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Mar-03-2008 12:48printcomments

Oregon's Ron Wyden Co-Sponsors '21st Century GI Bill'

Legislation led by Senators Webb, Hagel, Lautenberg and Warner will expand educational opportunities for veterans.

American soldiers on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan
American soldiers on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan
Photo by: Tim King

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Arguing that "soldiers who share the same foxhole for the same length of time should get the same benefit," U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced his support today for the "Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act" (S.22).

Reintroduced late last week, the legislation commonly referred to as the "21st Century GI Bill" will provide service members who have served since September 11th, 2001 with improved educational benefits similar to those provided to World War II-era veterans.

As Wyden noted the legislation will provide Oregon members of the National Guard and Reserves who have been deployed overseas with the same educational benefits enjoyed by active duty service members.

Forty-one Senators are co-sponsoring the legislation including the bill’s four lead co-sponsors: U.S. Senators Jim Webb (D-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator John Warner (R-VA).

S.22 has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Military Officers’ Association of America (MOAA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC).

Wyden included the following statement in the Congressional Record to announce his support: Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act

Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, this chamber has recently been consumed by discussion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obviously, we don’t all agree on this issue. But there are a few things that I think we can agree on.

We can agree that the brave men and women serving their country overseas and at home are doing a superb job. We can agree that we have the finest fighting force the world has ever known. And we can agree that our veterans deserve benefits for the sacrifices they make and the risks they take while serving their country.

For nearly 65 years, one of those benefits has been affordable access to a college education when they return from war. Commonly called the GI Bill, this benefit is widely recognized as one of the best pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress. Unfortunately, for many Oregonian citizen soldiers this benefit has remained just out of reach.

Oregon has no large active duty military bases, and most Oregonians who serve their country do so in the National Guard or Reserves. They stay trained and ready, and when our nation needs them they fight bravely. But when the fighting is over, they return to their communities and their jobs. And, all too often, their sacrifice is not rewarded the way it is for members of the active duty force.

An active duty soldiers can collect GI Bill benefit even after they leave the military. However, if a member of the Oregon National Guard wants to attend Portland State University after fighting in Iraq for a year, he or she must stay in the Guard, risking another deployment, to collect his or her benefits.

I believe that as a matter of basic fairness, soldiers who share the same foxhole for the same length of time should get the same benefit. Some people say “That’s too logical for government.” But fortunately, Senators Webb and Warner recognizing this basic inequity have written a bill to correct this problem, and generally modernize the GI Bill.

I firmly believe education should be both available and affordable to all service men and women, and it for this reason that I am proud to stand today in support of the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act.”

Many service members who volunteered to join the armed forces after September 11, 2001, did so with the full knowledge that they’d very likely be called to serve in harm’s way. Over 600,000 members of the nation’s Guard and Reserve have been called to active duty. Since our nation came under attack, more than half of the Oregon National Guard has deployed overseas. Oregon’s deployment rate has ranked among the highest per capita in the nation. The National Guard has done much more than they have historically been called upon to do, and at great sacrifice. This bill honors all who have served on active duty on or after September 11th, 2001 by expanding the educational benefits provided under current law.

The cost of higher education has increased dramatically in recent years. Over the past five years, the average cost of tuition has increased 35 percent. Room and board costs have also risen on average over 35 percent. Many of our service members have put their educational plans on hold while at war, and the rising cost of education has outpaced their ability to pay. This has put them at a competitive disadvantage in a nation that has called them to service. This bill would put them back on equal footing. Service members, including activated Guard and Reserve members, who have served on active duty for at least three months would be entitled to benefits under this bill.

As with previous GI bills, this bill would secure tuition payments, a monthly stipend to assist with living expenses, and a stipend for books and required educational expenses. This bill would go a step farther, however. Instead of recognizing an activated reservist’s longest consecutive active service, this bill would recognize cumulative active service. This is a crucial distinction that recognizes the way we employ our forces today. Payments and stipends would be scaled up to 100 percent. The benefits would be protected if a service member is deployed or transferred. It would contribute to licensure and certification testing and to some college-level correspondence courses. Finally, this bill would establish a new program in which colleges or universities may voluntarily agree to make up or reduce the difference between tuition costs and what the new benefits would provide. Under this program, the benefit would match a school’s additional contribution dollar for dollar, up to 50 percent of the tuition difference.

