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Congress Sends GI Bill to President to Become Law

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Location: Washington, DC


Congress Sends GI Bill to President to Become Law

Legislation will expand educational benefits for today's military men and women

A GI bill for today's soldiers moved one step closer to becoming law as Congress gave the legislation its final stamp of approval, sending the bill to the president for his signature. Late yesterday, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill voted with her colleagues in the Senate to expand educational benefits for those serving the country in our armed forces. The language, included in a domestic supplemental spending bill, will provide benefits similar to those given to America's "Greatest Generation" under World War II's GI bill. The legislation passed with a vote of 92-6.

"My father went to college on the original GI Bill 60 years ago, and my entire family felt the result in our everyday lives as we experienced what a higher education can offer. He would be proud to know that this generation of soldiers will receive the same opportunities - there's no better way to reward our brave men and women," McCaskill said.

During World War II, Congress established educational assistance for veterans under the first "GI Bill". With the benefits provided under this law, 7.8 million veterans received additional education, rapidly boosting the number of Americans with college degrees and generating seven dollars in the economy for every dollar invested in the veterans. In the years since World War II, Congress has passed new GI bills to give higher education benefits to military members but none rivaled the first GI bill in terms of its scope and depth. In fact, many past GI bills were designed to provide a benefit for peacetime service as opposed to wartime service.

McCaskill says this legislation is particularly important because it will help the men and women who have served in our military readjust to civilian life and get the education they need to succeed outside the military, while rewarding their years of service to their country. The Senate passed the legislation initially in May, before heading to the House of Representatives for its approval. With both chambers approving identical versions of the bill this week, the legislation now goes to President Bush to sign into law.

Summary of modern-day GI bill:

* Benefits provided under the bill would allow veterans pursuing an approved program of education to receive payments covering the established charges of their programs, up to the cost of the most expensive in-state public school, plus a monthly stipend equivalent to housing costs in their area. The bill would allow additional payments for tutorial assistance, as well as licensure and certification tests.

* Increased educational benefits would be available to all members of the military who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, including activated reservists and National Guard. To qualify, veterans must have served at least three to thirty-six months of qualified active duty, beginning on or after September 11, 2001.

* The bill provides for educational benefits to be paid in amounts linked to the amount of active duty served in the military after 9/11. Generally, veterans would receive some amount of assistance proportional to their service. Veterans would receive the benefits during their time in school, up to 36 months of benefits, which equals four academic years. Veterans would also still be eligible to receive any incentive-based supplemental educational assistance from their military branch for which they quality.

* Veterans would have up to fifteen years after they leave active duty to use their educational assistance entitlement. Veterans would be barred from receiving concurrent assistance from this program and another similar program.

* The bill would create a new program in which the government will agree to match, dollar for dollar, any voluntary additional contributions to veterans from institutions whose tuition is more expensive than the maximum educational assistance provided under the legislation.


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