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Soldiers of fortune and misfortune

The GI Bill provides a valuable service to those who have provided an invaluable service to America. After World War I, veterans returned home to a bleak outlook: the Great Depression was taking root and the benefits promised to them by the government weren’t being given out. Veterans were living on the streets that they had just fought to protect.

Reform was necessary, and the GI Bill was added to the list of social welfare programs the country had taken on. It was put into effect in 1944, so the veterans of WWII were able to benefit from the program. The first GI Bill put in place three major things: education and training was to be partially subsidized for veterans, guaranteed loans for homes, farms, or businesses, and unemployment pay. Because of this, many veterans returning from WWII either went immediately into the workforce, or they chose to pursue higher education. In 1947, 49% of new college students were veterans. Whenthis GI Bill ended in 1956, 7.8 million of the 16 million WWII veterans had taken advantage of subsidized education and training. The number of new skilled laborers in the workforce was outstanding.

The most recent GI Bill was put in place in 2008 for veterans who served after 9/11. This GI Bill was upgraded from previous ones in that it significantly upgraded the education subsidy. It covers more educational expenses, gives a stipend for living expenses, provides money for books, and also allows veterans to transfer their unused educational benefits to spouses or children. Now, veterans are able to pursue degrees at a much reduced cost, have their books paid for, possibly have their living space paid for, and they also get a stipend for transportation costs—their gas money is covered in the new GI Bill.

Home loans are also guaranteed. The Department of Veterans Affairs co-signs on loans, so there are far fewer veterans returning home with nowhere to live. About one-third of the homeless population of America are veterans. Potential causes of this malady include physical and mental health issues caused by war, the lack of transferrable skills from military life to civilian life, substance abuse problems, and weak social networks.

The GI Bill benefits those who are returning home by providing these services, but it also helps the American economy. Pumping skilled laborers into the workforce keeps America globally competitive and provides for a robust economy. At this point in time, the US economy is outsourcing unskilled labor, since it makes financial sense to pay more people less money to do more work with fewer regulations. What America needs right now is skilled labor– a resource we’re running low on at present. To build up America’s economy, it needs to produce large amounts of skilled labor; one way to do this is to give incentives for people to pursue higher degrees.

While the GI Bill is extremely beneficial, it needs to be cut back or altered in specific areas. Up to this point, $17.2 billion has gone to GI Bill benefits for this post-9/11 benefits package. Supporting throwing benefits at veterans is politically smart: democrats love welfare, and republicans love supporting the military. Even though the bill is extremely beneficial for the country, it’s getting out of hand. For example, veterans should have tuition assistance, but they should have to pay for their books and for the gas it takes to get to their college. Providing tuition to these veterans is necessary– it provides a great incentive for them to go to college. However, gas expenses and book expenses are not necessary to provide stipends for. Gas and book money won’t deter a veteran from going back to college, nor will it be a significant burden on them. Since these won’t be a deciding factor for whether or not a veteran goes back to school, they are able to be cut. Tuition assistance should not ever be given to students of for-profit colleges like University of Phoenix and DeVry University. Veterans should be given these educational benefits, but they shouldn’t be allowed to transfer them to spouses or children. These benefits sound extremely attractive to military people and veterans, but once we examine them, they’re not beneficial to America as a whole. There need to be some limits on the money we give to veterans. Cutting areas of the GI Bill that are slightly helpful to veterans but are extremely costly to taxpayers would do much more good than harm. These include stipends for books and gas money. It’s simply a matter of cutting some corners to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

Money spent on for-profit colleges by the GI Bill is extreme. Between 2009 and 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs paid $4.4 billion for tuition and fees for veterans. The scary thing is that for-profit private schools accounted for 37% of those funds, but educated 25% of the veterans taking advantage of these benefits. The graduation rate at for-profit colleges is 28%, as compared with 67% at non-profit private schools and 57% at public schools. Further, average tuition at a for-profit school is six times higher than a community college and double the tuition of a four-year public school. Fortunately, in April the White House gave an executive order against using GI Bill funds for for-profit colleges. However, this still needs to be put into the bill to prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately, American taxpayers must wait for veterans who have already enrolled in for-profit colleges to finish their education before the GI Bill officially stops paying for these for-profit colleges, since these cases have been grandfathered in.

Additionally, education benefits shouldn’t be allowed to be transferred to spouses or children of veterans. While families also suffer from military members being overseas, this transferal of benefits does more harm than good. Veterans will decide not to go to college so that their children can go without putting an economic hardship on the family. That prevents skilled laborers from entering the workforce as soon as possible and allows many veterans to keep working in minimum-wage jobs. The intent of the bill is to give veterans who have served benefits so that they are able to reenter civilian life successfully. By passing along benefits, they’re more likely to fail at reentry.

The concept of the GI Bill is noble, and historically it has done wonders for America and its economy. However, spending on veterans’ benefits is rampant, and cutting some corners would be beneficial to the taxpayers of America. Cutting back benefits is crucial in some areas so that we can lessen the burden on taxpayers or put the money towards other welfare programs. Civilians can give back to America just as much as veterans have through non-military means. By cutting their welfare packages to give veterans extreme amounts of benefits, America is creating a culture that demeans civilian jobs and puts forth the military person as the ideal American citizen. America needs to value all its citizens, not just veterans.

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