Thursday, in an unprecedented show of bipartisan support, the Senate passed the 21st Century GI Bill with a vote of 75-22. The new GI bill was riding such a big wave of momentum that several Senators changed their vote from No to Aye at the last minute. The Senate vote of approval follows last weeks House vote of 256-166 in favor of the bill.
In addition to covering the full cost of tuition and fees for an in-state college or university, the new GI Bill sponsored by Senator Jim Webb, will:
- Eliminate the $1200 fee service members must pay for the current GI plan
- Provide a monthly living expenses stipend
- Provide increased benefits for National Guardsman and Reservists
- Cover annual increases in tuition and fees
This is a huge step forward considering that the current GI Bill only covers approximately 60-70% of the cost of attending a college or university after you factor in tuition, fees, books and living expenses.
Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and founder of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and one of the driving forces behind the new GI Bill, stated in his May 21, 2008, blog for The Huffington Post that:
This was truly a historic vote, and the numbers give me tremendous confidence for the future of the GI Bill. We had a little debate at IAVA HQ about whether to call the margin “powerful” or “overwhelming” – but the real adjective is this: VETO-PROOF.
President Bush is on record saying that he will veto this bill for several reasons including the ridiculous statement that this bill will hurt retention. So, while this battle has been won, the war continues with one very big advantage. With the overwhelming Senate vote of 75-22, the new GI Bill is veto proof.
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