Larsen Applauds House Passage of New GI Bill for the 21st Century

Jun 19, 2008

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) today voted for supplemental appropriations legislation -- passed as two amendments to the Senate version of H.R. 2642 -- which will strengthen education benefits for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, help unemployed workers in Washington state and across the country and provide funding for U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The President has indicated that he will sign the bill as written.

“We owe a great debt to the men and women who serve our county in the military,” said Larsen. “This legislation strengthens the GI Bill to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get the education and job-training they need to succeed.”

Current GI Bill benefits cover only about 70 percent of a public college education and 30 percent of a private college education. The expanded GI Bill will restore full, four-year college scholarships to veterans who serve at least 90 days of active-duty service after September 11, 2001.   The legislation also extends the time period these veterans have to use their education benefits before they expire from ten to fifteen years.

“Today’s legislation is a huge step forward for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we cannot forget the debt we owe veterans from earlier conflicts,” Larsen continued. “I will keep working to pass legislation to remove the time limit on GI Bill education benefits so all veterans can get the education and job training they need at any point after leaving the service.”

Because many veterans who pay into the GI Bill program postpone returning to school to care for their families or recover from service-related injuries, only 59 percent of those enrolled take advantage of their education benefits before the current ten-year limit expires, according to the latest statistics available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For the past several years, Larsen has worked to pass the GI Bill for Life Act (H.R. 2247), legislation he introduced with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell to remove the time limit on GI Bill Education benefits entirely so veterans can access educational and vocational training at any point after leaving military service.

The supplemental appropriations legislation approved by the House today includes $161.8 billion to support the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the summer of 2009.

The legislation also provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for workers who are unable to find a job in today’s struggling economy. For the fifth straight month, the economy lost jobs, with 49,000 jobs lost in May alone -- the largest one-month spike in 22 years. 1.6 million Americans have been unemployed more than six months.

In Washington state, more than 14,000 workers have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits since November 2007, making it difficult for them to provide for themselves and their families. In Skagit County, the unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent last month, while Snohomish County unemployment rose to 4.6 percent.

In addition to the provisions described above, the legislation provides:

  • An additional $863 million over the President’s request for military hospitals
  • $696 million, $475 million above the President’s request to address the refugee crisis in Iraq and elsewhere
  • An additional $396 million over the President’s request for VA medical facilities
  • An additional $150 million for the Food and Drug Administration to strengthen efforts to ensure food and medical product safety