The President recently signed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvement Act, also known as GI Bill 2.0 . Unfortunately, just like the original Post-9/11 GI Bill, the fix was a well-intensioned legislative rush job – full of technicalities, complications, and trade-offs.
As I read the blog comments here, and the responses to Tom Philpott’s “Military Forum,” it’s easy to see that many veterans are upset at the prospect of reducing benefits for some in an effort to provide or expand benefits for others.
Had Congress done it right the first time, there wouldn’t be any inequity or “lost benefits” to debate – just a streamlined single program that treats each veteran the same.
One of the biggest pain points for vets currently using the GI Bill is the loss of the living (housing) stipend during scheduled school breaks – like winter break, spring break etc. This change was made to free up money to help pay for expanding the benefit to include National Guard members (ARG and those activated under Title 32), who were excluded by the original law. In addition to providing a living stipend for veterans taking 100 percent of their classes online and making the annual $1000 book stipend available to active-duty and their spouses.
You can read throughout the blog comments, examples of Pre – 9/11 Vets who can’t believe that the younger vets can’t be happy to be getting more than they did under the MGIB and VEAP. In fact, there are quite a few heated discussions between veterans over the trade-offs. In fact some vets are taking the veteran service organizations as well as the President and Congress to task. In some cases the back and forth is getting ugly.
Soap Box Time – As veterans, I think we should focus our energy on pushing for a more equitable and sustainable GI Bill program. Keep in mind that the government has a history of improving the GI Bill during times of war and drastically cutting it back afterwards. Remember what came after the Vietnam War? VEAP – a program that offered vets a two-for-one matching deal, which required vets to contribute up to $2,700 to get a whopping $8,100 for school.
What will happen when the Afghanistan war ends? VEAP 2.0?
In my opinion, we need a consistent, fair, and fiscally sustainable GI Bill program, one that every vet can count on to help pay for their education.