07 March 2008

This is some good stuff

I am not an unreserved fan of Senator Jim Webb. I am a woman who wears combat boots, and I like to think I do it reasonably well, and so, on some level, I will always want to kick him in the kneecap for some of his past work.

That does not, however, take away from the fact that Webb is a no-shit war hero, who led Marines in combat with undisputed valor. Prior to his election to the Senate, he was a tireless voice for Vietnam veterans. And now, he's the pointman on an what would be an amazing initiative.

We're going to do a long quote here, because this is tremendous stuff.

His enhanced GI Bill would be available to any member, active or reserve, who has served at least three months on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The level of benefits would be tied to length of service. The $1200 member buy-in under the current Montgomery GI Bill would be returned.

The bigger change would be in the value of benefits. Maximum benefits, earned for 36 months' active duty, would cover tuition for up to four years at a level to match tuition at the most expensive in-state public school. The average across states is about $1900 a month. MGIB pays $1100.

Webb's bill also would pay a monthly stipend to cover living expenses. The stipend would reflect local housing costs near school and would be set to equal military Basic Allowance for Housing for married enlisted in grade E-5.

The GI Bill now can be a pretty good deal. You get accepted to a school and, if you have the full GI Bill (earned only by folks who've done active duty time), you can receive up to $1100 a month as long as you're enrolled full-time (payments are prorated if you're enrolled with a lesser courseload).

Which works out alright, if you're going someplace very cheap, and can afford to pay for everything up front and let the payments "reimburse" you. And you are living back with your parents or working a good, solid second job.

I'm trying to not sound whiny here, because lots of folks who never associate with the military live in refigerator crates and sell plasma to get through school. The current GI Bill is nice. It helps. It really can be nice for guys who just do one term, stay single, and get out with the ability to live cheap and scrape for a few years.

But for older servicemembers, or those who retire, it's really not quite enough to bring your family through your education.

This proposal is nice. I called the Mister over to see this and said, "Hey, honey! Look at this! If this passed, we could both go to college! Real college!"

Now, this might pass, and it might not. And it might pass in a different form. But there is some institutional resistance from DoD, and I point out it out, because it's the DoD trying to not do the right thing.

That's a worrisome vow for Defense officials who believe enhanced post-service education benefits, particularly if enacted while troops face multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, could trigger an exodus severe enough to put the viability of the volunteer military at risk.

We should not hold back the good bennies for the sole purpose of not offering our warriors any better option than staying in uniform. That is not the right way to treat our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coasties.

Anyway. Worth paying attention to as this election year progresses. We wish Sen. Webb the best of luck with this one.

(as a caveat, it also appears this GI Bill revision would treat reservists and guardsmen proportionally well. I regret I can't comment much on the education benefits for this group, since I took my active duty GI Bill and tucked it in my cargo pocket and haven't looked back)