For those keeping a close eye on the efforts to reform the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it looks like after spending the money to implement the poorly written law, Congress lacks to the will, and/or the wallet to fix it. The following is a summary of the Congressional Budget Office’s findings on the fiscal impact of fixing the GI Bill without finding offsets.
Taken from Tom Philpott’s Military Forum:
The CBO cost estimate on S 3447 [Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010], released Oct. 6, is $236 million the first year, $2.3 billion over the first decade.
The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee, has 26 co-sponsors. Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) introduced an identical bill (HR 5933) in the House. It already has 121 co-sponsors including Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the House veterans committee.
These bills are popular politically. Among other things they would extend the scope of Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to cover vocational and other types of training rather than keep the benefit restricted to college degree programs.
The big hurdle to passage will be finding money to pay for GI Bill enhancements. Because this is an entitlement program, lawmakers theoretically can only pay for GI Bill reform by reducing other mandatory spending programs or raising taxes.
Lawmakers have ignored this “pay-as-you-go” rule often in the past, including to approve the Post-9/11 GI Bill. But worries over burgeoning budget deficits are rising and will be reinforced by the president’s debt commission reports its finding and recommendations in December.
VA officials, meanwhile, have urged Congress not to make any changes to the new GI Bill effective before August of next year.
Here is s quick list of proposed upgrades and fixes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that were proposed in S.3447:
– Expand the program to cover Vocational and OJT Programs
– Give Guard and Reserve Full Credit for Full Time Served
– Provide Living Stipend to Veterans Utilizing Distance Learning
– Simplify the Yellow Ribbon Program
– Grant active duty students a book stipend worth $1,000/year
– Increase Vocational Rehabilitation monthly benefits by up to $780/month
– Reimburse students who take multiple accreditation/certification tests
– Allow enlistment kickers to be transferred to dependents
– Increase VA reporting fees paid to schools
– Simplify the types of discharges that qualify for benefits
Unless, Congress finds the will to make some hard decisions about where to trim the current program’s waste, hope for real GI Bill reform is fading fast.