Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today urged the Senate to take up the McCain GI Bill that would expand education benefits for Tennessee veterans, reservists and active-duty servicemen and women following a vote on legislation that would provide Tennessee veterans with less educational benefits than veterans of other states.
“I cannot vote for a bill that gives Tennesseans $5,932 in educational benefits while giving veterans and military personnel in other states twice as much,” said Alexander. “Also, the Webb Bill does not allow a serviceman or woman to transfer all educational benefits to a family member. I voted for the McCain bill to update the GI Bill for our veterans because it treats military personnel in all states equally, because it allows the transfer of benefits to family members and because it addresses military retention as well as military recruitment. The McCain bill is the best bill for Tennessee veterans, active duty personnel, reservists and members of the National Guard. I will work hard to help make it law soon.”
Alexander noted that under the Webb bill, “an Illinois or Maryland veteran would be eligible for almost $11,000 in tuition benefits, which is almost double the $5,932 a Tennessean would receive. And the Webb bill does not allow military personnel to transfer all their benefits to a family member. This is simply unfair.”
The McCain GI Bill – the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention and Readjustment Through Education Act – would address several issues of concern to Tennessee veterans:
Fairness to Tennessee Veterans:
• Ensures Tennessee veterans will receive the same education benefits as veterans in other states, rather than basing the benefits on the average tuition costs in each state.
Supporting Military, Guard, and Reserve Retention and Improving Education Benefits:
• Increases the education benefits provided by the Montgomery GI Bill from $1,100 to $1,500 per month, beginning in October 2008, to cover the average cost of a 4-year public college, including room, board, tuition, and fees. Provides $500 per year for books and supplies.
• Increases benefits to $2,000 per month by 2011 for members who serve on active duty for 12 years or more.
• Increases the education benefit for Guard and Reserve members called to active duty since September 11, 2001, from $880 to $1,200 beginning in October 2008.
• Increases benefits for those members of the Guard and Reserves who serve in the Selected Reserve for 12 years or more and who continue serving in the Selected Reserve to $1,600 per month by 2011.
• Increases the education benefits for other members of the Guard and Reserves from $317 to $634.
Benefits for Family:
• Allows active Military, Guard, and Reserves to transfer education benefits to spouses or children.
• After at least six years of service, a member would be able to transfer up to half (18 months) of his or her education benefits to a spouse, children, or both.
• Allows a servicemember to transfer all of his or her education benefits (36 months) to a spouse, children, or both after serving for 12 years or more. This could provide up to $72,000 toward a dependent’s education.
New Support for Military Academy Graduates and ROTC:
• Allows service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps participants, who currently have no GI Bill benefit, to access benefits, including transferability, if they complete their initial period of obligated service and then continue to serve for 5 additional years on active duty.
Alexander voted for the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention and Readjustment Through Education Act when it was offered as an amendment by Senator Lindsey Graham on May 14, 2008.
Alexander is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.