The New G.I. Bill — From Someone “on the Ground”

I have written several articles in support of the New G.I. Bill, which–after much unnecessary, partisan wrangling–has finally passed Congress and is now on its way to the President, hopefully for his signature.

Having been retired from the U.S military for a long 30 years, there is the possibility that my views may be somewhat dated, or politically slanted.

It was thus very bolstering, to come across an opinion piece on this very same issue written by someone who should really know, a member of our military serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In an article, “New GI Bill ensures promises are kept,” published today in that great little military newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, Sgt. William A. Treseder addresses the bread and butter issues that affect those who we refer to as being “on the ground,” our fighting troops.

For example, referring to the original G.I. Bill, Sgt. Treseder writes:

The original GI Bill offered a variety of impressive benefits, but the first on that list — in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words — was “[i]t gives servicemen and women the opportunity of resuming their education or technical training after discharge … with the right to receive a monthly living allowance while pursuing their studies.” That is the first benefit listed in the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944; along with the home loan program, it is widely credited with helping usher in one of the longest periods of economic growth in our country’s history.

And, referring to the current G.I. Bill (the one that hopefully will be replaced by the “New G.I. Bill”):

But does our current GI Bill meet these goals? Can someone recently separated from the military afford to live on his or her own, possibly with a family, while paying for tuition, books, insurance and food while receiving a monthly check for about $1,100? Of course not, even with a job on the side. We are no longer giving service members the opportunity FDR spoke of.

With respect to those in the Pentagon (and in the administration) who–after their “it costs too much” excuse miserably flopped–claimed that the new G.I. Bill would hurt retention, here it is, from “the horse’s mouth”:

Many in the defense community fear this bill, primarily because of the projected impact on retention. They rightly wonder where the incentive is for a young man or woman in the military to stay knowing they have significant financial support for four years of “the easy life.” The answer is quite simple: There isn’t one. But has there ever been much of a fiscal draw to the military? Has the senior leadership stuck around simply because the pay was so good? What is it keeping people in the service?

And,

People join the American military for a variety of reasons; many young recruits would probably stumble through an answer if you demanded one on the spot. One thing they would definitely tell you: Almost no one joins for the pay.

As I have mentioned in my posts before,

“When [the argument that the new GI Bill would cost too much] didn’t fly, they [the administration, and others such as John McCain] postulated that the bill would hurt retention–a claim the was quickly countered by a Congressional Budget Office analysis that found any possible losses in retention caused by his bill would be balanced by the increases in recruitment it would generate.”

Sgt. Treseder concludes his opinion piece with an argument–and a plea–that needs no further amplification or commentary:

Like all great ideals, the just compensation for those who voluntarily risk their lives to preserve our way of life cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It cannot be reduced to terms like “incentives” and “retention.” The costs are paltry compared to the trillions of dollars stacked up in the federal budget. As a country, we have asked the members of our military to be all things at once — enforcer, protector, humanitarian, teacher and friend — and only now recognize the demand it has placed on them. This bill must be signed into law; it is the right thing to do.

Are you listening, Mr. President?

To read Sgt. Treseder’s entire piece, please go here.

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

  • RememberNovember

    what irks me more is that McCain is trumpeting the very bill he opposed, and then pulled a no-show for, while his mentor Bush lumps McCain in with Hegel and co. as a weak “product placement”. Give me a break! Credit where credit is due.