Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chance of delay for new GI Bill

Chance of delay for new GI Bill

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Veterans' advocates say they are concerned that the U.S. government won't be able to meet the deadline for implementing the new GI Bill.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has until next August to put the measure in place. However, the Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) said Tuesday that some advocates, and even the Veterans Administration, have their doubts.

The problem, the newspaper said, is the VA's decision to implement the Post 9/11 GI Bill, itself rather than hiring an outside contractor. The agency changed its plans amid protests from veterans' groups and public employee unions about placing such a large program in the hands of a private company.

The VA has vowed to launch the measure, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., by the mandated August 2009 but has publicly admitted it will be a difficult mission.

Among concerns in a delay in implementation is the fact that current veteran legislation hasn't kept pace with rising education costs, even though the Webb-sponsored measure included a 20-percent increase in educational assistance that went into effect Aug. 1.

Webb's office pointed out that any veteran who has served on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001, and has unused GI Bill educational benefits will be eligible for the program. The senator has also been working to secure benefits at the level of the new program for eligible veterans who are using the current GI bill during the period between the enactment of the new law and its effective date of Aug. 1, 2009.

The Post said more than 410,000 veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have used benefits afforded under the current GI Bill.

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