Letter to The President
BIDEN to PRESIDENT: 'Don't Cheat Our Soldiers Out of Their Education Benefits'
BIDEN: They kept their promise to us and we must keep our promises to them.'
BIDEN: There is no excuse for playing games with their hard-earned benefits.'
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) sent a letter to President Bush urging him to conduct a comprehensive review of the policies surrounding deployment times for our National Reserve and Guard troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent reports have indicated that National Reserve and Guard units have been denied education benefits because they were one or two days short of their service requirements. Responding to these reports, Sen. Biden called on the President to provide the full benefits due to soldiers who have honorably served this nation.
The full text of the letter follows.
October 18, 2007
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I urge you to conduct a thorough review of the policies and practices surrounding deployment times for our Reserve and Guard troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have heard anecdotal accounts and seen press reports that many Reserve and Guard units are sent home from Iraq and Afghanistan just as their service times would make them eligible for education benefits. If this was done intentionally, it is outrageous. If it was accidental, it must be fixed. Our citizen-soldiers take on service to this nation while also holding down civilian jobs. There is no excuse for playing games with their hard-earned benefits.
Most recently, units based in Iowa and Minnesota have confronted this problem. According to press reports, even though all served the required 20 consecutive months on active duty, large portions of these units were a day or two short of the 730 days requirement due to their specific deployment orders.
The Iowa National Guard's 133rd Battalion spent almost two years in Iraq - making them the longest serving Guard unit in the United States since World War II. The members of the "Ironman Battalion" served honorably during their time in Iraq, but over 500 of them were told they are not eligible for full G.I. Bill educational benefits because their orders were for 725 to 729 days, just short of the 730 days required.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division based in Minnesota was deployed in Iraq 30 days longer than any other unit serving in Iraq at the time. Unfortunately, over half of the members of the "Red Bulls" were told they did not qualify for G.I. Bill educational benefits because their orders only had them on duty for 729 days - one day shy of the minimum needed to qualify for the benefits.
These soldiers - fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters - are heroes by any standard and should be treated as nothing less.
Instead, if these reports are true, they are being cheated of benefits by either a disturbing lack of attention to detail by those handling the deployment orders or by an even more disturbing effort to intentionally disqualify them. In addition, they must now individually struggle with the bureaucracy at the Army Board of Corrections of Military Records, as the Board insists on reviewing each case individually rather than the unit as a whole. This is particularly problematic for those soldiers in school who may not be able to make use of their benefits if the claims process takes too long.
When these men and women stepped-up to serve our nation in its time of need, they expected to be treated fairly. They kept their promise to us and we must keep our promises to them. I strongly urge you to expedite the processing of their claims, and to rectify this situation with the utmost haste.
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senator