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Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

He won’t invest in war veterans’ education

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Republican presidential candidate John McCain makes much of his loyalty to and support for this nation’s armed forces, as well as the suffering he endured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. So why won’t he support a new and improved version of the G.I. Bill for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan? The original G.I. Bill, introduced after World War II, did much more than allow war veterans to go to college. It helped lead post-war America into prosperity and dominate the globe during the second half of the 20th century.

So a 21st-century version of the G.I. Bill would seem to be well earned by those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention it being a smart investment in America’s future during tough economic times. That’s why Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007. The bill would help members of the military who were on active duty for at least two years— including members of the Reserve and the National Guard, who are not eligible for some benefits, even though they are carrying a heavy burden in the current wars.

Eligible veterans would earn up to 36 months of tuition (full tuition, if you attend a state college), room and board, fees and a $1,000 monthly stipend. As of this writing, the bill has 56 cosponsors in the U.S. Senate, including Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Republicans Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and John Warner (R-Va.). But McCain isn’t supporting full educational benefits for all veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, McCain introduced a watered-down version of the bill that provides a flat education benefit to all veterans, which would penalize veterans who want to attend a state college with higher tuition. Even worse, it completely cut out members of the National Guard and Reserve—about 160,000 veterans who have done more than one tour of duty, by one estimate.

So we’ve got to ask McCain, the war hero and supposed straight talker: Why won’t you support education for veterans of a war you authorized and have funded without question—and even hope to extend for another century? Makes us wonder if veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, their families and any fair-minded voter will support McCain in November.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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