Education Is Key to Success, VA Secretary Says
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Education! Education!
Education! Education is the key to success,” Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi exclaimed.
“Young men and women leaving the military who go to school
and get that education will succeed in this information
age,” he said during a recent interview at VA’s Washington
headquarters. “The greatest social program in the history
of this country was the World War II GI Bill.” The nation
should take a chapter out of that great social program and
bring it to modern days, the secretary said.
“It’s disheartening to know that young men and women join
the military because, in part, they’d like to go back to
school, but they can’t because of the cost,” Principi said.
“You know, no other program in America requires anybody to
contribute anything to get an educational benefit — but we
ask our military men and women to do so.” GI Bill benefits
cost service members $1,200.
Ironically, less than 50 percent of service members who
contribute money to the GI Bill use it after leaving the
military, he noted. The problem isn’t laziness or a loss of
desire to go to school, but not being able to afford to go
to school, Principi said.
He said the monthly GI Bill stipend is insufficient. He
pointed out that the cost of a good education has risen
dramatically since the Montgomery GI Bill became law in
1984, and the nature of education has changed.
Principi told a story of a young soldier he met on the
demilitarized zone in Korea. The soldier told him how happy
he was to be going home and going to school for a six-month
intensive computer training program.
“How much do you think the program will cost,” Principi
asked the soldier.
“About $5,000,” the soldier responded.
“He didn’t realize that he would get a certain amount per
month for only the six months,” Principi said. “He thought
he’d earned $25,000 in educational benefits, and he’d be
able to go to school, and the school would be paid for.
He’d served his country; he’d contributed $1,200.
“I had to tell him he was only going to get about $500 per
month — maybe $2,500 or $3,000 total — because his
Montgomery GI Bill payments are parceled out so much per
month for 36 months,” he said. “This soldier is going to
have to find the money elsewhere to pay the difference.
“He is a perfect example of a service member whose needs
are not being met,” Principi said.
The secretary favors accelerated payments as a possible
solution. He also advocates allowing GI Bill benefits to be
transferred to dependent spouses or children if the service
member decides not to attend school.
Related site of interest: VA Home Page