Military Personnel In Desperate Need of Assistance
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into effect, not many had an idea of how this bill would help transform the country. There were even those behind the bill who initially thought it was a failure.
Designed to help WWII soldiers return to the American way of life, this bill can be seen as the point that transformed and raised the standards of living we Americans have today.
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was signed June 22, 1944. Prior to this, no contributions were made to those who fought for the nation. This was perhaps because military service was seen as an obligation—a necessary price for citizenship—and an honor to fight for one’s country.
America, still traumatized by the Great War (World War I), sought to do better by those who made the sacrifice by giving them opportunities that were not available in the past. Benefits would include low cost mortgages and loans, unemployment compensation and education opportunities to take service members to the next level.
At the introduction, it seemed as though the bill was a failure, but, by 1947, U.S Veterans accounted for 49% of college admissions. Though this was a shock, it shouldn’t have been, because before the G. I. Bill, most Americans belonged to a disadvantaged working class. The pursuit of higher education was merely a pipe dream, a reality only for those who came from wealthy families.
This act extended past service members in a chain reaction. Sociologists have noted that this passage has been a huge, if not the leading contributing factor, to the golden age of this country. With military members flooding college campuses, more schools had to be constructed to support the student population. Men wanting to start a family now sought homes to raise them in, creating the need for the housing boom that spawned “suburbia”.
From this rising level of general education, new, innovative jobs opened in the market.
The economy was exploding from the new-found wealth of a thriving middle class. America truly became a land of opportunity for those who wore the uniform—but the benefits didn’t stop at production level.
With families able to break the financial barriers that once condemned them to a life of pure servitude, a newly educated populace rose to meet their civic duties. Those who had benefited from the G.I. Bill were twice as likely to become involved with public service, open community chapters and get involved with government on a local level. They had a desire to give back to the nation they fought for.
It was at this time that, arguably, the government was seen in the most positive light to the American people, due in-part to the raised standards of wealth and education.
That, however, has changed.
One needn’t look further than the current election for evidence of this. With the two presidential front-runners noted to be the least favorable candidates in American history, it is no wonder that Americans have lost faith. According to the Pew Research Center, last year the American public hit an all-time low in trust of the government: a mere 19% of the public said that the government is trustworthy.
This statistic is important to point out because the largest and most comprehensive social platform to date, the G.I Bill, is now under threat.
Back in May, the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee (SVAC) proposed some changes. Sponsored by Senator Johnny Isakson, [R-GA], the Veteran’s First Act would expand the benefits of the G.I Bill, but not the budget.
This means the expansion is stretching out funding and cutting back in areas that would directly affect American service members—an example being, the housing portion of the G.I Bill and its eligibility to family members.
This is not to say that the new proposal is terrible, but the process itself has diminished the faith of veterans. One group who strongly opposes the installment of Veteran’s First Act is the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). This is an organization founded and run by veterans who empower the newest generation of veterans, and who also inform the public of the inadequate care of service members.
“Congress is breaking its sacred promise to our veterans as some look at the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a piggy bank to fund other programs,” states the advocacy group on the IAVA website. After they reviewed the proposal, it was revealed that it would include cuts to housing assistance for children of service members. In addition, the Senate was also accused of considering adding additional required years of service to allow any of the benefits to transfer to children of service members.
The cuts to housing assistance for students of military service members, if passed, would be placed into full effect within five years. Removing an estimated $3.4 billion from the section would then be distributed to other “helpful” programs.
While better and more comprehensive aid is necessary and should be given to United States vets, it should not come from the guarantee of the post-9/11 Bill. Some may argue that it is for a greater good, but such a cut against veterans could see larger repercussions than just an additional bill for military families.
Essentially, this would be backtracking. Slashing the housing income in half would add a cost to military families that are essentially unable to afford it. While “living within one’s means” is a valued American ideal, the harsh reality is that the price of college is expensive, making this difficult for most people to do—especially when we consider that the average debt of a bachelor’s student, post-graduation, is about $30,000.
Meanwhile, the annual income of an enlisted U.S. Army Staff Sergeant ranges from $25,000 to $37,000, which differs from state to state.
The price of college and housing continues to increase while pay and benefits are continuously under threat of being pulled back or slashed in half. This increases stress, which could lead to military members faltering on the job, or, worse, to question the mission at hand when the payout is not worth the sacrifice they make.
The blowbacks don’t stop there.
The military is being undermined with each and every cut that is made to service members. This makes the idea of signing up with Uncle Sam looks less and less appealing.
Current members may not recommend joining the service to the youth of today, and with the Millennial and iGen generations, two groups that are notorious for being driven by individualistic, self-driven ideals, selling the idea of patriotism and courage won’t go over as well without reward in this day and age
Just as establishing the G.I. Bill paved the way to success for the military personnel, dismantling and tearing away the opportunities they afford may bring nothing but ruin and despair for them instead.