Sen. Webb touts benefits of GI Bill

Alyx Duckett

Capital News Service

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb visited VCU this week to tout the importance of a bill he sponsored to help military veterans earn college degrees.

The Democratic senator discussed the Post-9/11 GI Bill on Tuesday with students and veterans benefiting from the law, which helps people get back on their feet and find a career after their military service.

“A lot of people in Congress and in the American communities think that because we have an all volunteer military, that we have a career military – and we don’t,” Webb said.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which took effect in 2009, provides benefits similar to the World War II-era GI Bill of Rights. It helps people who have been on active duty in the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Data from the Pentagon shows that 75 percent of U.S. Army personnel and 70 percent of Marines get out on or before their first enlistment. Webb said the bill was created to give such veterans the tools to succeed and move on with their lives.

“We’re giving people who have served the best type of transition for the rest of their lives that we can possibly do,” Webb said.

The new GI bill provides benefits based on the amount of time served on active duty. The benefits include the payment of tuition and books and a housing allowance. The bill allows tuition payments based on the highest public university tuition rate in the state the person lives in. The benefits are transferable to the veteran’s dependents.

More than 800,000 students across the country have applied for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend college. They include more than 530 students at VCU.

Webb, a Vietnam War hero and former Navy secretary, introduced the Post-9/11 GI Bill the day he took office in 2007. He said he had thought about the need for the bill before he decided to run for the Senate.

“There’s a lot of times you can look back on something and say it’s so logical it just should have been done,” Webb said. But he added, “We had a tremendous amount of opposition in terms of putting this GI bill through.”

The Montgomery GI bill, which was in place when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, was a peace-time recruitment incentive, Webb said. The Post 9/11 GI Bill updates the old law and adds benefits.

Webb, who recently announced that he won’t seek re-election in 2012, visited VCU at a time when the university is reaching out to veterans.

Last fall, VCU launched the University Support Services for Returning and Active Military Students (USS-RAMS) and the Green Zone program. These efforts provide resources and other assistance for veterans, helping them transition from the military to academic life.

On the Web

For more about the Post-9/11 GI bill, visit http://snipurl.com/gi_bill

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