WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, held a hearing focused on the education needs and issues facing veterans, active duty servicemembers, and members of the Guard and Reserve. The Committee heard testimony from representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Guard Bureau. The witnesses provided input on the current status of various educational benefits programs, thoughts on possible changes, and the impact changes would have on the military's ability to recruit and retain needed personnel.
"I am concerned that the current structure of benefits is somewhat flawed. It is disturbing to me that soldiers who are in the line of fire and who place their own safety in jeopardy in service to our country are having to pay for their educational benefits," stated Akaka in his opening statement. "Also disturbing is that members of the Guard and Reserve who complete multiple deployments in combat situations can run the risk of having no educational benefits available to them. These are two concerns which I hope that the Committee and the Senate can further address. I believe we can start this process now, and that by working together, we have an opportunity to develop something that is really meaningful to those whose needs we seek to serve,"added Akaka.
The witnesses at today's hearing included Major General Ronald Young, Director, Manpower and Personnel, National Guard Bureau; Keith Wilson, Director of Education Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, accompanied by Dean Gallin, Deputy Counsel, VA Office of General Counsel; Tom Bush, Principal Director, Manpower and Personnel for the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs), accompanied by Dr. Curt Gilroy, Director, Accession Policy, Department of Defense; the Honorable G. Kim Wincup, former Vice Chairman, Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance; James Bombard, Chairman, Veterans Advisory Committee on Education; Allison G. Jones, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Student Academic Support, The California State University System; Ron Chamrin, Assistant Director, Economics Division, The American Legion; Eric Hilleman, Deputy Director, Legislative Affairs Office, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Col. Robert F. Norton, Deputy Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America; and Patrick Campbell, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.