War on Iraq

The Passage of the GI Bill is a Critical First Victory

We've seen enough bumper sticker and lapel pin patriotism; the landmark GI Bill is a major bipartisan commitment to the troops.
On Thursday, May 15, the House of Representatives made history. By an overwhelming margin, lawmakers passed the a landmark new GI Bill which will make college affordable to the more than 1.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

As President Roosevelt said when he signed the original GI Bill for veterans of World War II,
"[The GI Bill] gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down."
The House of Representatives renewed that promise. This is a tremendous and bipartisan commitment to our troops. We've seen enough bumper sticker and lapel pin patriotism; today, we saw the real thing.

The House vote is a crucial first step, but there is more to be done to get this bill made law. The GI Bill, which passed as a part of the war supplemental funding, still has to be approved by the Senate and be signed by the President. A second step was also taken today, as the Senate Appropriations Committee moved their matching GI Bill proposal out of committee.

I'd like to take a minute to talk about the people who deserve credit for moving the GI Bill this far:

• First and foremost, the bipartisan coalition of combat veterans who introduced the new GI Bill: Senators Webb, Hagel, Warner, and Lautenberg who put partisanship aside in favor of a fair benefit for the troops who served after them.

• The veterans' organizations (led by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Officers Association, and IAVA) who stood united on this issue, kept up the pressure, and refused to accept compromised or watered-down benefits.

• The many other supporters of a new GI Bill -- including at least 22 governors, an array of higher education groups, and of course, thousands of regular Americans who pressured their representatives to make this bill a top priority.

What's next? The Senate floor vote that may happen as early as Monday of next week. At this point, I am convinced the GI Bill has become an unstoppable force -- but I've been disappointed by Washington before. With your help, we can ensure that the GI Bill becomes law. You can follow the new GI Bill every step of the way here.
Paul Rieckhoff is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Executive Director and Founder of IAVA (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America), the country's first and largest Iraq Veterans group. IAVA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in New York City.
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