Washington, DC- More than two hundred veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from across the country converged on Capitol Hill Tuesday to join members of Congress in advocating immediate legislative action on Senator Webb's "Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act" (S.22/ H.R. 5740). The legislation boasts strong bi-partisan and bi-cameral support with 58 cosponsors in the Senate, 250 cosponsors in the House and the endorsements of the nation's leading veterans' organizations.
The "Post-9/11" GI Bill is designed to offer the brave men and women who have served honorably since September 11, 2001 a level of educational benefits on par with those provided to veterans of the World War II era. The legislation will give our returning troops the tools to succeed after military service, strengthen our economy in the face of increasing global competition, and make military service more attractive as we work to rebuild our military.
Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said: "As one of the eight million World War II veterans who went to college on the original GI bill, I believe it is time we provide a new GI Bill for today's veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. To sustain our all-volunteer military, we need a GI Bill that does more than help veterans readjust to civilian life. We need a strong recruitment and retention tool. Our national defense will be strengthened by increased recruitment of bright and ambitious college-bound men and women. We must show this newest generation of military members that we honor their service to our Nation. For all they give us, we should give them the chance to go to college to prepare for a civilian career. I am proud to co-sponsor Senator Webb's new GI Bill, and I am proud we have worked together on it."
"This has been a great experience over the past 16 months, working with the various veterans' groups and my colleagues assembled today, making sure that this bill properly responds to the needs of our veterans," said Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), the bill's sponsor. "This is not a difficult concept. For all who have been saying that this is the newest ‘Greatest Generation," this is the easiest way for us to prove that."
Webb continued: "It is time for those of us who have been calling on these service members to serve again and again to assist in providing them with the most tangible thanks that our country can offer-and that is a meaningful chance at a first-class future. We owe our veterans a future that is equal to the first-class service that they have given to our country. That is the motivation for that bill, and we need to get it passed in an expedited manner."
Participants in today's program included Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Senate lead cosponsors Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Warner (R-VA); Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI); and House lead cosponsors Reps. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL).
Also in attendance were more than 25 veterans' and student organizations, including: Air Force Association (AFA), Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Council on Education, The American Legion, American Logistics Association (ALA), AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV), Marine Corps League, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), National Association for Uniformed Services, National Association for Black Veterans, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Non Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), Rolling Thunder, Inc National, Student Veterans of America (SVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW), and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
For audio bites of Senator Akaka, please go to: http://demradio.senate.gov/actualities/akaka/akaka080429.mp3
Video highlights Senator Akaka have been posted on Pathfire. Instructions to access content can be found at: http://democrats.senate.gov/tv/pathfire/Akaka_via_Pathfire.pdf