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Editorial: Expand veterans programs further

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MAY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Daily Iowan Editorial Board is pleased by the recent passing of Senate File 303, a motion to improve financial benefits that invite returning servicemen and -women to the state of Iowa with goals of receiving an education. In drawing military personal to the state, the House and Senate have taken a crucial step in not only improving Iowa but in promoting a nationwide environment designed to help assimilate those who have served back into life at home. That being said, the bill, as it stands, only scratches the surface of what can and should be done to improve opportunities after serving.

As reported, those who have served on active duty for at least 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001 — those eligible to receive Chapter 33 benefits through the GI Bill — are automatically considered a resident of Iowa and, correspondingly, can attend state universities at the in-state price of tuition regardless of where they call home. However, these benefits only extend to those pursuing an undergraduate education, and they are only offered to those eligible for Chapter 33. This poses a problem for many service members, and it impedes progress that could be made in the state.

These restrictions equate to a number of limitations. Most individuals who have served on active duty have achieved an undergraduate education. Because of this, hampering educational progress by not discounting graduate-level tuition would, logically, keep service members from attending state universities for graduate studies. This limits veterans’ opportunities, in turn stunting opportunities for growth as a state.

The current bill also restricts educational benefits to those who have served post-9/11, as defined by Chapter 33 of the GI Bill, meaning that those who have served prior to the events on Sept. 11, 2001, are not eligible for tuition cuts. This distinction amounts to a missed opportunity to care for veterans.

Considering the nature of serving on active duty, we agree wholeheartedly with expanding benefits for those returning from combat — regardless of education level or when an individual has served. It’s a travesty that we reward members of the armed services with anything but full support upon their return home.

According to a report from Forbes, after facing dangerous situations for an extended period of time and borderline-minimal pay, service members face a 10 percent unemployment rate upon returning from duty, much higher than the national average. Add that to the psychological trauma that follows many members home from war, and it becomes clear why it’s so important to help veterans return to normal living conditions in any way possible.

Again, we applaud the state for taking measures to increase educational opportunities for returning veterans. It’s a crucial step forward, and it’s reassuring to see representatives on both sides of the aisle care for service members. The House and Senate voted almost unanimously in approval of Senate File 303, which means that Iowa is working to stand out as a beneficiary for the troops. But there is still work to be done. Benefits should be expanded to include anyone who has served the interests of our country, and this expansion should happen as soon as possible.


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