This week, Mike Rogers voted against the new GI Bill.
Will puppy kicking be next on the Rogers agenda?
Happily, the bill's House supporters carried the day, 256-166; it now moves to the Senate and will likely face a Bush veto after that. Surprise, surprise!
The updated GI bill is sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a Vietnam vet and former Secretary of the Navy. IAVA has a good summary of why the program needs to be brought into the 21st century:
The current educational benefits offered to veterans are far lower than the original GI Bill. Today, after contributing a nonrefundable $1,200-$1,800 from their first military paychecks, troops can receive a total of roughly $45,000 towards their education. Unfortunately, this covers only 60-70% of the average cost of four years at a public college or university, or less than two years at a typical private college.
In addition, structural problems and bureaucratic delays discourage veterans from using their GI Bill benefits.
Although 95% of veterans pay the nonrefundable $1,200 contribution, only 8% of veterans use their whole benefit and 30% of veterans don’t use their GI Bill at all. These veterans have contributed $230 million to the national treasury, but received nothing in return. [skip]
A 1988 Congressional study proved that every dollar spent on educational benefits under the original GI Bill added seven dollars to the national economy in terms of productivity, consumer spending and tax revenue.The New GI Bill enjoys the support of the VFW, the American Legion, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Air Force Sergeants Association, AMVETS... the list goes on.
So why isn't it good enough for Mike Rogers? He's happy to explain -- at great length -- how crucial it is for our country to stay in Iraq and fight the Global War on Terror. What's his explanation for voting against a bill that not only provides a direct benefit to our troops, but also will improve retention and recruitment at a time when our armed forces are spread so thinly?
Rogers has made multiple trips to Afghanistan and Iraq on the taxpayer's dime. Each trip brings him back more convinced that things are going well.
Is he spending his time socializing with charming members of the Coalition Provisional Authority and carefully screened active duty personnel?
Whatever he is learning there, it isn't translating to increased support for the men and women of the U.S. military. He's voted against bonuses for active duty troops and housing for military families. He voted to cut veterans' health care by $13.5 billion over five years. He was against extending health care benefits to active duty National Guard and Reserve members. He voted against full retirement and disability benefits for veterans.
Needless to say, national veterans groups aren't too impressed with Mr. Rogers:
* The Disabled American Veterans gave Rogers a zero percent rating in 2004 and 2005
* The Retired Enlisted Association gave Rogers a 33% rating in 2004 and 21% in 2006
* The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association gave Rogers a grade of C in 2006.
Rogers is running for his 5th term this fall. You can bet he'll trot out his "support for the troops" speech any chance he gets, and throw in his "on the ground" experience in Iraq for good measure.
If you happen to hear him, be sure to ask -- loudly, clearly and oh-so-politely -- to explain why he turned his back on our troops once he returned to Washington.