Dear Veterans - I hope this is news you can use. The GI Bill, S. 22, Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007, has passed the Senate - just this past week to extend benefits for college to our returning veterans who have served since 9/11. Check the link for the specifics. Of course, it must be signed by the President so it is not passed into law yet but you need to be aware of it if you are not. From Senator Jim Webb's Senatorial website:
Webb's Landmark Post-9/11 GI Bill Wins Bipartisan Victories in House and Senate Veterans of the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan Closer to Realizing Comprehensive Educational Benefits for their Service On Thursday, May 22, the Senate overwhelmingly passed landmark legislation to provide post-9/11 veterans with comprehensive educational benefits, introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) seventeen months ago on his first day in office. The measure--cosponsored by Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Warner (R-VA) and a strong bipartisan majority of their colleagues--was passed in the House the preceding week. Identical measures were included in the Iraq War emergency supplemental spending bills. "Today, the Senate took a historic step toward a modern and fair educational benefit for the men and women who have served honorably since 9/11," said Webb. "This bill properly responds to the needs of those who answered the call of duty to our country--those who moved toward the sound of the guns--often at great sacrifice....The opportunity is good on many levels. The opportunities to our veterans are obvious. On one very important level, our veterans have much to bring to our college campuses in the way of experience and maturity that many of our inexperienced college students just don't have. So once more our veterans will be able to serve our nation right here at home through their dedication and discipline - role models. I had the opportunity to work with Navy Nukes and there was no room for whining among their ranks. No room at all. Maybe our returning veterans will bring a bit of "adult" perspective and a serious approach to attaining clear and measurable goals to the current students thereby putting pressure on professors to rise to the higher levels of their own academic capabilities. I must caution the veterans to be patient with some technical classes you may take. In many cases, you may well know more than your professors for one simple reason - you have been working with the most advanced, the most sophisticated computer programs and equipment in the world. Colleges and universities simply cannot keep up with what the military has but you can still learn some of the basics or fundamentals behind the development of these programs and this equipment. And then apply what you know to the furtherance of future development. You are in a unique position: you know what exists today; you know what soldiers need to enhance their capabilities; and you will be in a position to combine your knowledge with your new found fundamentals that you can apply to innovations. Taking theory, balancing that with your advanced practical knowledge and experience "in the field", and applying it to new situations is creative genius and that is America's strength. If anyone can add that powerful and needed dimension of creativity and breath of fresh air to our colleges, YOU can do it. You have what it takes. Some of you may want to go into robotics or developmental work with prosthetic advancement. Thousands of our military men and women have experienced the loss of limbs to IEDs and, once they have recuperated, they have much to contribute to further advancement in this field including the aspects of physical therapy - itself always having to change and adapt to new challenges. On VA benefits, there may be other benefits that warrant your research: Now to the returning veterans, there is something else you may need to look into and that is your benefits as they pertain to the VA hospitals and your eligibility for treatment in these facilities. Some are very good and some departments even in the very best VA hospitals are better than other departments. Outreach programs exist that try to reach Iraq War Veterans (Desert Storm veterans may be included in this too, I'm not sure) - so please look into these. I am not intimately qualified on the particulars but it is my understanding - I could be wrong - that the number of years you have to enroll for VA benefits may have been extended. PLEASE check and, if I am correct, do not let the time slip by. Like anything else, when we leave a "job" or a "career", often we are in a rush to "get out" and we don't look at the fine print; we don't think we'll ever need the services. But we have an example of long-term effects that, in the case of Vietnam Vets, did not show up for some years after the war was over - the effects of Agent Orange. It is my understanding - again, I could be misinformed - that even if you don't think you have a "service connected" condition, you may want to look into signing up for benefits to get your name on the list. Please look into the benefits that are available to you and, for goodness sake, DO NOT sign away your benefits in the heat of the moment or without fully understanding what you are giving up. What harm does it do to sign-up? There is no cost to sign-up and you may never need the services but what if you don't sign-up, the time slips by, and then you develop a need for services? I don't know what happens, do you? From personal experience, I know that symptoms of conditions can present themselves years after a trauma or occurrence has been experienced, so please, if you have served as a veteran, check you benefits, sign-up to keep yourself eligible if you can. Use the opportunity of the veterans eligible for S. 22, GI Bill for college and transition into a civilian career using your military training coupled with a degree and explore the VA benefits you are eligible for - don't let them slip away. And on this Memorial Day - be safe, be dry, and be confident in a people who honor you...a people - the very young and the elderly who have fought in days gone by - who can no longer fight for themselves. A people who thank you!