On June 30, President Bush signed the GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century, despite his early and vocal objections. I am glad he did.
But even in signing, the President argued that by increasing post-service educational benefits for those who risked their lives in defense of our country, Congress was playing fast and loose with the federal budget and seriously threatening re-enlistment rates.
I couldn't disagree more. I believe President George Washington was right when he said: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country."
A new GI bill shows every single man and woman considering military service that America keeps its promise.
After World War II, the United States Congress saw a need to help veterans rebuild their lives upon returning home, both for the benefit of the individual service member and the nation as a whole. That original GI Bill offered veterans the chance to attend college, purchase a home, and contribute to a slowly-rebuilding American economy.
It is long past time that we extend that same opportunity to our newest generation of 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.
This vital legislation will cover some of the cost of a college degree for anyone who has served three months or more on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces since September 11, 2001. Those who have served three years will be eligible for tuition waivers up to and including the cost of the most expensive public university in their home state.
Under this bill, the federal government will also match the veteran's personal contributions dollar-for-dollar should he or she choose to attend a more expensive school. And for the first time ever, books and other living expenses will be covered by an additional stipend.
As a veteran, I am enormously proud that Congress is giving a new generation of patriots access to the American Dream. What's more, we did it in a fiscally responsible way. The total cost of the new GI Bill is less than what we spend in one day in Iraq.
Our servicemen and women sacrifice their lives everyday to protect our freedoms. Providing them the chance for the brightest possible future is the least we can do.