On this day 25 years ago, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the "New GI Bill Continuation Act" (Public Law 100-48). This law expanded the initial Montgomery GI Bill pilot program and, with it, our nation's strong history of ensuring those who fight in defense of our freedom have access to career-enhancing, educational benefits.
"As Americans welcome home a new generation of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, we remain in awe of their bravery and are humbled by their selfless sacrifice," said Smith, whose Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act (P.L. 107-103) provided the largest increase in GI Bill benefits since World War Two, "When the dust settles, it is the veteran and his or her family who bear the physical and emotional scars of war, for some it's the ultimate price. There is no one in America today--either individually or collectively--who commands our deepest respect, admiration and gratitude more than America's veterans."
In 2001, when Smith became chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, one of his major legislative priorities was to update the veterans' college benefit program. At that time, veterans receiving the maximum benefit provided by the Montgomery G.I. Bill received $24,000 toward their degree. The benefit was terribly under-utilized as eligible vets were declining to participate because the benefit was too small to make a difference. Because of Smith's law, the maximum benefit is now $53,000.
"The G.I. Bill not only provides veterans with the tools to transition from our military force to our workforce, it is sound and valuable investment that collectively benefits our society," Smith said. "I have long believed that the post- World War Two education benefits created the modern middle class. Because of the GI Bill, millions of veterans who have defended our unique American Dream are achieving--and sustaining--it. And now that we have an all-volunteer military that is smaller and highly trained, it is critical we have good benefits that attracts and retains quality young people into the armed services."