This bill would not just recognize and reward our service men and women for their sacrifices. It would create a meaningful retention and recruiting tool for our active, Guard and Reserve forces, and it would provide an investment in the future of our nation by encouraging and contributing to the kinds of education and training that lead to good jobs, good pay, and economic stability. I’m proud to cosponsor the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act” and encourage its immediate passage so we can begin to repay the debt we owe to those who stand guard and defend our liberty.

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James March 4, 2008 7:59 am (Pacific time)

I think this is great. I have always liked Sen. Ron Wyden and he always seems to be transparent and that I detect no hidden agenda that so many other politicans seem to exude. Does anyone think that maybe the American Legion had any input into Sen. Wyden's policy in this matter? The reason I ask is I always get mailers and address labels from the American Legion. Are they a up and up responsible organization? Your input is highly appreciated.

Henry Ruark March 4, 2008 7:21 am (Pacific time)

To all: Here's timely report on continued education beyond high school --in Salem. March 4, 2008 S-J Chemeketa has solution for work-force problem "Free-tuition program will help create skilled workers "Free is a very good price for two years of college. That's the cost for high school graduates who qualify for the new Chemeketa Scholars Program at Chemeketa Community College. "This is terrific news for high school seniors who have a 3.5-or-better GPA but fear they can't afford college. "This should remove all doubt: They can live at home if need be, work part time at Chemeketa and make ends meet." For a link to more information about the Chemeketa Scholars program, click:

Henry Ruark March 4, 2008 6:37 am (Pacific time)

Sawyer et al: Here's "see with own eyes" link to major source re "UN-equality imposed on some of our youth". Those who volunteer for military service due to conditions in work opportunity when they leave high school (not necessarily by graduation !) find themselves then even doubly "UN-equalled" for further pursuit of preparation to do a reasonably-paid job and become a rational, reasonable citizen in the 21st Century. Go to:"Credit Crisis May Make College Loans More Costly":

Henry Ruark March 3, 2008 6:30 pm (Pacific time)

Sawyer: Glad to do so, and can send full report from national sources. IF you are lucky in your parents, you find yourself on the way to higher education much easier and quicker than if you must work your way, and usually then also depend on student loans to make it. More and more familes are finding that equity in the home, on which they often draw for college costs, is less than expected after years of mortgage payment and in the face of rising costs are finding college for all the kids a real burden. Many others are "more equal" simply by chance, with their parents in better financial shape. Nobody begrudges them success, but the inequality still exists. In a better world and its economy, we would see all kids worth college, however then determined, given that shaping opportunity. Our society recognizes that but fails to carry through on its knowledge and inevitable responsibilities even though prove payoffs both in dollars and every other evaluation are there to justify every dollar so spent. GI Bill does remedy that for many, as new legislation will also. NDEA (GI Bill) also did provide for special funds to assist education in math,f-languages and science, with Oregon gaining $9 million yearly for over a decade. Does that help, friend Sawyer ? Nobody blames the fortunate ones, but we as a society need to make sure every single child who has the capacities and seeks it gets the highest level of education for which sought -that's simple commonsense first step for 21st Century civilization.

Sawyer Johnson March 3, 2008 6:02 pm (Pacific time)

Henry could you clarify your meaning "...basic UN-equality imposed on some of our youth...? Thank you

Henry Ruark March 3, 2008 1:09 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Every point Sen. Wyden makes about this legislation is right on the money (no pun !), and proven over and over again by the experience of millions who have gained --as our nation has, too-- from the wise benefits thus provided. From encounters over the years with many others also benefitted, as I was, by the original GI Bill, I can surely assure you your support for this also-wise legislation is not only in the interests of fairness to these soldiers, but also will provide great future benefits to the nation via their solid preparation for 21st life, with all its demands. For me, this legislation provides an example of the basic UN-equality imposed on some of our youth by the factors leading to their war engagement; and its strong impacts cannot but help to set that right --as we all surely would wish to happen.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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