Hill article on differences between Webb, McCain GI bills failed to note more generous benefits in Webb bill

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

An article in The Hill stated that there are "some marked differences" between bills offered by Sen. Jim Webb and Sen. John McCain addressing benefits for military veterans. But the article cited only one difference and did not mention the ways in which Webb's bill is more generous to veterans than McCain's.

In a May 18 The Hill article that purported to identify the differences between Sen. Jim Webb's (D-VA) and Sen. John McCain's bills addressing benefits for military veterans, reporter Roxana Tiron wrote: "There are some marked differences between the two bills -- deepening the standoff between McCain and Webb, who are both Vietnam War veterans. In particular, McCain's bill seeks to transfer educational benefits to the spouses and children of military members who spend at least six years in the military. Webb's bill as it stands now does not address the issue of transferability." But despite noting that there are "some marked differences between the two bills," Tiron cited only one provision in McCain's bill and did not mention the ways in which Webb's bill is more generous to veterans than McCain's.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (S.22), sponsored by Webb and co-sponsored by 57 other Republicans and Democrats, provides monetary assistance to veterans for "an amount equal to the established charges for the program of education" up to the highest tuition rates of a public college or university in their state, a monthly housing stipend, and "[a] yearly stipend for books, supplies, equipment, and other educational costs in the amount of $1,000." According to Webb's Senate office, to qualify for the assistance, "veterans must have served at least three to thirty-six months of qualified active duty, beginning on or after September 11, 2001. The bill provides for educational benefits to be paid in amounts linked to the amount of active duty served in the military after 9/11. Generally, veterans would receive some amount of assistance proportional to their service for 36 months, which equals four academic years."

From Webb's bill:

Sec. 3313. Educational assistance: amount; payment

(a) Payment- The Secretary shall pay to each individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter who is pursuing an approved program of education (other than a program covered by subsections (e) through (i)) the amounts specified in subsection (c) to meet the expenses of such individual's subsistence, tuition, fees, and other educational costs for pursuit of such program of education.

(b )Approved Programs of Education- Except as provided in subsections (g) through (i), a program of education is an approved program of education for purposes of this chapter if the program of education is approved for purposes of chapter 30 of this title.

(c) Amount of Educational Assistance- The amounts payable under this subsection for pursuit of an approved program of education are amounts as follows:

(1) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(1) or 3311(b)(2) of this title, amounts as follows:

(A) An amount equal to the established charges for the program of education, except that the amount payable under this subparagraph may not exceed the maximum amount of established charges regularly charged in-State students for full-time pursuit of programs of education by the public institution of higher education in the State in which the individual is enrolled that has the highest rate of regularly-charged established charges for programs of education among all public institutions of higher education in such State.

(B) A monthly housing stipend in an amount equal to the monthly amount of the basic allowance for housing payable under section 403 of title 37 for a member with dependents in pay grade E-5 residing in the military housing area that encompasses all or the majority portion of the ZIP code area in which is located the institution of higher education at which the individual is enrolled.

(C) A yearly stipend for books, supplies, equipment, and other educational costs in the amount of $1,000.

(2) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(3) of this title, amounts equal to 90 percent of the amounts that would be payable to the individual under paragraph (1) for the program of education if the individual were entitled to amounts for the program of education under paragraph (1) rather than this paragraph.

(3) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(4) of this title, amounts equal to 80 percent of the amounts that would be payable to the individual under paragraph (1) for the program of education if the individual were entitled to amounts for the program of education under paragraph (1) rather than this paragraph.

(4) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(5) of this title, amounts equal to 70 percent of the amounts that would be payable to the individual under paragraph (1) for the program of education if the individual were entitled to amounts for the program of education under paragraph (1) rather than this paragraph.

(5) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(6) of this title, amounts equal to 60 percent of the amounts that would be payable to the individual under paragraph (1) for the program of education if the individual were entitled to amounts for the program of education under paragraph (1) rather than this paragraph.

(6) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(7) of this title, amounts equal to 50 percent of the amounts that would be payable to the individual under paragraph (1) for the program of education if the individual were entitled to amounts for the program of education under paragraph (1) rather than this paragraph.

(7) In the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under this chapter by reason of section 3311(b)(8) of this title, amounts equal to 40 percent of the amounts that would be payable to the individual under paragraph (1) for the program of education if the individual were entitled to amounts for the program of education under paragraph (1) rather than this paragraph.

By contrast, McCain's bill (S. 2938) would provide, for fiscal year 2009 (increasing in subsequent years), a flat, $1,500-per-month educational stipend to individuals who served on active duty in the Armed Forces for less than 12 years and $1,650 per month (increasing to $2,000 by 2011) for those who served on active duty for more than 12 years, as well as an "educational stipend" at an annual rate of $500 for an individual pursuing an approved program of education on at least a half-time basis. Those attending on less than a half-time basis would receive a $350 annual stipend. From McCain's bill:

SEC. 4. INCREASE IN RATES OF BASIC EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE UNDER THE MONTGOMERY GI BILL.

