Vets Group Blasts Obama for 'Neutrality' on Proposed GI Bill Cuts

Military.com |

The head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is criticizing President Barack Obama for his unwillingness to oppose planned cuts to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of the organization, known as IAVA, on Thursday called on all lawmakers and the president to say where they stood on House legislation that will cut in half the housing allowance for students attending college on a parent's GI Bill.

The move could mean a loss of anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $2,000 a month, depending on where the child attends school.

"This is extremely disappointing to hear from our commander in chief," Rieckhoff told Military.com on Friday. "You cannot be neutral on a moving train. We need him to stand strong. He stood with us when we passed the GI Bill in 2008. We need him to stand with us now in defending it.

"This is a no-brainer for the President," he added.

In response to Military.com's request for the president's position on the proposed cut, White House spokeswoman Ruvin Hallie said, "We'll decline to comment on this."

Rieckhoff and representatives from other veterans groups rallied on Capitol Hill with half a dozen Democrat lawmakers who already have pledged to fight the cut, among them Reps. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, all of whom are Iraq War veterans.

The cuts in the housing allowance are being used to fund other veterans programs, including improvements to postnatal care for female veterans, expanded K-9 therapy for veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, the reauthorization of the VA work-study program and removal of the cap on VA home loan guarantees.

But critics, including lawmakers at the event, slammed the move, saying it amounts "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

None of the speakers oppose the new or expanded programs, but believe Congress should come up with the money from elsewhere.

Rieckhoff said that Obama, as the grandson of a World War II veteran, knows the importance of the GI Bill.

"He's always been an ally and we hope he'll be an ally again" on this, he said.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at Bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.