- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The original G.I. Bill was a monumental accomplishment, laying the groundwork for the creation of a middle class and driving our national prosperity. I believe that today’s veterans can accomplish what the “Greatest Generation” accomplished, but they will need a G.I. Bill that meets the needs of a new century. The G.I. Bill has not been updated since Sonny Montgomery pushed through his landmark bill in 1985 — an education benefits program for an all-volunteer force. We must provide a new G.I. Bill — a bill that provides comparable benefits for comparable service and meets the realities faced today by our active-duty, Guard and reserve forces.

To attract the best and the brightest to the world’s best military, we must offer the best incentives for an education. I have been working with veterans service organizations and other stakeholders to get a sense of what is needed to bring the Montgomery G.I. Bill up to date. The legislation will raise rates and include a monthly stipend for students in an approved academic study program. Because not all students are interested in following that educational path, the bill will permit accelerated education benefits to give veterans a wider selection of vocations and careers.

The bill will also bridge the gap between the active-duty and reserve benefits, so those on the front lines receive benefits that are commensurate with their service and sacrifice. Reserve forces are now operation forces that get rotated in and out of the combat theater on a regular basis and must see a permanent increase of their benefits as a result.

Our men and women should not get first-class weapons to fight only to come home and receive third-class benefits. Supporting our troops should not be merely a slogan, but a commitment, that we all acknowledge and strive to meet.

Sincerely,

Rep. Bob Filner

House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I share your concerns regarding adequate educational benefits for our nation’s warriors. I believe you will find the following letter listed below regarding G.I. benefits to be informative and hopefully you can include veterans in this situation when formulating this legislation.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I served in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm war and I paid for my G.I. bill benefits. I exited the military in 1992. I had a lot going on in my life at that time and never got to attend college. I am now attending college at Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College in Ocean Springs. I spoke with my counselor on the G.I. Bill issues, and I filled out the proper paperwork and sent them off. I received a letter back saying that my benefits had expired after eight years.

This disturbs me. I go to battle for my country and my benefits get taken away. I’ve been going to college for a year and I plan to graduate with an associate degree in a few months. I continue to support our troops abroad by building them new warships for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard here at Northrop Grumman. Can you give me any advice on how I should approach this?

Deeply concerned,

Danny B.

Proud Northrop Grumman employee

Shaft notes

• Fellow Vietnam vets Sens. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, and Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, recently reintroduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act and announced Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, as one of four lead co-sponsors of the bill. Mr. Warner is a World War II and Korean War veteran and recipient of benefits under the original G.I. Bill, a former Navy secretary whose 30 years in the Senate includes service as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. His support adds renewed momentum to the yearlong effort to strengthen educational benefits for the nation’s veterans.

Mr. Warner joins 32 other senators in support of the measure. The bill would provide service members who have served since September 11, 2001, with improved educational benefits similar to those provided to World War II-era veterans. The House companion bill was introduced by Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, and so far has 96 co-sponsors.

• Maj. Nicole Malachowski, the first female pilot on the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, will be a featured speaker Thursday at the National Air and Space Museum as part of the General Electric Lecture Series. Admission is free.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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