Following Tester's speech, Senate overwhelmingly passes new G.I. Bill

Bipartisan measure is 'right thing to do' for Montana veterans, Senator says

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly passed an overhaul of the G.I. Bill shortly after Senator Jon Tester made a convincing case for the legislation, which he co-sponsored.

The Senate voted to include the 21st Century G.I. Bill in an emergency measure to fund the war in Iraq.  If enacted, the bipartisan legislation will replace the current G.I. Bill, which millions of American veterans took advantage since World War II.

Tester said the updated 21st Century G.I. Bill will make college more affordable for an entire generation of Montana veterans returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is right that the Senate give back to them by giving them a G.I. Bill that meets today's needs," Tester said during a speech on the Senate Floor.  Tester called the current bill "woefully inadequate," noting that nearly a third of all active-duty members who sign up for the current G.I. Bill never use it, in part because it doesn't provide enough assistance for college.

"Today's G.I. Bill only provides about $9,000 in costs for an academic year of college," Tester said.  "When you factor in tuition, room, board, books and other living expenses, that's only about 70 percent of the actual cost of attending a university like the University of Montana.  And it's only a drop in the bucket for a private school."

The 21st Century G.I. Bill:

  • Pays for the full cost of any in-state public school's tuition and fees.
  • Gives National Guard and Reservists more access to education benefits.  Today's law does very little for the approximately 250,000 Guardsmen who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Keeps pace with annual increases in tuition and fees (which have risen about 6 percent per year over the last decade). 
  • Eliminates the enrollment fee of $1,200 that service members must pay when they first enter the service in order to qualify for the G.I. benefit.  Enrollees fork over the $1,200 fee in twelve, $100 monthly payments.

"Now a hundred bucks may not seem much to some of the folks here in Washington, D.C.," Tester said in his speech.  "But I guarantee you, that to an airman out of Basic and on his or her first tour at a base like Malmstrom Air Force Base, that $100 is a big deal."

Tester added that the cost of the entire G.I. Bill for one year is the same as what the U.S. is paying for one week of war in Iraq.

The 21st Century G.I. Bill passed the Senate with a veto-proof vote of 75-22.