Apr 22 2008

Graham, Burr, McCain Unveil Legislation to Assist Servicemembers, Veterans, Guardsmen and Reservists with Increased Education Benefits

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) today unveiled the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment through Education Act.

The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill by improving education benefits for servicemembers, veterans, and members of the Guard and Reserve. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children.  It also bolsters recruitment and retention efforts, encouraging servicemembers to continue their military careers.

“It is time we give back to those who have served and continue to serve our nation so valiantly,” said Graham.  “I’m proud to be part of this effort to recognize and reward the sacrifices service members and their families are making on behalf of a grateful nation.  Our legislation increases the monthly benefit for active duty and reserve personnel and greatly expands the education benefits available to service members.  For the first time we ensure that all servicemembers will be permitted to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children, a much needed and long overdue improvement.”

“An increase in Montgomery G.I. benefits is long overdue,” Burr said.  “This legislation goes a long way in providing servicemembers with the ability to attend college debt-free and improves one of the best recruiting and retention tools the armed forces have.  I am pleased our bill will also allow more family members to take advantage of the education benefits that their loved ones in the military did not use.  This measure is a simple and fair way to help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves attain their educational goals and to encourage military careers.”

“We have an obligation to provide unwavering support to our nation’s veterans, and that is precisely what this legislation does,” said McCain.  “Men and women who serve their country in uniform deserve the best education benefits we are able to give them.  That is why I am pleased to join with Senators Graham and Burr to announce legislation that significantly enhances the Montgomery GI bill and promotes recruitment and retention which is critical to an All Volunteer Military.”

The legislation provides:

  • An immediate increase in education benefits for active duty personnel to $1500 a month, and to improve retention, those benefits increase to $2000 a month after 12 or more years of service.
  • Significantly increased benefit for members of the National Guard and Reserves.
  • Transferability, the ability of service members to transfer their education benefits to dependents.  After 6 years, half of the benefit may be transferred and after 12 years 100% may be transferred to a spouse or dependent children.
  • Student loan repayment.  Allows servicemembers to use up to $6,000 per year of Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits to repay Federal student loans.
  • Creation of a matching program to help more veterans graduate debt-free.  Up to an additional $3,000 per year could be paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs in return for the school retiring some or all of the servicemember’s debt.
  • Access to Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits for service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps officers who continue serving.
  • Builds on existing educational benefits program to ensure rapid implementation with minimal additional administrative costs.

“We do not need to reinvent the wheel,” said Graham.  “Our legislation improves benefits and modernizes the Montgomery G.I. Bill education program without creating new levels of red tape and bureaucracy.”

“The Montgomery G.I. Bill education program is an extremely effective tool that creates a more educated workforce and helps our armed forces recruit the best our country has to offer,” Burr said.  “This legislation ensures the MGIB program will continue to help veterans, our military, and our country.”

“We should encourage servicemembers to remain in the military, and they should be rewarded with additional benefits if they do,” said McCain.  “And, we need to ensure that families are not forgotten, which is why our legislation would allow servicemembers to transfer their benefits to their spouses or children if they so choose.”



  • The findings underscore the importance of education benefits, particularly the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), in achieving not only successful readjustment to civilian life, but also recruiting and retention within the All Volunteer Force for servicemembers and their families.

Immediately increase education benefits

  • Effective October 2008, increase from $1,100 to $1,500 per month the education benefits provided by the Montgomery GI Bill.  This amount would cover the average cost of a 4-year public college, including room, board, tuition, and fees.
  • Gradually increase benefits to $2,000 per month by 2011 for members who serve on active duty for 12 years or more.
  • Provide $500 per year for books and supplies.
  • Effective October 2008, increase from $880 to $1,200 per month the education benefits for Guard and Reserve members called to active duty since September 11, 2001.
  • For those members of the Guard and Reserves who serve in the Selected Reserve for 12 years or more and who continue serving in the Selected Reserve, gradually increase benefits to $1,600 per month by 2011. 
  • Effective October 2008, double from $317 to $634 the education benefits for other members of the Guard and Reserves.

Allow more servicemembers to transfer education benefits to dependents

  • Provide broad authority to regular components and Guard and Reserves to allow members to transfer their education benefits to their spouses or children.
  • After serving for at least 6 years, a member could transfer up to half (18 months) of their education benefits to a spouse, children, or both.
  • After serving for 12 years or more, a member could transfer all of their education benefits (36 months) to a spouse, children, or both.  This could provide up to $72,000 towards a dependent’s education. 

Allow more servicemembers to access VA education benefits

  • Allow service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps participants, who currently have no GI Bill benefit, to access benefits, including transferability, under the MGIB.  They would be required to complete their initial period of obligated service and then continue to serve for 5 additional years on active duty to become eligible.
  • Allow certain career servicemembers who enlisted between 1977 – 1985 and who were offered only the inferior Post-Vietnam Era Educational Assistance Program (VEAP),  who were on active duty after 9/11/01 and who retired since then or are currently serving, the opportunity to access Montgomery GI Bill education benefits by contributing $2,700.  This would be for bachelor’s degree only and be non-transferable.

Allow use of education benefits to repay school loans

  • Allow active-duty servicemembers to use up to $6,000 per year of MGIB benefits to repay federal student loans.

Create matching program (College Patriots Grant Program) to help more veterans graduate debt-free

  • If a college agrees to provide supplemental financial assistance to help veterans attend debt-free, VA would contribute up to $3,000 per year (in addition to other VA education benefits) to help meet a veteran’s unmet education costs.  The combined assistance from VA and the school (which could far exceed VA’s contribution) could allow veterans to attend any institution debt-free.

Sense of the Congress and Report

  • Express the sense of the Congress that those who join the All Volunteer Force aspiring to obtain a bachelor’s degree and are willing to serve a career in the military should be afforded the means and assistance to obtain a bachelor’s degree during the course of their military career.
  • Require the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress on how to accomplish the goal of guiding servicemembers who are motivated to achieve military careers and a bachelor’s degree.