Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL), a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, was joined by local veterans at VFW Post 2153 in Moline today to express their support of expanded educationional benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an improved GI Bill as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.
"The brave men and women who serve our nation deserve access to the American Dream when they return home," Hare said. "A GI Bill for the 21st Century is the very least we can provide our veterans."
The new GI Bill is designed to offer the men and women who have served honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Reservists and National Guardsmen, a level of educational benefits on par with those provided to veterans of the World War II era. In order to qualify, veterans must have served at least 3 to 36 months of qualified active duty after September 11, 2001.
Depending on their length of service, returning veterans would be eligible for up to 36 months of tuition at a rate equivalent to the most expensive public university in their state. The new GI Bill also includes a monthly stipend for books and living expenses.
Current GI benefits only pays for about 60 percent of a public college education and 30 percent of a private college education. Meanwhile, college costs have grown nearly 40 percent over the last 5 years.
"Under the current GI Bill, veterans are not getting as much bang for their buck, often times having to take out massive loans or not pursuing a college education at all," Hare said. "This long overdue legislation will help the men and women we put in harms way transition back into civilian life."
Hare is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves.