A coalition of veterans' groups called for dramatically higher education benefits this week in publicizing their annual budget and policy recommendations. They noted that in 2005-06, the average cost of a four-year college (tuition, fees, and room and board) topped $17,000 a year. Yet full-time GI benefits covered barely more than half those expenses. (Injured veterans can qualify for full expenses through a different set of benefits.)
On Capitol Hill, support is building for new World War II-style benefits – either in this year's budget or through legislation such as that proposed by Sen. James Webb (D) of Virginia and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska, both Vietnam veterans. Known as the Post 9-11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, it would apply to those who have served two years of active duty, with part of that service since Sept. 11, 2001. Full benefits would cover the equivalent of a four-year education at the highest-priced public institution in a given state. The law would also provide a monthly living stipend of up to $1,000 and give veterans 15 years, instead of 10, to use their benefits.