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Better Benefits

July 16, 2008
Weekly Columns

It's no secret that our nation's veterans are enthusiastically using their higher education benefits when they return from service.  In fact, last year over 523,000 American veterans took advantage of government education assistance.  Protecting and bolstering opportunities for learning is a high priority of mine.  Recently, landmark legislation became law that carried a modern education benefit for our nation's veterans who have served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001.  Those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places across the world deserve every benefit available to them and every measure of support when they return home to us.

Veterans' education benefits are currently being used at institutions of higher learning to pay for on-the-job training, flight training, distance or correspondence learning programs and many other education programs.  These education benefits are not a new concept, though.  Since World War II and the original G.I. Bill our country has provided some educational assistance to veterans.  But since that time some of our military veterans have had to buy into benefit programs to receive a broad, flexible range of education assistance options.  I believe that these service members have already paid a price with their unrelenting sacrifice and courage.  They have earned the opportunity to pursue an education and should not have to pay additional program fees to get a degree.

 That's why the recent language included in the Iraq/Afghanistan Supplemental Bill was so important.  A new benefit was extended in the bill allowing eligible veterans to transfer their education benefits.  More specifically, if a member of the Armed Forces who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001 is still in service in August 2009, the Department of Defense will allow the individual to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children.  I believe it is extremely important for members of our volunteer military to be able to choose how to use their benefits.  This is a powerful incentive that will inevitably have an effect on military recruitment and retention.  For more information about veterans education benefits, visit https://www.gibill.va.gov/.

By providing more opportunities for education, we are opening up pathways for veterans and their families to expand their interests and increase their earning potential.  Creating more access to education is the key to creating a future of strong economic growth for our state.  I am pleased that there is an entire generation of brave Americans that will receive even greater education benefits.  And now, those veterans can even choose to pass on their hard-earned benefits to their loved ones.  This is a long-overdue option that our veterans sincerely deserve.