FACT SHEET | June 24, 2008

Democrats are Committed to Honoring Our Troops and Safeguarding the American Dream of a College Education by Investing in a 21st Century G.I. Bill

On May 22, 2008, the Senate passed legislation to expand educational benefits for our troops and veterans who have so honorably served our country since September 11, 2001. By a vote of 75 to 22, a strong, bipartisan majority of the Senate endorsed this 21st century G.I. bill to provide today's veterans with benefits similar to those offered to World War II veterans under the original G.I. Bill of Rights. The legislation has widespread popular support as well as the backing of leading national veterans' service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, the Military Officers' Association of America (MOAA), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). 

The President and his Republican allies in Congress, including Senator McCain, stood alone in opposing this bipartisan bill. They said that the expanded benefits were too generous and offered a watered-down alternative that fell significantly short of honoring the first-class service of our troops. Recently, they appear to have switched positions and agreed to support the bill. When the Senate again considers this legislation this week as part of a revised supplemental appropriations bill, we hope that Bush Republicans will match their rhetoric of supporting the troops with meaningful action and vote in favor of the new G.I. bill. Our men and women responded bravely to the call to serve our country, and have often endured repeated and extended deployments since 9/11; they deserve nothing short of the full benefits provided by this 21st century G.I. bill to ease the transition back to civilian life and provide them with the tools to succeed in our economy. 

Specifically, the bill would: 

•Provide increased educational benefits to all members of the military who have served on active duty for at least three months since September 11, 2001;

•Offer educational assistance in proportion to the total length of active duty service on or after 9/11, from three to 36 months, to provide a maximum benefit of the cost of any in-state public school's tuition and fees for four academic years;

•Create a new program in which the government would match any additional contributions to veterans from colleges and universities whose tuition is more expensive than the maximum assistance provided; and

•Allow veterans to use their educational assistance benefit up to fifteen years after they leave active duty, rather than the ten years currently provided under the Montgomery G.I. program.

The New G.I. Bill Will Strengthen Our Military and Invest in Our country's Future 

While the main purpose of veterans' educational benefits is to provide for readjustment for returning veterans, a comprehensive G.I. bill also is anticipated to enhance recruitmentand strengthen our economy. Not only will the opportunity of an education help attract promising new recruits to the military, these new high-quality service members may choose to continue their military service beyond their first term. Further, just as the original G.I. bill helped foster economic growth following World War II, higher education and job training benefits provided to these new leaders will strengthen our economy at home.


The New G.I. Bill Will Provide a True Readjustment Benefit for Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, While Also Strengthening Our All-Volunteer Force

The new G.I. bill will provide comprehensive educational benefits in recognition of the war-time service of our troops. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, many of whom have served two, three, and even four tours of duty, have earned the right to a first-rate education that reflects their service and sacrifice. This modernized G.I. bill will restore the promise of a college education in return for military service. It will provide returning troops and veterans who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, with expanded educational readjustment benefits similar to those offered to World War II veterans, to ensure that this new "greatest generation" of heroes has the resources to meet the demands of the 21stcentury. 

The new G.I. bill will ensure equity among active duty and National Guard and Reserve members for their war-time service. Since 9/11, our National Guard and Reserves have served as an operational force, fighting alongside active duty troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.This modernized G.I. billwill fully recognize and reward this service by providing members of the National Guard and Reserve with an equitable chance to receive the same increased educational benefits as their active duty counterparts. 

The new G.I. bill will rightly ensure that the education of our veterans is a cost of war.Investing in the future of our returning troops and veterans is as critical as providing them with the resources they need on the battlefield. The estimated $3 to $4 billion per year cost of this 21stcentury G.I bill represents approximately the cost of just one week of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Democrats Have A Strong Record of Putting Our Troops First 

Senate Democrats have secured billions in additional funding for VA programs to ensure the first-rate service and care for our nation's veterans:

•Senate Democrats secured $3.2 billion in additional funding above the President's request for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs for Fiscal Year 2009, primarily for VA medical services and benefits programs. (S. Con. Res. 70) 

