It's been a common refrain during the current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to say that Americans should support their troops even if they don't support the policy that took us to war.
That seems to be what members of the U.S. House had in mind this week when they refused to approve $163 billion in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but approved a measure that had been split from that bill to provide $52 billion over the next 10 years to fund a new version of the GI Bill that benefited so many veterans of World War II.
The new GI Bill would guarantee a monthly stipend and full scholarship to an in-state public university for any member of the military who had served at least three years. To pay for the measure without adding to the nation's deficit, a surtax of one-half of a percentage point would be placed on individuals with annual incomes above $500,000 and couples earning over $1 million.
That funding method already is drawing protests from some U.S. senators. Their concerns may be valid, but another way to look at it is that most people who serve in an all-volunteer military come from families whose incomes fall far below those that would be affected by the surtax. Those higher-income families can easily afford to send their children to the college of their choice, which seems to offset the tax sacrifice to allow U.S. military vets to pursue their own higher education goals.
The original Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 is credited with helping fuel America's postwar prosperity. By the time the program ended in 1956, almost 8 million World War II veterans had used its funding for an education or training program. The bill also underwrote nearly 2.4 million VA home loans for veterans.
The current GI package also would give a 13-week extension for unemployment benefits for veterans. Interestingly the original GI Bill also provided for unemployment benefits, but less than 20 percent of the funds that were set aside for that purpose were ever used. The nation's economic situation was different in the 1950s, but the Greatest Generation once again set an example of self-reliance that is worth emulating.
The benefits package that passed the House is unlikely to make it through the Senate intact, but it sends a message that shouldn't be ignored. Both in the 1940s and today, the military personnel who have served this nation so well in war deserve the best America can provide when they return home.