Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), a veteran of the U.S. Army, today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to reinstate the tuition assistance programs for members of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Marine Corps. Earlier this month, these service branches announced the suspension of their tuition assistance programs as a result of sequester cuts, which will affect more than 250,000 servicemembers.
In his letter, Butterfield wrote, "Our all-volunteer force is the finest and most advanced in the world. In order to recruit and retain the best and brightest, we offer tuition assistance so our soldiers can attend college while defending our country. I am very troubled by the recent decisions by the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps to end their tuition assistance programs. As one of your first orders of business as Secretary, I strongly urge you to reinstate these tuition assistance programs."
A long-time advocate of our men and women in uniform, in February, Congressman Butterfield introduced H.R. 595, the Veterans' Education Equity Act of 2013, to reward equal educational benefits to veterans whether they choose to attend a private or public institution of higher learning. The bill would change an inequity in existing law which allots more education funds to veterans enrolled in private colleges than those in public institutions. Currently, the Post 9-11 Veterans' Educational Improvements Assistance Act caps the education benefit amount for veterans who enroll in private schools at $18,077.50 and limits the education benefit for those who enroll in public schools to the amount charged for in-state tuition and fees. The Veterans' Education Equity Act of 2013 would remedy this inequality and allow all veterans to receive up to $18,077.50 in education benefits.
Butterfield's full letter follows.
March 21, 2013
The Honorable Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Dear Secretary Hagel:
Congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of Defense. Having bravely and honorably served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, you are acutely aware of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make every day in defense of the United States.
Our all-volunteer force is the finest and most advanced in the world. In order to recruit and retain the best and brightest, we offer tuition assistance so our soldiers can attend college while defending our country. I am very troubled by the recent decisions by the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps to end their tuition assistance programs. As one of your first orders of business as Secretary, I strongly urge you to reinstate these tuition assistance programs. Doing so will send a clear message to our men and women in uniform that they have your support and their best interests are at the heart of the Pentagon's decisions.
Many men and women like those in my Congressional District come from humble means and do not have financial assistance from their families to help defray the cost of college. For many of those individuals, serving in the military provides a vehicle to pay for the ever-rising cost of higher education. Without tuition assistance, some of the brightest and most capable soldiers will be forced to postpone their education or worse, end it entirely.
I fully understand the financial strain on the Pentagon's budget caused by sequestration. However, in order to not diminish the morale of our servicemembers or jeopardize the quality of our military forces in the future, I ask that you do everything in your power to reinstate the tuition assistance programs.
Thank you very much.
Very truly yours,
G. K. Butterfield
Member of Congress