President Obama on Monday announced the start of the first new GI Bill since the 9-11 terror attacks, which he said was a hero’s reward and a call for troops now to lead the country’s economic recovery.
“While so many were searching for a quick buck, they were headed out on patrol,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference at George Mason University, in Northern Virginia. “Now with this policy, we are calling those who bore the heaviest burden to lead us in the 21 Century.”
The $78 billion legislation is open to those with at least three months of active-duty service since Sept. 11, 2001. It also includes enhanced benefits for reservists, National Guard members and the families of active-duty soldiers, including those who were killed in action.
Service members with at least three years of active duty since 9-11 are eligible for four years of tuition at their home state’s universities, plus a stipend for books, housing and living expenses. The benefits could exceed $25,000 a year in the most expensive states.
The Post-9-11 GI Bill was signed two years ago by President Bush but took effect Aug. 1. The Veterans Affairs Department began distributing tuition payments over the weekend to public universities in the program.
Before a crowd of roughly 350 people, Mr. Obama recalled how President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the original GI Bill in 1944, which led to an education for 8 million service members, including the president’s grandfather who helped raise him.
“I wouldn’t be standing here today if it was not for the GI Bill,” he said, while flanked by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and retired Sen. John Warner, who worked on the legislation. “By 1947, half of the people enrolled in college were veterans.”
Mr. Obama also said those who signed up for military service since the 2001 terrorist attacks are among the bravest because they knew they would likely see active duty, including combat.
“You have already earned a place in history,” he said. “But this is not simple about a debt. You must lead the way to a lasting economic recovery.”