by Bradley Hood
As the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan winds down, and with sequestration and downsizing in full force, there has been some concern over the future of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The current GI Bill has received a lot of praise for its superiority over previous incarnations – historically however, all benefits have had an expiration, and some are questioning when the Post 9/11 will meet this same fate. Regarding this, I have seen numerous articles posted about the importance of accountability. In this case, accountability means a completely rebuilt method of tracking military and veteran education. To date, about $30 billion has been invested in veterans via the Post 9/11, but there is no statistics about graduation rates and retention. The VA makes the justifiable claim that this money is an investment owed to veterans regardless of pass rate, and I agree that veterans should not feel pressured that they will lose their benefits based on what could become a very competitive selection and retention process. With that said, there is a case for accountability – demonstrating a return on money spent in quantifiable statistics like graduation rates permits a justification for the expense. I may be biased in this regard, but I feel like most Americans would be inclined to continue to support a strong GI Bill as the post war period approaches. While many did not support some of the US’ actions, there has been a much stronger support of the troops throughout both wars as compared to the past.
But is that enough? The government is facing severe cuts in funding: While in the process of applying for an internship at the Marine Corps History division, I had trouble getting in touch with them due to civilian furloughs – and issue I know also effected a friend of mine working for NAVAIR and across many government departments, regardless of the importance of the job or how overworked these employees may already be. Just prior to my recent discharge from the Marine Reserves, I watched a Sergeant who had many years of notable service in leadership billets at my unit get involuntarily discharged because he did not have the proper MOS for his billet on paper, despite it never being an issue before and having enough OJT to do the job better than most who did have the training. These examples are only small and almost insignificant parts of what we are facing in the future, and I think the concerns over the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s longevity are valid. With this in mind and despite an initial reluctance, I support the idea of GI Bill accountability as a means to political justification for a continued strong GI Bill.