President, Webb, Warner mark enactment of New GI Bill
At George Mason University on Monday, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) was joined by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, former Sen. John Warner, and student veterans at an event celebrating the enactment of Webb’s “Post-9/11 GI Bill,” which offers comprehensive educational benefits to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Saturday, August 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs began distributing tuition payments to schools across the nation participating in the program.
This program, introduced in Congress by Sen. Webb on his first day of office in 2007 and enacted into law last June, authorizes the most extensive educational assistance opportunity since the passage of the original GI Bill in 1944. The maximum benefit allows every eligible veteran, servicemember, Reservist, and National Guard member an opportunity to receive an in-state, undergraduate education at a public institution at no cost. In addition, 1,100 institutions of higher learning are participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, giving eligible veterans the opportunity to attend applicable private university and colleges at potentially no cost.
“For a long time, before I ever even decided to run for political office, I kept saying to myself: ‘This new generation—this group of people who have been serving since 9/11—we keep calling them the next greatest generation. At a minimum, we can provide them the same educational opportunities and the same chance at a first-class future that the greatest generation had’,” said Sen. Webb.
“Throughout this 18-month effort, we had people from World War II, from Korea, from Vietnam, from Desert Storm, and people who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan say: ‘This is our duty. This is our stewardship. We’re going to make this happen.’ And it did happen,” continued Webb. “Our reward is going to be 20 years from now when we can look around and see the successes that have been able to happen to people who are serving now because of this GI Bill.”
In Virginia, the new benefits offered to eligible students include:
– Full tuition at any public school in the Commonwealth. This equates to as much as $313 per credit hour at any Virginia public or private institution.
– Full payment of fees at any public school in the Commonwealth. This equates to as much as $3,660 in fees per term at any Virginia public or private institution.
– A monthly housing allowance based on the military’s basic housing allowance (BHA) for an E-5 service member with dependents, accounting for local cost of living.
– An annual books and supplies stipend of $1,000.
“I was a proud cosponsor of the Post-9/11 GI Bill as senator,” said President Barack Obama. “Obviously, I’m honored to be here and to renew our commitment to ensure that the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America get the opportunities that they have earned.”
“I want to thank all who have been working on this bill, particularly Jim Webb, who led the effort, drawing on his extensive experience,” said former Sen. John Warner, one of the lead Republican cosponsors of the legislation. “These valiant men and women [whom we honor today] deserve nothing less than our full measure of support and unending gratitude for their service and sacrifice. A GI bill for the 21st century, to provide educational benefits for uniformed personnel who are sacrificing so much to preserve our freedom, is the least we can do.”
“I want to personally thank Senator Jim Webb for his vision, his determination, his leadership, and for providing this opportunity for young veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. “This Post-9/11 GI Bill has every potential to equally impact the United States in resounding, positive ways in this new century. By 2011 we expect to have placed a quarter of a million Americans into colleges and universities through this most comprehensive veterans’ education benefits package since the original GI Bill after World War II.”