[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         July 25, 2008
News

Official praises proposal to expand military educational benefits

By John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Defense Department spokesman  expressed satisfaction that a proposed GI Bill allowing servicemembers to transfer their education benefits to family members passed the first round of congressional voting.

      But he also expressed concern that a possible provision of the bill could hurt the department's efforts to retain servicemembers.

      The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a version of the bill that would provide military members a more generous education package, which for the first time could be passed to family members if troops opt not to use it themselves.


"The number one priority of this department was that any enhanced benefits ... provide for the ability for servicemembers to transfer any unused benefit to their family members ..."

Geoff Morrell,
Pentagon Press Secretary

      "The number one priority of this department was that any enhanced benefit coming out of the Congress provide for the ability for servicemembers to transfer any unused benefit to their family members," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during a Pentagon news conference.

      But while the Defense Department is pleased the House version incorporates transferability, Morrell said, officials have voiced concern that the amount of time before the benefits become available -- after 36 months of service --  may hurt retention rates.

      "That -- we've said from the beginning -- we believe, is too soon," Morrell said. 'But if that's the way the Congress ultimately chooses to go, we will work with it."

      The bill next will appear before the Senate, where it must receive approval before being enacted.   

      Meanwhile, the Defense Department intends to study the effects the bill would have on military retention if it passes in its present form, Morrell said.

      "If we find that it's having an adverse affect on retention, we're going to have to figure out other ways to entice men and women in uniform to stay in the service,"  he said.

      Morrell suggested that bigger financial bonuses for re-enlistment could be offered if servicemembers become "lured out" of uniform by taking advantage of the new package, which would double the education benefit from about $9,000 to about $18,000 per year and kick in during the first enlistment.

      The spokesman added that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is more pleased that the bill includes transferability than he is disappointed that it could adversely affect retention.

 

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