A GI Bill Serving Future Veterans Shouldn't Take a Lifetime to Implement
Student Veterans of America | May 17, 2017
Written By: Mr. Ian Hourican, Policy Associate
With the "indefinite postponement" of the House and Senate legislative hearing on the Forever GI Bill which would have benefitted thousands of veterans, it is important that you understand the consequences of this decision. The U.S. missed out on an enormous opportunity to give back to service members who have already given so much. While many are disappointed with this news, there is still hope as Student Veterans of America (SVA) continue to fight for an enduring GI Bill that will forever serve and benefit veterans.
A Lifetime GI Bill provides many improvements to the current GI Bill by closing loopholes that would help the veteran community. This powerful concept would enable student veterans to pursue much needed and lucrative STEM degrees, extend the veteran's access to their benefits for a lifetime, ensure all Purple Heart Recipients receive 100% of GI benefits, and extend the Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to dependents who receive the Fry Scholarship, among many other beneficial provisions. However, the attempts to silence the discussion benefits no one and is only a detriment to veterans.
The most important aspect of the bill must be covered: the insurance that all future veterans receive the benefits that they have earned. The country has already spent nearly $74 billion with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. While most may not have any qualms with this large, yet crucial expense, that is not the case for everyone. That is why SVA dove into the data to produce the National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST) which shows the successful impact the Post-9/11 GI Bill has had on the hundreds of thousands of student veterans who have used it. However, we do not know what the future holds, therefore we cannot continue to play defense.
Our population truly cares for its veterans and provides many benefits specifically aiding veterans that other countries do not. However, this hasn't always been the case and may not always continue to be. We can never forget the unwelcome reception that our brave men and women faced after the Vietnam War. "Worse, throngs received little to no support from the Veterans Administration."
While there exists strong support (the Sea of Goodwill) for veterans now, both the former Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Center for a New American Security expressed concern with "the potential exists for this sea to become an ocean of apathy."
A Lifetime GI Bill would make it nearly impossible for Congress or anyone to eliminate the GI Bill, which was why we supported a buy-in. Similar to the Montgomery GI Bill, incoming service members would have had $100 deducted from their pay (pre-tax) every month for two years. There would have been an opt-out option for all enlistees after having their options clearly explained to them. Our goal, was to enable Congress to afford all of the improvements made to the GI Bill, while, most importantly, creating a trust fund, preventing any entity from cutting the program.
While this component took some criticism, SVA, with a network of over 1,400 school chapters, did not come to this recommendation lightly. This idea had been discussed for some time, especially with the thousands of student veterans that we talked to on our chapter tour of over 180 schools last year. Many veterans have expressed their deep regret and frustration with these latest developments; however, because the bill had support from multiple VSO's and enjoyed robust bipartisan discussion, the work on this will not stop here. We want to guarantee that every service member in the future has access to the GI Bill, regardless of whether they serve during wartime.
Student veterans and their supporters, believe in a permanent GI Bill that is no longer seen as a wartime benefit. We also believe that the current Post-9/11 GI Bill needs to be streamlined, closing the gaps that many veterans have fallen through. Only with these changes, that would have been seen in the much needed package, can service members feel secure in the knowledge that their hard-earned benefits are guaranteed for them and the rest of their brothers and sisters who answer the highest calling after them. #ForeverGIBill
If you're a veteran interested in a Lifetime GI Bill, or have an opinion on this proposal, I want to hear what you think. Catch me on Twitter @IanHourican.