One of the major reasons young people join the military is to get an education. The Post-9/11 GI Bill was designed to provide great benefits and help veterans get a college education during or after military service. Recently, a congressional proposal was made to start forcing military service members to pay a "tax" to use their GI Bills. Is this ethical, good, bad or simply absurd?
What's the Proposal Look Like?
The House Veterans Affairs Committed will be looking at a plan requiring military members to pay for their GI Bill benefits. This proposal is a part of draft legislation from committee chairman Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican. It would deduct $100 from new enlistees' pay every month for two years in order for those enlistees to receive education benefits.
A spokeswoman for Roe, Tiffany Haverly stated that the goal is to improve the education benefits and they have been working closely with veterans' service organizations on this plan. One of the benefits they would like to provide is the ability for service members to use the GI Bill benefits at the college/university of their choice. They also want to increase benefits for dependents and survivors.
The proposal has been called a tax on service members by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Briand Duffy, the VFW National Commander said, "Ensuring veterans are able to successfully transition back to civilian life after military service is a cost of war and not a fee that Congress can just pass along to our troops."
Currently, the post-9/11 GI Bill provides full tuition for a four-year state college or the equivalent tuition payout for those going to a private school. It also provides a monthly housing stipend for service members after three years of active duty and for reservists mobilized into active duty for an extended period. Any military service member wounded while service is also eligible.
The current bill doesn't require any pay reductions or fees, which the older Montgomery GI Bill required. This would change with the new proposal. Congress believes the new plan would bring in about $3.1 billion over the next decade to offset the $100 billion that is expected to be spent on education benefits over the same decade.
What Supporters of the Plan Have to Say
Those supporting the fee on veterans believe the buy in will allow the GI Bill to become stronger. They believe it will be harder to cut benefits if service members are paying into the benefits. Many supporters believe the new buy in will help to protect the GI Bill against budget fights in the future.
What Those Opposing the Bill are Saying About the Plan
Many have come out in opposition to this new plan and believe it's unacceptable to charge troops for these benefits. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick went as far as to write a letter to Paul Ryan, the House Speaker stating that he cannot support the measure. Fitzpatrick believes the GI Bill helps reintegrate veterans into civilian life and thinks charging service members for these benefits isn't okay.
Congressman Brendan Boyle said he's "absolutely appalled" by the plan. He believes the service members earn their benefits and shouldn’t have to pay a tax or fee to gain access to those benefits. He has vowed to fight against this outrageous proposal.
Why the Bill is Being Proposed?
The main agenda behind why this bill is even being proposed may not be so transparent. It really comes down to money, but nickeling and diming those willing to put their lives on the line for our freedom isn't smart or acceptable. Those in charge of putting this bill together say it will provide the necessary money to expand benefits to those excluded from the program.
While the expansion of the benefits has the support of the veterans community, the way these benefits are paid for doesn't. Those in favor of the bill believe the new money will help pay for the expansion, but many think it shouldn't be up to those serving our country to pay for better benefits they should already have access to.