Sunday, April 3, 2011

Post-911 G.I. Bill discriminates against Guardsmen, Reservists

This is a re-posting of a blog I wrote some months back .. but I'm hoping it will get a new look.

I applied for education benefits under the new Post-911 G.I. Bill, which just recently went into effect and offers the best college benefits to date for our men and women in uniform.

As a veteran of the Iraq War, I'm thrilled to have access to the funds as a way to further my education, but I'm a bit miffed that the system is set up to offer most Guardsmen and Reservists a reduced benefit compared to the Active Duty troops wearing the same uniforms.

Here's my gripe:

The bill provides a full 100 percent tuition for any service member who serves an aggregate period of 36 months on Active Duty after 9/11. So in short, if you serve three full years in uniform on Active Duty, you get a full ride for tuition. It doesn't matter where you served, just as long as you laced em up one boot at a time for a trio of years.

But if you only serve 12-18 months on Active Duty, your benefit is only 60 percent. That's how long most Guardsmen and Reservists serve as part of their deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots around the globe.

My point is: why should any reservist who served in a combat zone for a year+ only get partial tuition, while some other soldiers who never had to even wear their helmet or even think about carrying live ammo can get the full 100 percent simply because they were on a U.S. base for three years?

I'm not knocking those who didn't deploy overseas. I'm not. Clearly every military job is necessary and valuable, and I know that you go where Uncle Sam tells you to go. Dick Goddard always makes fun of his deployment to Iceland during the Korean War saying that "not one North Korean soldier got into Iceland when I was serving there!" It's his way of affirming that you go where Uncle Sam sends you, and you don't have to apologize.

But when it comes to this new benefit, I'm just saying that if someone whose job never had them leave the U.S. for three years is entitled to a full tuition benefit, shouldn't those who served 12-18 months in actual war zones be entitled to the same thing?

In most cases, the Guardsmen/Reservist actually put in more than just their official Active Duty time .. often in the form of months of train-up time in their home states .. as well as post-mobilization time in uniform as they begin attending monthly drills again. Yet, none of that time is considered when it comes to the new G.I. Bill.

Don't even get me started on the difference in retirement pay between Active Duty and the Guard/Reserve Forces ..

... but when it comes to this new education benefit, there's still time to make a change so that all of our heroes who stepped up when called get equal benefits.

Couldn't we change the eligibility to: 100 percent tuition for anyone who served either a) three total years in uniform since 9/11 OR b) at least ____ months in a combat zone?

Anyone in Washington listening?

The assignments to serve are the same, so why aren't the benefits? This is just one in a slew of benefits that are unfair to Guardsmen and Reservists, but nothing will change without someone recognizing the inequality.

Remember this: the Active Duty military CANNOT survive with the Guard and Reserves. It's literally drawn up that way. They CANNOT deploy in mass without additional Guard and Reserve forces being part of the package.  So why not even out the benefits, eh?

Okay . .I'm off my soapbox.


Carol Soos said...

Amen! If your are willing to put your life on the line for your country, does it really matter what branch or how long. It only takes one bullet to kill you. I thought we weren't suppose to discriminate. Come on America, These service people are loyal to us, why can't we be loyal back. Their education can only improve our country!!

Bob Comer said...

Eric, again you have the situation covered perfectly. It is certainly unfair to the NG-Reservists who went into a war zone to get LESS educational benefits than someone who didn't. As a Vietnam war vet, I could list lots of really bad things that Congress did to soldiers. Example: My brother was nearly killed in Vietnam in an ambush, but was severely injured by "friendly fire"---the U.S. Army artillary shells that fell on his position. He was DENIED a Purple Heart even though he was wounded in combat! The Vietnam war ended in 1973---the VA finally (!) changed the rules and granted him a Purple Heart---43 years late!

I totally agree with you that serivce in a war zone should certainly get the same benefits as service outside. This 100% - 60% inequity needs fixed immediately.

Eric, I want to thank you for your service to our country AND how you have stood up for veterans and active duty service personnel over many, many years. Bob Comer, U.S. Naval Security Group, 1967-1973, Magnolia, Ohio.

Anonymous said...

I really cannot say anymore than what has been said. It appears to be a completley bogus set up. Thank you and all who served. In my mind there could never been enough repayment for the commitment made.

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