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Should the G.I. Bill be expanded?

Johnson City Press - 5/1/2017

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, recently told the Kingsport Times-News he believes it's time to expand education benefits for military veterans. The 1st District congressman chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which is drafting legislation to amend what has become known as the G.I. Bill.

"We need to re-look at the G.I. Bill," Roe said of the talks he and members of his committee have had with leaders of several national veterans organizations.

Roe, a veteran who served in the Army Medical Corps., said the G.I Bill he qualified for was one passed just after World War II.

"As we got into a volunteer Army, in 1985 they started a Montgomery G.I. Bill, a three-year pilot program where you put in $100 a month when you went in the military and you could use that within 10 years," the congressman said. "Even today, with a Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, active duty military still choose to use the Montgomery G.I. Bill instead of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. The reason is it is better for them."

Roe said the Montgomery G.I. Bill pays out nearly $1,800 a month.

Military.com reported last week the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush, included funding to pay 100 percent of a public four-year undergraduate education to a veteran who had served three years on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The act also provides the ability for the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or children after serving (or agreeing to serve) 10 years.

One proposal Roe's committee is now exploring to amend the G.I. Bill calls for the program to automatically deduct $100 a month from the basic pay of new recruits during their first two years of service. Roe, however, says the deduction would be strictly voluntary.

"You can choose to be in it or not be in it," he told the Times-News.

Even so, the deduction is not setting too well with some leaders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"This new tax on troops is absurd," VFW National Commander Brian Duffy said in a news release. "Ensuring veterans are able to successfully transition back to civilian life after military service is a cost of war, and not a fee that Congress can just pass along to our troops."

Tell us what you think. Is it time to revamp the G.I. Bill? Send your comments to mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes.

 
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