Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Giving veterans school benefits for life

This is from the website.

Giving veterans school benefits for life
Larsen, Cantwell promoting bill


WASHINGTON -- As a career counselor for the state of Washington, Vietnam veteran Thomas Noel frequently advises other former service members on how to get ahead in the work force.

Whether they have just returned from tours in Iraq or have been out of the military for decades, Noel's main message to the veterans is always the same: Get an education.

"I see these people every day -- men and women who served our country," says Noel, a veterans employment representative for Washington state. "I tell them, 'You have to go to school.' "

But it's too late for many of these veterans.

Under the Montgomery GI Bill, the federal government picks up some of the tab for veterans to go to college and attend training programs -- but only for 10 years after they were discharged.

The law, first passed in 1944 as a way to help World War II veterans, is now named after former Mississippi Rep. Gillespie "Sonny" Montgomery, who helped lead an update of the statute in 1984.

Some lawmakers in Congress now want to get rid of that 10-year use-it-or-lose-it deadline.

Washington Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen and Sen. Maria Cantwell are sponsoring legislation that would allow veterans to use the GI Bill's education benefits anytime after leaving military service.

Dubbed the "GI Bill for Life," their measure has drawn support from a wide variety of veterans groups, including the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America. It is co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Ron Paul, R-Texas. In the Senate, co-sponsors include Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Larsen said the deadline for using educational benefits under the GI Bill is "arbitrary" and doesn't meet the needs of recent and longtime veterans. Returning veterans may put off their post-military education so they can begin new jobs or because they are recovering from injuries -- even while the GI Bill clock is running.

"These are veterans who are coming back to the U.S. to whom we owe a great debt," Larsen said in an interview. "And the debt we owe them shouldn't expire because of an artificial timeline."

Cantwell said veterans who want to keep up with a rapidly changing work force should be able to use their GI Bill education benefits long after being discharged.

Under the current law, veterans can get up to 36 months of payments for college, technical or vocational training and apprenticeship programs. The benefits top out at $1,075 per month.

Service members who wish to take advantage of the GI Bill agree to have $1,200 deducted from their pay during their first year in the military. That money cannot be refunded.

Noel said the time limits catch many veterans off guard.

Larsen and Cantwell's legislation could become part of a broader bill revamping benefits for veterans.

The Bush administration has opposed the measure as too expensive.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it cannot estimate the proposal's price tag because there is no way to predict how many people would go to school or get training more than 10 years after leaving military service.

At the State of the Union Address in January, President Bush called for some changes to the GI Bill -- including allowing veterans to transfer their benefits to other immediate family members. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, immediately introduced legislation that would allow the benefit transfers.


Posted by DonnaWanna at 2/19/08 9:42 p.m.

Our serice members pay for this benefit out of their miserly pay checks. I see no reason to cut them off because they were unable, for whatever reason, to take advantage of this benefit within 10 years from separating from service.

I support our service members. I think we should give them the benefit they have paid for.

Posted by Jazz Fan at 2/19/08 11:14 p.m.

Good idea. It's senseless to limit the time in which a vet can continue his or her education.

Posted by Wonk at 2/20/08 11:57 a.m.

The average cost of a four-year degree at a public university is about $50,000--including books, tuition, fees, transportation, and housing. That same four-year degree increases an individual's yearly income from ~$30k to about $52k annually.

A hypothetical veteran is separated from service on his 22nd birthday. He takes 12 years to go back to school. He is 38 when he graduates from college and returns to the workforce. He works for 29.5 years, making $52,500 per year, never once getting a pay increase.

At retirement, he has paid about $166,000 more tax than he would have had he not gotten his degree. So, for every "gimme, gimme, gimme" tax dollar that paid for his education, he paid back three--more if you include salary increases.

That seems like a pretty good investment to me.


Posted by Ze_Germans at 2/20/08 9:20 p.m.

I disagree, ten years is long enough. If they do extend it beyond that, the veteran should still be restricted to four years of benefits, just like it is now. No free handouts for life.


I served in the Air Force for four years. I did my time and got an Honorable Discharge. I also paid into the GI Bill, as well as a few other options that have gone by the wayside. It was hard earned money that went into that bill, for what I thought at that time, I knew I would need in the future when I finally settled on a career path and needed to go back to school. I never thought that it would have an expiration date. Let alone be expiring two months before I planned to go back to school.

In all honest truth, I feel as if I was robbed. Yes, there are some of you out there who agree with what the last person said, but it is not a free hand out. I as well as countless military members and veterans have invested years of their lives in the hope of their future education only to have it expire before they can use it.
"10 years is enough time. You should have used it already."
Let's see. When I left the military, I had no idea that I'd be getting divorced. That I'd have to work 3 jobs just to scrape by. Or that I'd have to relocate, forget about school, get married again and raise two children, all while working full time. And now that gas is forcing every price across the board to sky rocket, its to the point that driving far to work isn't worth the job.

For those of you who are veterans please go to this HERE and
and contact your state representative and tell them this is an important issue that needs to be passed.