Friday, May 23, 2008

Musings on the GI Bill

27 May Edit: Here are a few more links to flesh out the story, particularly with respect to the CBO study that McCain cites:

Link 1: NYT editorial
Link 2: Army Times article
Link 3: Think Progress blog

This article gives a fairly decent run down on the recent kerfuffle regarding the new GI Bill. To summarize:

McCain et al: The new bill will hurt retention and drive Sergeants out of the service after one tour. Make it a sliding scale that rewards multiple tours (Which is an argument worth considering, in my opinion)

Webb et al: One tour (3 years minimum) kinda sucks to begin with, and they're leaving anyways--we owe 'em this money. The current GI Bill never adjusted for inflation, so it doesn't pay nearly enough. (Which is also a compelling argument, even if it leaves out retention...)

Obama: I don't get how this McCain character could vote against vets going to college. (Which is just political sloganeering, something McCain is engaging in as well--"Obama hasn't served so he can't talk!")

And that's about as deeply as the issue is being discussed (from what I've seen, at least).

The Pentagon is having a hard time wrapping their brain around this one. Every bonus/benefit currently on the books, with the exception of the badly outdated GI bill, rewards extended service. Commit to an extra X years and receive Y dollars. Let the Army pay for your grad school and give them back 3 days for every day you spent on campus.

The GI Bill rewards you for simply signing up and serving honorably. So basically, what you're left with is this:

There WILL be a hit on retention with a beefed up GI Bill. It's intellectually lazy to ignore this effect outright. But it's also intellectually lazy to ignore the fact that there WILL be a boost in recruitment and there WILL be an incremental boost to the quality of the individuals recruited.

Neither side of the debate has, to my satisfaction, presented their model to support whatever impact (or lack thereof) the two bills will have on retention***. McCain is hinting at a model (he cites a 16% hit on retention) but I want to see the analysis to back that up. Obama makes a blanket statement that retention won't be harmed. Really?

All things being equal, I tend to lean towards McCain's proposal--improve the base line benefits, sure, and then tack on additional benefits for additional time served. Max it out at 6 or 8 years, maybe accelerate the rate you accrue the benefits based on the number of combat tours and/or stop-losses you serve through.

Or something like that.

***If anyone has seen analysis that supports either argument, please shoot it my way.


WmDavid said...

Good ideas, but getting it implemented is another thing. Being a vet, 72-72 RA, I finally gave up on trying to get any help from the gov or VA.

WE MUST, MUST, give all the support for our returning war heroes that we can. All gave some, some gave all.

Charivarius said...

I'm another milblogging gent like yourself, and share your concern that expressing any opinion that impacts on the political consciousness may be a violation of regs, or worse yet, betray the constitution I'm sworn to uphold.

Having said that, I think you're right about tailoring the program to reward people who reenlist, and capping the max out around 6-8 years, or 2-4 deployments for a typical line unit. If someone has spent as much time downrange as his / her grandfather did in WWII, he / she deserves to have his / her education paid for in full by society. I heard something about a program by which Private universities would be encouraged to support the balance of a veteran's tuition through need-blind grants, and I also believe that to be an excellent idea.

The draft used to tie us together as a society in ways we're only beginning to understand, now that we've lost that unifying effect. This would be an excellent way to help bridge the gap between the educated elite, and those grunts who threw lead downrange to ensure the safety of that elite.

De Liliis said...

Hmm.. I can't say whether I come out either way, but I appreciate the reasoned analysis.

In general I favor as much as possible increasing the incentives for Americans to enter into military service, because I believe it makes better Americans, even if they only serve for one tour.

I don't like Obama's sloganeering, and anything the Democrats support rises high on the suspicion meter for that very reason, but unless I'm missing something in the details..

Either way, seems good. Though preferrably two tours.

Dusty said...

I'm an old gal who served six years USMC (all CONUS) during Viet Nam. I did not join or re-up because of the GI Bill, but after my bio-clock hit "baby" I became a civilian, and a college student, with a house. Husband also had GI Bill. We have done great in life, much better than our parents--and better than our children. The GI Bill wasn't the reason we were at the party (Husband was drafted.) but it was a lovely parting gift.

I'm very concerned about the financial hardships of the GIs while they are serving, the impact on families, the seeming lack of health care after service, and jobs! Obama wants everyone to go to college. Swell. A nation of lawyers.

Bilbo Baggins said...

I thought soldiers "volunteered" to protect me. Now I read that they join the military for the benefits.

We all do what is in our best interest.

Hushed Defiance said...

I'm Reservist, prior active duty using a AD GI Bill benefits. I cant complain about my benefits because we're a 2-income (he's Army, I'm USAFR) and making it alright. I disagree with seriptiously raising benefits too high because it will hit intrinsic motivation in the gut- soldiers wont serve for country or personal goals, but now for extrinsic goals of benefits. I'm not against a 'livable' GI Bill but not for private university standards- state only. As well, I disagree w/ the increase of sharing benefits with spouses. The program was tried before w/little use (albeing dispersed among select AFSC/MOS) however there werent takers. I paid for my undergraduate as a spouse and we were just fine and I value that more than if the GI Bill paid it. Spouses (being one myself) I can say call foul way too often for their own good. If we're to expand the program in that direction, have them pay up their $1200 for using the remaining 50% or less benefits like the rest of us did for full benefits. I'd actually rather see 1-for-1 month of deployment for school especially for R/NG personnel.

Exnicios said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone...I've added a few links to the top of the post that give some more info on the matter.


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