Support the Troops, Not!

The mantra about supporting the troops is like the conservatives concerned about the sanctity of life until after the baby is born. The military opposes improving the GI Bill because it gives soldiers and incentive not to reenlist. Even after a soldier leaves, navigating the system is complicated and the ultimate funding is inadequate for a college education, except, perhaps from a mail-order diploma mill. Here is the story from the Boston Globe.

Sennott, Charles M. 2008. “GI Bill Falling Short of College Tuition Costs: Pentagon Resists Boost In Benefits.” Boston Globe (10 February).


“The original GI Bill provided full tuition, housing, and living costs for some 8 million veterans; for many, it was the engine of opportunity in the postwar years. But, in the mid 1980s, the program was scaled back to a peacetime program that pays a flat sum. Today the most a veteran can receive is approximately $9,600 a year for four years — no matter what college costs.”

“The Pentagon and White House have so far resisted a new GI Bill out of fear that too many will use it — choosing to shed the uniform in favor of school and civilian life. “The incentive to serve and leave,” said Robert Clarke, assistant director of accessions policy at the Department of Defense, may “outweigh the incentive to have them stay”.”

“Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war veteran and director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an organization based in New York, said that enhancing the GI Bill is a solid investment in the country’s future. One study he cites suggests that every dollar spent on the original GI Bill created a seven-fold return for the economy. “Funding the GI Bill as Senator Webb proposes it for one year would cost this country what it spends in Iraq in 36 hours,” he said.”

“Beyond the financial struggle is a daunting bureaucratic obstacle course that can confound veterans and sometimes steer them away from the benefit altogether. That struggle starts with the requirement that all participants buy into the program with a $1,200 upfront payment. William Bardenwerper, an Army veteran of Iraq with an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, described a six-month odyssey of paperwork in trying to navigate the current GI Bill. He kept a detailed log of his frustrating, and to-date fruitless, effort to access his benefits for graduate school. “Not to sound elitist,” said Bardenwerper, “but if a 31-year-old Princeton grad has a hard time deciphering what he is entitled to, then I have no idea how a 21-year-old armed only with a GED could navigate this system.”

“Clarke, of the Department of Defense, said it is simply off-base to compare what was offered to World War II veterans to the situation today. There was no concern about retention rates back then, he said; rapid demobilization was the order of the day.”

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