Representative John Kline, of Minnesota, has introduced a bill to get those soldiers' their benefits. There's a good reason for the effort: the difference between partial and full education benefits is significant. Full benefits pay $800 per month, while partial benefits provide only $282. Because these soldiers served one day less than the full 730 days needed, they lose out on $518 per month. Being that a semester is about 3 months long, that works out to $1554 lost per semester.
These soldiers put their life on hold and then put it in jeopardy, yet the Pentagon cannot see clear to give them the education benefits they so rightly deserve. There is a pattern here, if only you were to look. On the health side, there were the scandal involving Walter Reed hospital, and the reports of veterans being poorly treated by the VA. Representative John Murtha, once a strong supporter of the war in Iraq and a 37-year veteran of the Marine Corps, changed his position after meeting with injured veterans of the current conflict. There is plenty of money for the ongoing combat operations, but seems that there's little in the way of funding for care for the current 185,000 injured soldiers -- a number that is estimated to rise to 700,000. The battlefield has gone techno and so more are surviving, but only by leaving a physical part of themselves behind.
Not many remember that when combat operations started in 2003, President Bush threatened to veto any spending bill that would have made permanent a raise in combat pay. Seems that the government couldn't afford an extra $75 a month for people who were putting themselves at risk. Sorry, your mortal danger is only worth $150 per month in hazardous combat pay, not the $225 we thought we could afford. Oh, and if you die, your family should only get $6,000. Thankfully, the veto threat was very short lived and soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq get $225 per month in extra pay for putting their lives on the line, and should they die, the families will get $12,000 each to help cover some of their immediate needs.
There are some who say that the war in Iraq has kept the all volunteer military from recruiting enough soldiers. That is only partially the truth. The reality is that the pay is awful: tens of thousands of soldiers and their families are on food stamps. The average soldier in the U.S. gets roughly half of what a British soldier in the same pay grade would get. Sometimes the education benefit is the only real reason why some sign up -- they see it as a opportunity to serve their country and get funding for college.
When soldiers came back from Viet Nam, they were spit upon by U.S. citizens who saw them as the embodiment of the hated war itself. In the 30 years since then, the nation has learned to treat the war-battered soldier better than that. There are a number of cars with stickers saying "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home." As a nation, we now know that soldiers should be treated with respect and honored for their sacrifices. We know that it is only fair that, having served honorably for so long, those soldiers should have their rightful education benefits.
Too bad the current administration is too busy spitting on them.