Tester details G.I. Bill benefits for Montana, calls on President to sign into law

Bill will make additional $15 million in education benefits available to 1,600 Montana vets

(BILLINGS, Mont.) – The 21st Century G.I. Bill that sailed through Congress last week will make nearly 1,600 of Montana's newest veterans eligible for an additional $15 million in education benefits next year alone, Senator Jon Tester said today before calling on President Bush to sign the measure into law.

The 21st Century G.I. Bill, cosponsored by Tester and Montana Senator Max Baucus, is an updated version of the G.I. Bill that allowed millions of veterans to attend college following World War II.  The new measure passed the Senate last week with a veto-proof vote of 75-22.

Tester noted that 1,577 Montana veterans—mostly those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan—took advantage of their G.I. Bill benefits last year.  But he added that the current bill is "woefully inadequate" because it only pays a portion of basic college tuition.

"The first G.I. Bill brought opportunity to Montana and resulted in a powerful, hard-working middle class," said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "We owe our newest veterans the same opportunities.  It's an investment that will pay for itself many times over."

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a non-partisan organization devoted to fighting for the benefits veterans deserve, today thanked Tester for cosponsoring the measure.

"Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America applauds Senator Tester for supporting a modern G.I. Bill for our country's newest generation of heroes," said IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff.  "The original G.I. Bill made it possible for more than 8 million members of the Greatest Generation to afford an education.  Today's veterans deserve the same opportunity."

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says the new G.I. Bill will specifically help Montana by:

· PAYING up to $13,610 in tuition every year.  Tuition payments to public/private schools are capped at the most expensive in-state public school tuition.  Montana's most expensive in-state tuition is Montana Tech, which costs $13,610 per year.

· PROVIDING a living stipend of $888 per month.  Monthly stipend payments based on the local cost of living. The average monthly living stipend in Montana is $888.

· PAYING for books.  The new G.I. Bill will pay veterans $1,000 per year for books and supplies.

· PROMOTING scholarships at schools that cost more than $13,610 per year.  Colleges providing scholarships for veterans will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the new G.I. Bill.

· TOTAL: The G.I. Bill will provide an additional $15,333,543 in benefits to Montana veterans next year alone.

The 21st Century G.I. Bill also eliminates the $1,200 enrollment fee veterans must pay to become eligible for G.I. benefits.  And it allows veterans 15 years to take advantage of their benefits.

"Montana's veterans can't afford to have the President stand in the way of this bill," Tester said.  "He needs to sign it and give our veterans the education they earned and deserve."

The 21st Century G.I. Bill is Senate Bill 22.  A video about the bill featuring Tester is available online HERE.