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Obama: Post-9/11 GI Bill keeps promise to newest vets

Jun. 20, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
President Obama writes that, as was the case with the veterans who used the first GI Bill 70 years ago, investing in our newest veterans will produce leaders the country needs.
President Obama writes that, as was the case with the veterans who used the first GI Bill 70 years ago, investing in our newest veterans will produce leaders the country needs. (Rob Curtis/Staff)
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You pick the school, and we’ll help pick up the bill.

That’s the basic promise America made to our veterans of World War II 70 years ago with the signing of the original GI Bill. It’s the same promise we’re keeping with our newest veterans and their families through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Now as then, investing in the education and skills of our veterans is one of the smartest investments we can make in America.

For some 8 million World War II veterans, the original GI Bill meant the chance to realize a college education, get on-the-job training or buy their first home. They became teachers and small-business owners, doctors and nurses, engineers and scientists. One of them was my grandfather. A soldier in Patton’s Army, he came home, went to college on the GI Bill and raised his family. In his later years he helped raise me, too.

The GI Bill also transformed America. With the careers it sparked, the homes it helped our veterans buy, and the prosperity it generated, it paid for itself several times over and helped lay the foundation for the largest middle class in history.

Like generations before them, our men and women in uniform today deserve the chance to live the American dream they helped to defend. That’s why, under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we’ve already helped more than 1 million veterans and family members pursue their education.

Now, with our troops coming home from Afghanistan and a new generation of veterans returning to civilian life, even more will be eligible for this opportunity in the years to come. As commander in chief, I want everyone who is eligible to know what the Post-9/11 GI Bill can do for them. A good place to start is benefits.va.gov/gibill, which has important information on the benefits available, including assistance to help pay for tuition, housing and books, and how to transfer benefits to a family member.

As veterans and their families think about which school is right for them, it’s worth considering several factors.

Does the school adhere to our Principles of Excellence? We created these standards to protect our veterans from dishonest recruiting and predatory practices. For example, does the school provide students with a clear statement of all costs? Does it provide students with a point of contact for financial advice? Does it provide a clear educational plan, so you get what you pay for? So far about 6,000 colleges and universities have signed on to our principles and pledged to do right by our veterans and their families.

Does the school foster an environment that supports veterans? Under the “8 Keys to Success” we unveiled last year, there are specific steps colleges and universities can take to truly welcome and encourage veterans on campus. For example, is there a culture of inclusiveness that invests in veterans’ academic success? Is there a centralized place on campus that coordinates services for veterans? Are faculty and staff trained to understand the unique needs of veterans and how to best serve them? So far nearly 400 colleges and universities have joined this effort to help our veterans complete their education and get their degree.

Even with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, will you still need student loans? The high cost of college is leaving too many students, including veterans, in debt. That’s why, even as we work to make college more affordable, we’re doing more to protect students from crushing debt. We’re making it easier to automatically reduce the interest rates our service members and veterans pay on their student loans.

Congress can also do its part by passing legislation that would allow veterans attending a state college or university to pay in-state tuition, regardless of their residency.

Finally, when you go looking for that civilian job, are you taking advantage of the latest resources? Our improved transition assistance program helps our newest veterans and their spouses plan their new careers. We’re making it easier for veterans to transfer their military training to the licenses and credentials needed for civilian jobs. We’re matching veterans looking for jobs with companies looking to hire veterans and military spouses through our Veterans Employment Center, online at ebenefits.va.gov. Every company in America needs to know — if you want someone who will get the job done, hire a veteran.

The original GI Bill helped produce a generation of leaders, including three presidents, three Supreme Court Justices, more than a dozen Nobel laureates, and two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners. Once again, the investments we make in our newest veterans today will produce the leaders America needs tomorrow. On this 70th anniversary, we pledge to uphold that promise once more and keep our veterans and our country strong for decades to come.

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