Sept. 27, 2004
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. HAGEL:
S. 2849. A bill to provide certain enhancements to the Montgomery G.I. Bill Program for certain individuals who serve as members of the Armed Forces after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the G.I. Bill Enhancement Act of 2004. My legislation would waive the Montgomery G.I. bill program's $1,200 enrollment fee for active duty members of our Nation's military.
This legislation covers any member of the United States military, including Reserve and National Guard members, serving on active duty during the period after President Bush's November 2001 Executive order that placed the military on a wartime footing. This legislation would: waive the G.I. bill enrollment fee until President Bush's November 2001 Executive order is rescinded; allow all servicemen and women to opt into the G.I. bill with no penalty or enrollment fee; and reimburse those servicemen and women covered by this bill who have already paid the $1,200 enrollment fee prior to the enactment of this legislation.
The current Montgomery G.I. bill is tailored to serve members of our military in a time of peace. Upon enlistment, recruits are given the option of enrolling in the G.I. bill. If they choose to participate, they are charged a $1,200 enrollment fee which is deducted from their monthly pay over 12 months. However, we are now in a time of war and the demands on our service members and their families have been transformed and increased. To that end, changes must be made to the G.I. bill to ensure that it continues to provide realistic and relevant educational opportunities to those who are defending our country.
This is an issue of fundamental fairness. The men and women serving our country in wartime should not have to choose between the long-term benefits of the G.I. bill and the short-term demands of their paycheck. The G.I. bill is one of the great legacies of military service to our country. Men and women sacrificing for their country in a time of war need to be assured that access to higher education is in their future. Congress must do all it can to ensure that education options for our veterans are accessible and real.
The year 2004 marks the 60th anniversary of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. bill. This bill has long been recognized as one of the most important congressional acts of post World War II America. The G.I. bill ensured that all who served their Nation would not be penalized as a result of their time away from their careers and communities in service to their country. The G.I. bill helped members of our "greatest generation" upon their return home by providing them with the educational tools necessary to pursue the opportunities enjoyed by all Americans.
Over the last 60 years, the Federal Government has invested billions of dollars in education benefits for our Nation's veterans. Over 17.6 million men and women have benefitted from the G.I. bill, resulting in a workforce that transformed American society. The bill's far-reaching impact can be seen here today, as Members of this body, including this Senator, have prospered as a result of the benefits of the G.I. bill.
Every American should be proud of how we have responded to the challenges of terrorism following September 11, 2001. We owe much to the men and women who have fought professionally and bravely in Afghanistan and Iraq and who have kept guard around the world. This bill recognizes these sacrifices. I hope that my Senate colleagues will give serious consideration to this legislation.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows: