Lautenberg, Webb, Hagel, Warner Statement on G.I. Bill
The following is a statement from Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jim Webb (D-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and John Warner (R-VA):
"Senators McCain, Graham and Burr today introduced legislation apparently designed to be an alternative to S. 22, the comprehensive GI Bill package introduced nearly 16 months ago and recently modified to reflect the collective view of a wide range of experts. S.22 now enjoys strong bipartisan support with 57 cosponsors in the Senateincluding 44 Democrats, 11 Republicans and 2 Independentsa majority of the House, and most of our nation's leading veterans' organizations. In fact, it is important to note that the major pieces of this legislation were specifically endorsed in the recent Independent Budget submitted by a consortium of the top veterans' organizations.
The proponents of this newly-introduced legislation maintain that S.22 is too generous to today's veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, is too difficult to administer, and would unduly harm the retention of our active duty military people. Each of these assertions is wrong.
S. 22 is hardly too generous, unless these senators are prepared to say that the World War II GI Bill was too generous. To the contrary, during 15 months of daily cooperation with all of our major veterans groups and many members of Congress, we have refined this legislation in many important ways. It is our best collective, bipartisan effort to mirror the type of benefits given to those who served in World War II.
Nor would S. 22 be too difficult to administer. We have worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs and with committee staff on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, and have addressed every major concern. For these reasons, Chairman Akaka of the Veterans Affairs Committee and Chairman Levin of the Armed Services Committee have cosponsored this bill.
Nor would S. 22 unduly harm active duty retention. Recent statistics from the Army and Marine Corps show that 70 to 75 percent of soldiers and Marines who enlist return to civilian life at, or before, the end of their first enlistment. The military is already doing a very good job of managing its career force. It is not doing a very good job of assisting this large group of people as they attempt to readjust to civilian life, and this is the primary focus of S.22. With respect to active duty retention, a good GI Bill will increase the pool of people interested in serving and lower first-term attrition. Nor have we seen any credible evidence whatsoever that this legislation would affect retention."