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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Expansion of GI Bill Set to Ease Burden of Returning Troops


Military support groups on Wednesday hailed plans to expand military education benefits, VA home loans and small business grants for veterans under new legislation under consideration on Capitol Hill.

The measure was introduced in the Senate by presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and in the House by Iraq war veteran Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa. The lawmakers and their supporters said the Montgomery GI bill, passed in 1994, has been an invaluable tool but one that sorely needs updating.

“The aim isn’t just to get them to simply re-integrate into civilian society, but to give them the means to achieve positions of corporate, federal and private sector leadership,” said Dennis Cullinan, legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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A few more details:

The new legislation would eliminate the current requirement that servicemembers pay into the GI Bill program to receive educational benefits. Instead, any active-duty member who has served two consecutive years since 2001 would be eligible to receive eight semesters of tuition, based on the national average for college costs.

Books, room and board, and other associated fees also would be covered. Reservists and Guardsmen who have served at least two years total on active duty since 2001 could see the same benefits.

Those proposals mirror several pieces of legislation already under consideration in the House and Senate. However, the new bill also would expand the Veterans Microloan Program, designed to help former servicemembers start small businesses, by raising the maximum loan from $25,000 to $100,000 and capping interest rates at 2.5 percent.

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