14 December 2010

Year-long G.I. Bill 'fix-it' Campaign by Legion Pays Off with Senate Vote

/PRNewswire/ -- A concentrated lobbying effort by The American Legion and fellow VSOs (veterans service organizations) has culminated in U.S. Senate passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Improvements Act of 2010. The legislation expands and improves educational assistance for veterans who served in the armed forces after September 11, 2001.

"This is great news," said Jimmie L. Foster, National Commander of The American Legion. "This bill rectifies the inequities and shortcomings of the well-intentioned but incomplete Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and makes it whole."

Among other things, the new measure expands Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits to include financial assistance to veterans pursuing training in vocational schools and through distance learning programs. Presently, assistance under that legislation is available only to those veterans attending degree-granting colleges and universities. The act also expands benefits to certain members of the National Guard and Reserve forces and provides students with an annual allowance for the purchase of textbooks while streamlining the application and benefits award processes.

Passage of the bill is the product of an intensive lobbying campaign by The American Legion that began immediately after implementation of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill last year. Bob Madden, assistant director of the Legion's economic division, testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in July and strongly urged support of many of the provisions that were ultimately included in the new measure. Commander Foster emphasized the importance of the "fix-it" bill during his testimony before a joint session of Congress shortly after he took office in September. At the time he said, "The American Legion urges enhancement to the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill that would give veterans a more robust educational benefit." His championship continued the legacy of The American Legion in seeking educational benefits for veterans. The Legion drafted the original World War II-era G.I. Bill -- the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 -- and was integral in the writing of the Post-9/11 bill as well as its latest enhancements.

The Senate measure, sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka, a World War II veteran and beneficiary of the 1944 G.I. Bill, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. A vote in that chamber may come as early as Thursday of this week. The bill is supported by many House members, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Bob Filner.

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