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Houston Chronicle: Congressman Beto O'Rourke Works to Restore Tuition Assistance for Soldiers

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By Anoushah Rasta

Thousands of federal employees around the country are at the mercy of forced budget cuts, and that includes thousands of soldiers in the US Army.

Earlier this month, the Department of Defense suspended its tuition assistance program -- a decision that affects soldiers like Sergeant Benjamin Kullman.

"Once the announcement was made that the tuition assistance program had been cut, myself, like many others who I'm sure is going through the same issues, had to dis-enroll," said Sergeant Kullman.

But that may soon change. Today, the US Senate voted to restore the military's tuition assistance program.

Local congressman, Beto O'Rourke, and two of his colleagues, introduced a similar bill to the House of Representatives today.

"This is I think more evidence that Representative O'Rourke really does advocate on behalf of the soldiers, the families, Fort Bliss, and El Pasoans," said Major Joe Buccino, spokesperson for Fort Bliss.

O'Rourke's proposal aims to reinstate funding for military tuition assistance through the 2013 fiscal year. He explains the importance of the bill by saying, "As they make their return from Iraq and Afghanistan, these men and women rely on tuition assistance programs to begin the transition back into civilian life, earn an education and find good paying-jobs when they leave the Armed Services. We cannot pull the rug out from under them now."

Sergeant Kullman agrees with O'Rourke. He's hopeful he'll soon be able to complete his Bachelor's degree, without worrying about how he's going to pay for it.

"For those of us who are still in the military, and are trying to further our education, it is distracting and it's a little humbling, but we're certain that this is a temporary thing," said Sergeant Kullman.

Before the Army suspended tuition assistance earlier this month, service members took hundreds of thousands of classes under the program, and earned more than 50,000 degrees, diplomas, and certificates.


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