May 01 2008

Support Grows for Graham-Burr-McCain G.I. Bill

WASHINGTON-  U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) officially introduced S. 2938, the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act on the Senate floor this week.

The original co-sponsors include Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill by significantly improving education benefits for both service members who choose to leave the military as well as those who decide to make military service their career. 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 service members to continue their military careers.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake have questioned the effectiveness and implementation of an alternative plan sponsored by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) while expressing support for the key components of the Graham-Burr-McCain bill.


What They’re Saying about S. 2938

The Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

“It is time we give back to those who have served and continue to serve our nation so valiantly.  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 service members will be permitted to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children -- a much needed and long overdue improvement.”

Graham is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee and Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)

“The Montgomery G.I. Bill has been one of the best recruiting tools our military has to offer, but an increase in this benefit is long overdue.   This legislation will help more military personnel graduate from college debt-free and also let them transfer their benefits to their children and spouses.  These improvements will help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves reach their educational goals and help our military recruit and retain the best America has to offer.”

Burr is the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona)

“We have an obligation to provide unwavering support to our nation’s veterans and service members.   Men and women who have served their country deserve the best education benefits we are able to give them, and they deserve to receive them as quickly as possible.  And that is what our legislation is designed to accomplish.  I am pleased to join in sponsoring this legislation which significantly enhances the Montgomery GI bill and promotes recruitment and retention which is critical to an All Volunteer Military.  Their exemplary service to our nation, and the sacrifice of their families, deserves no less.”

McCain is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)

“American servicemen and women deserve our greatest respect and support for their selfless dedication and sacrifice.  Improvements in the G.I. Bill, particularly immediate increases in education benefits and significant increases in benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves, are critical and long overdue.”

Hutchison is the Ranking Member of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee and Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina)

“For many decades, the G.I. Bill has demonstrated America’s commitment and gratitude to those who serve, including veterans like my husband Bob.  Strengthening the G.I Bill will ensure that our military can continue to recruit and retain outstanding men and women to our armed forces and provide the education benefits they richly deserve.”

Dole is the Ranking Member of the Armed Service Subcommittee on Emerging Treats and Capabilities

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia)

“Our nation has an obligation to our servicemen and women and their families who make the sacrifice every day for freedom and democracy.  I'm pleased to support legislation that will greatly expand educational benefits available to service members.  We need to modernize the G.I. bill so it reflects the today's cost of education and effectively addresses other quality of life issues.”

Chambliss is a member of the Armed Services Committee

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (ID- Connecticut)

“This legislation is an important step towards rewarding our service members who continue to serve so bravely during this difficult period.  Our war fighters are not alone in their hardships however, and this new bill recognizes the sacrifices of our military families.  The measure allows education benefits to be transferred to them incrementally, further rewarding continued service.  This addition will not only improve the standard of living for many service members, but will also increase the health of the All-Volunteer Force.  I am also pleased to see the increase in benefits to National Guard and Reserve forces that have not been activated.  These warriors continue to train and stand ready for any emergency that would face our homeland, and also deserve increased benefits.  I hope the Senate will combine the best ideas from the several proposals into a bipartisan legislative consensus to provide these critical benefits to our bravest citizens and their families.”

Lieberman is the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)

“We need to reward both service members who leave the military and those who decide to make the military a career.  Our troops have answered the call of duty and they deserve no less.”

Cornyn is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland

U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida)

“Ensuring that our veterans and active military have access to a good education is a top priority.  While increasing the monthly education benefits, this bill goes further in allowing for the transfer of benefits to family members. That step enhances recruitment and retention. I’m also concerned for the families of service men and women. Their sacrifice should also be recognized through additional educational opportunities.”

Martinez is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming)

“It is our duty as Americans to ensure our brave men and women receive the best possible education benefits.  This bill goes a long way to updating the G.I. bill, and providing service members and veterans the flexibility they need to continue their education.”

Barrasso is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

“Having relied on the Montgomery GI Bill myself, I know firsthand how important these benefits are to veterans.  Congress can and should do more to ensure veterans and military members in active duty, reserve, and guard units receive the maximum benefits possible. This bill is a significant step forward because it addresses the increasing cost of higher education, while recognizing the recruiting and retention needs of America’s all-volunteer military force.”

Stevens is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico)

“There is greater recognition that the GI Bill must be updated to meet the modern education needs of our veterans and current service members.  There is momentum growing in Congress to finally get this done.  The Graham-Burr-McCain bill is a good plan based on feedback from our current and former troops that implements needed reforms and also helps with recruitment and retention.”

Domenici is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)

“In 1984, Congressman Sonny Montgomery recognized the need that existed among America’s veterans for a more robust GI bill to assist in paying for higher education.  His efforts enabled the GI Bill to continue until today, and I am pleased to be a part of the current effort to ensure that even more veterans are able to receive adequate education benefits.”

Cochran is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)

“The first GI bill was one of the most successful pieces of legislation Congress has ever passed.  Millions of our Greatest Generation’s veterans received an education that improved their lives and helped strengthen our country.  The bill I’m supporting gives us an opportunity to build on that success.  After meeting with military and guard officials in Tennessee to get their input, I’m even more convinced that this legislation to update the GI bill is fair to our state’s veterans and will support military retention.  Importantly, this bill will ensure that Tennesseans receive the same education benefits as veterans in other states.”

Alexander is the Republican Conference Chairman


What They’re Saying About S. 22, the Webb G.I. Bill

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

“Our first objective is to strengthen the All-Volunteer force.  Accordingly, it is essential to permit transferability of unused education benefits from service members to family.  This is the highest priority set by the Service Chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and fleet.  Transferability supports military families, thereby enhancing retention.  Second, any enhancement of the education benefit, whether used in service or after retirement, must serve to enhance recruiting and not undercut retention.”

“…In conclusion, for all of these reasons, the Department does not support S. 22.  This legislation does not meet, and, in some respects, is in direct variance to the Department’s above-stated objectives and supporting criteria.”

Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake

“He (Secretary Gates) indicated that negative retention effects may begin when the value of the monthly education benefit exceeds about $1500.  For that reason, and because of other concerns stated in the lette