Military personnel deserve better benefits
March 28, 2001
If spring is the season of renewal, then it's all the more appropriate that the U.S. Congress renew its commitment to the well-being of America's military personnel. More decent pay, housing and other benefits are scant rewards for servicemen and servicewomen who put their own lives at stake to protect the freedoms we all enjoy in this country.
And yet, they do perform a job and for that job they should be better compensated.
Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop on a blustery early spring day, Mississippi's Sonny Montgomery and Chip Pickering voiced support for higher benefits under the G.I. Bill.
Joined by representatives of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Retired Officers Association, they promoted legislation to increase the monthly benefit to recipients under an educational assistance program that got its name from the long time congressman from Meridian.
Now, Pickering has picked up the banner. The bill, which he has cosponsored, would help pay the cost of college for men and women in the Armed Forces by increasing the current $650 basic G.I. Bill monthly benefit to $800 in the year 2002, $950 in 2003, and $1,100 in 2004.
Montgomery and Pickering believe this increase is necessary to help bring the monthly benefit up to the same level as the average cost of a four year public college. The current annual G.I. Bill benefit is $5,850 versus the current cost of a four year public college commuter student, which is more than $9,000.
The legislation, The 21st Century Montgomery G.I. Bill Enhancement Act, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R- N.J. It carries to another level Montgomery's initial idea to help members of America's military go to college, which was truly one of the most beneficial congressional actions in history.
Updating and enhancing the G.I. Bill helps with the growing problem of military recruiting and at the same time, invests in America's future by helping people who voluntarily serve their country, Pickering said.
For example, 257 students currently attend Mississippi State University on the Montgomery G.I. Bill. Each student's fees and expenses each semester add up to $5,325 but their G.I. Bill benefits only amount to $2,925. Under the proposed legislation, the benefit for fees and expenses would increase to $4,950 . which would cover almost all of their expenses.
Congress would be wise to adopt this proposal.