From ABC News' Sunlen Miller:
Declaring himself one of the beneficiaries of the first GI bill, President Obama marked the beginning of the second GI bill today, calling the educational benefits a “debt” that the nation owes to the “bravest Americans” who served for the country in post 9/11.
Speaking of his grandfather who fought in Patton’s Army in World War II, and then went on to attend college after retuning back into the US paid for by the GI bill; President Obama at George Mason University today said his grandfather’s opportunity benefited him.
“I would not be standing here today if that opportunity had not led him west in search of opportunity," said Obama.
The president said that this time the bill, providing tuition help to service members, is “even more important” than it was in 1944 because the state of today’s economy.
“This is not simply a debt that we are repaying to the remarkable men and women who have served. It is an investment in our own country,” Obama said. “The veterans who are here today, like the young post-9/11 veterans around the country, can lead the way to a lasting economic recovery and become the glue that holds our communities together. They too can become the backbone of a growing American middle class.”
On Saturday, the Department of Veterans Affairs began distributing tuition payments to schools participating in the program.
The money will benefit those who served on active duty after 9/11/2001 for an aggregate period of at least 90 days or at least 30 continuous days on active duty and receive a discharge for disability.
Per the White House, the benefit payment rates range from 40% of the maximum benefit for an individual with at least 90 days but less than 6 months of aggregate service, up to 100% of the benefit for individuals with at least 36 months of aggregate service or 30 continuous days and a discharge due to a service connected disability. This means that in the maximum scenario the servicemen and woman could attend a public college or university for free for four years, in addition to receiving a stipend for housing and books.
The bill also allows for a transfer of unused benefits to family members and makes the benefits available to the children of those who lost their life in service.
President Obama said that while some stories after surrounding 9/11 were of those “reaching for a quick buck,” and the discourse in D.C. produced “more heat than light,” the stories of those who served tell a different story.
“They have put their very lives on the line for America. They've have borne the responsibility of war. And now, with this policy, we are making it clear that the United States of America must reward responsibility and not irresponsibility. Now, with this policy, we are letting those who have borne the heaviest burden lead us in to the 21st century.”
The new bill, which Obama co-sponsored when he was a senator, was signed into law last year by then-President George W. Bush.
- Sunlen Miller