•Under Democratic leadership, the Senate provided a $3.6 billion increase for VA medical services, veterans' benefits, and VA construction and maintenance for Fiscal Year 2008. (P.L. 100-161) 

•Senate Democrats passed a Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution for Fiscal Year 2007 that filled in a $3.5 billion funding shortfall for veterans' health care left behind by Republicans. (P.L. 110-5) 

•Democrats secured nearly $1.8 billion in additional funding for veterans' health care, veterans' benefits, and VA construction needs in the 2007 emergency supplemental appropriations bill. (P.L. 100-28)


Senate Democrats have worked to maintain and invest in top-notch VA and DOD medical facilities.Senate Democrats led the effort to provide $3 billion in Fiscal Year 2007 emergency funding for military health care - $1.9 billion above the amount the President requested - to address shortfalls in care at Walter Reed and make critical investments in military hospital improvements. Democrats also secured $550 million in emergency Fiscal Year 2007 funding for non-recurring maintenance needs identified by the VA as well as $290 million for minor construction for VA-identified needs. Further, under Democratic leadership, the Senate provided an additional $397 million in Fiscal Year 2008 funding above the President's budget request for the construction and maintenance of VA hospitals and clinics to ensure that VA facilities do not fall to the same neglect experienced at Walter Reed. (P.L. 110-28; P.L. 110-161)


Senate Democrats have fought to ensure first-rate care for wounded warriors. Democrats led the effort to passthe Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, whichestablished a comprehensive policy on the treatment and management of wounded warriors in order to facilitate and improve their care, rehabilitation, and provide for seamless transition from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and transition from military service to civilian life. Senate Democrats also led the charge to include additional funds in the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution in order to fully implement critical provisions of the bill. (P.L. 110-18l; S.Con.Res. 70)


Democrats have worked to enhance mental health care for our service members and veterans.With a growing number of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Senate Democrats are continuing to lead the effort to ensure our veterans get the mental health care they need.Senate Democrats provided $900 million in emergency Fiscal Year 2007 funding for TBI and PTSD treatment and research and also included an additional $1.8 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 funding for the VA medical services account for polytrauma care and improved mental health services. Further, Senate Democrats passed a bipartisan initiative to strengthen suicide prevention initiatives (theJoshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act of 2007) and, most recently, led the effort to pass comprehensive legislation to significantly improve mental health services for returning war veterans (the Veterans Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008). (P.L. 110-28; P.L. 110-161; P.L. 110-110; S. 2162)


Senate Democrats have worked to secure increased pay for our servicemen and women. The Senate provided a 3.5 percent pay raise for all military personnel this year despite objections from the Bush Administration that called the extra raise above its requested three percent "unnecessary." In the coming weeks the Senate will take up legislation that would provide a 3.9 percent military pay raise for Fiscal Year 2009, which again is .5 percent higher than the President's budget request. (P.L. 110-181, S. 3001)


Democrats have repeatedly rejected Bush Administration proposals to impose new health care fees for veterans and retirees. Senate Democrats have consistently rejected the President's budget proposals that call on veterans and military retirees to pay more out of theirown pockets for health care.


Democrats have fought to provide survivors and military families with benefits and services they need. Senate Democrats have worked to improve and expand critical benefits and outreach programs to assist service members, veterans, and their families before, during, and after deployment. Democrats have championed provisions to extend TRICARE benefits to primary caregivers of wounded and critically ill service members, increase benefits provided to survivors of military personnel, improve the support for and coordination of family readiness programs, and increase educational support for military families. (P.L. 110-181)


Under Democratic leadership, the Senate has moved to alleviate the current strain on the VA, to ensure that the system has the capacity to meet current and future needs of veterans.Senate Democrats included $133 million in additional Fiscal Year 2008 funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration to hire up to 1,800 additional claims processors to address the current backlog of more than 400,000 disability claims pending at the VBA. Democrats also provided $60.75 million in Fiscal Year 2007 emergency funding for expenses related to hiring and training additional disability claims processors. (P.L. 110-161; P.L. 110-28)




  • Kristin Devine (224-3232)


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