(a) Increase in General Rates and Augmented Rates for Extended Service-

(1) RATES BASED ON THREE YEARS OF OBLIGATED SERVICE- Subsection (a)(1) of section 3015 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking `on a full-time basis, at the monthly rate of' and all that follows and inserting `on a full-time basis--

(A) in the case of an individual who served on active duty in the Armed Forces for 12 or more years, at the monthly rate of --

(i) for months occurring during fiscal year 2009, $1,650;

(ii) for months occurring during fiscal year 2010, $1,800;

(iii) for months occurring during fiscal year 2011, $2,000; and

(iv) for months occurring during a subsequent fiscal year, the amount for months occurring during the preceding fiscal year increased under subsection (h); and

(B) in the case of an individual who served on active duty in the Armed Forces for less than 12 years, at the monthly rate of --

(i) for months occurring during fiscal year 2009, $1,500; and

(ii) for months occurring during a subsequent fiscal year, the amount for months occurring during the preceding fiscal year increased under subsection (h); or'.

(2) RATES BASED ON TWO YEARS OF OBLIGATED SERVICE- Subsection (b)(1) of such section is amended --

(A) by striking subparagraphs (A) through (C) and inserting the following new subparagraph (A):

(A) for months occurring during fiscal year 2009, $950; and'; and

(B) by redesignating subparagraph (D) as subparagraph (B).

(b) Effective Date-

(1) IN GENERAL- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect on October 1, 2008, and shall apply with respect to basic educational assistance payable for months beginning on or after that date.

(2) LIMITATION ON COST-OF-LIVING ADJUSTMENTS-

(A) CERTAIN RATES BASED ON THREE YEARS OF OBLIGATED SERVICE- No adjustment under subsection (h) of section 3015 of title 38, United States Code, shall be made in the rates of educational assistance payable under subsection (a)(1)(A) of such section (as amended by subsection (a)(1) of this section) for any of fiscal years 2009 through 2011.

(B) OTHER RATES- No adjustment under subsection (h) of section 3015 of title 38, United States Code, shall be made in the rates of educational assistance payable under subsection (a)(1)(B) of such section (as so amended), or subsection (b) of such section, for fiscal year 2009.

SEC. 5. ANNUAL STIPEND FOR RECIPIENTS OF BASIC EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE UNDER THE MONTGOMERY GI BILL.

(a) Entitlement to Stipend-

(1) IN GENERAL- Subchapter II of chapter 30 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

Sec. 3020A. Educational stipend

(a) Entitlement- Each individual receiving basic educational assistance under this subchapter who is pursuing a program of education at an institution of higher learning (as such term is defined in section 3452(f) of this title) is entitled to an educational stipend under this section.

(b) Amount of Stipend- The educational stipend payable under this section to an individual entitled to such a stipend shall be paid--

(1) in the case of an individual pursuing an approved program of education on at least a half-time basis, at the annual rate of $500; and

(2) in the case of an individual pursuing an approved program of education on less than a half-time basis, at the annual rate of $350.

(c) Payment Frequency and Method- The educational stipend payable under this subsection shall be paid with such frequency (including by lump sum), and by such mechanisms, as the Secretary shall prescribe for purposes of this section.'.

(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 30 of such title is amended by adding at the end of the items relating to subchapter II the following new item:

3020A. Educational stipend.'.

(b) Effective Date- Section 3020A of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall take effect on the date that is one year after the enactment of this Act.

From the May 17 article in The Hill:

The Senate is expected to vote on Webb's legislation when it considers a supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan next week.

Webb is considering one change to his bill, which mirrors the generous post-World War II G.I. Bill that helped veterans pay for their education and is credited with spurring an expansion of the U.S. economy.

Webb is looking into an existing option that would allow certain officers to transfer their education benefits to family members would still be able to do so if his bill becomes law, his aide said.

The 2002 Defense Authorization Act allows service members with critical military skills to transfer up to 18 months of their current G.I. bill benefits to their spouse or to one or more children if they have served at least six years and agree to serve at least four more.

It is unclear if these service members would be able to transfer the benefits under Webb's bill as written. Webb is trying to maintain the benefits under his bill, the aide said.

After months of being pressed by Webb and thousands of veterans to support Webb's bill, McCain refused to sign on and introduced his own legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

There are some marked differences between the two bills -- deepening the standoff between McCain and Webb, who are both Vietnam War veterans.

In particular, McCain's bill seeks to transfer educational benefits to the spouses and children of military members who spend at least six years in the military. Webb's bill as it stands now does not address the issue of transferability.

Webb has already indicated that no major compromise would be possible so late in the game.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Military Personnel & Veterans
Network/Outlet
The Hill
Person
Roxana Tiron
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