Clinton, Sanders Say They Oppose Cuts to Post-9/11 GI Bill

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, during a campaign stop at the Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, during a campaign stop at the Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
  • Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the Des Moines Youth Summit, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at Creative Visions in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
    Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the Des Moines Youth Summit, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, at Creative Visions in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The leading Democratic presidential candidates said they oppose rolling back the Post-9/11 GI Bill -- a move welcomed by the head of a veterans group leading the lobbying campaign against the proposed reductions.

"Two down and three to go," Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American Chief Executive Officer Paul Rieckhoff told Military.com on Monday.

Following a rally by several veterans groups and half-dozen Democrat lawmakers opposing the cuts on Capitol Hill, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over the weekend made it known they don't support any cuts to the education benefit.

Sanders' campaign on Saturday tweeted, "Taking care of our veterans is a cost of war, and we must firmly reject the latest efforts to cut benefits for veterans. #DefendTheGIBill"

The same day, Clinton issued a statement saying the Post-9/11 GI Bill -- which allows recipients to transfer the benefit to their chidlren -- "should be a lasting part of this nation's social contract with those who serve."

Military.com hasn't received responses from the campaigns of Republicans Donald Trump of New York, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio or Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, a one-time Republican governor of New Mexico.

Take the poll: change GI Bill transfer benefits?

A proposed bill in the House of Representatives would cut in half the housing allowance to children attending college on a parent's GI Bill. The reduction would mean a loss of anywhere from several hundred dollars to $2,000 a month to the students.

The monthly housing allowances targeted in the bill are based on the military's Basic Allowance for Housing rates for an E-5 with dependents for the ZIP code of the school being attended.

In her statement, Clinton said it is "unconscionable that Congressional Republicans have been driving an effort to chip away at this benefit for the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serve us, and the families that support them."

Rieckhoff said he's still waiting to see if any of the Republican presidential hopefuls take a stand on the issue. The New York primary is scheduled for Tuesday.

"I think it's a great opportunity [for them] to show the voters of New York State that they can be leaders on national security and veterans issues," Rieckhoff said. "It's the Post-9/11 GI Bill and they're running in a state where 9/11 happened."

There are close to a million veterans in New York, he added, "and they're watching."

The money saved by the proposed reduction in the benefits will 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, according to the legislation.

Critics of the move acknowledge the importance of the new and expanded programs, but say the money should come from elsewhere -- not from the GI Bill.

Rieckhoff said he's at a loss to understand why the White House won't take a stand on the issue, calling it "a total head-scratcher."

The White House would not comment when asked about the proposed reductions by Military.com on Friday, and declined again on Monday, notwithstanding the positions taken by Clinton and Sanders.

"There's no reason the President wouldn't support [stopping the legislation], especially if every Democrat running for President is supporting it … If the President has reservations, put them on the table."

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

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