a veto-proof majority)! the fear of folk leaving the military is pure lunacy, when one weighs that against the increased number of people who will enlist to take advantage of the benefits. DUH! and the cost of $56 billion over 10 years is a bargain when compared to the $12 billion annually we're spending on this illegal was in iraq.

plezWorld attended college on a full academic scholarship, but it would've been nice to have a revamped G.I. bill to fall back on if that wasn't available.

...and speaking of MEMORIAL DAY... it would've been a cool gesture if our commander-in-chief would've used today to sign the Webb-Hagel Bill into law. we've had too many young men and women valiantly lose their lives for george w. bush's cause in iraq... the least he could do to honor their memory is to provide the financial assistance to aid those who financial situation finds them having to serve their country for such an ignoble cause!

take a moment to honor the memory of those who have served and gave their lives in military service to our country.

1 comment:

Hathor said...

I agree with you. I didn't understand why they reduced the benefits during the Viet Nam conflict. One could barely pay tuition for a public college with the monthly stipend they gave you. You were on your own for books and housing. You got a few bucks more if your were married. I thought it disgraceful at the time, but it even got worst when the volunteer Army came into being. America became an even more a powerful economic force with the educated workforce of the WWII vets. If that would happen now, maybe their would be more creative ways to stay out of war and to have a healthy military. What McCain isn't taking into consideration the number of disabled vets that would be able to take advantage of the education. The percentage of these vets are higher than any previous war. They aren't returning to duty.