Friday, August 11, 2017
Billy Long: New bill increases G. I. Bill benefits
I did talk radio on KWTO AM 560 for three hours every morning, Monday through Friday, for six years. One of my favorite callers was 'Ruth from Shell Knob'. She would often regale us with stories from her time serving her country in World War II (WWII). Every time I talk with a veteran or see someone wearing a veteran hat or piece of clothing, I'm reminded that just because we can never fully repay them for their selfless service doesn't mean we shouldn't try. I’m always reminded of the sacrifices made by both them and their families. My father was a WWII veteran and my father-in-law was a Korean veteran. Veterans have put their lives on the line and have gone above and beyond to protect our freedoms and make sure our country is safe. A simple thank you for their service doesn’t even begin to show the appreciation I have for them and their loved ones.
Since 1944, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been providing veterans with educational assistance benefits under the G.I. Bill. The original G.I. Bill’s purpose was to give financial assistance for WWII veterans coming back from the war. It provided stipends for veterans who went to college or trade schools, low-interest mortgage rates and established unemployment pay. Over the past 73 years, Congress has passed many subsequent GI Bills, all with the same intent – to provide and care for our veterans.
Recently, we in Congress passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the G.I. “forever” Bill, increasing the amount of benefits veterans receive under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Currently, veterans who receive G.I. Bill benefits have a 15-year time limit to use their benefits. This new bill would eliminate this time restriction and allow veterans to use these benefits at any point in their life. Other advantages include full benefits to Purple Heart recipients (regardless of their length of service), an increase in funding for veterans majoring in the science, technology, engineering and math fields and allow veterans to use their benefits for distance learning courses in technical and career education schools.
We can't stop caring for these men and women when they take their uniforms off. They are valuable assets to our society and bring an entirely different set of skills to the table in the workforce. Investing in their success is critical.
The G.I. Bill has proven to be successful. Since 2009, these benefits have helped student veterans earn over 450,000 certificates or degrees. This bill does more than just say thank you, it shows that investing in our veterans works.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best (after signing the original G.I. Bill into law) when he said, “It gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down.” I’ve always said that there are a lot of things we disagree on in Washington, but taking care of our veterans is not one of them.