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Statement by the Press Secretary on War Funding Bill - White House News

President Bush understands that military families throughout our country are making great sacrifices as their loved ones serve at home and abroad. Throughout his Administration, he has been committed to ensuring that our service members and their families receive the highest level of support from our grateful Nation. After many of America's service members requested the ability to transfer unused GI education benefits to their family members, President Bush called on Congress in his 2008 State of the Union to fulfill their important request.

Throughout the past five months, President Bush and members of his Administration have worked hard to ensure that an expansion of GI benefits includes transferability. Yesterday, House leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on a supplemental war funding bill that would deliver critical support to our men and women in uniform. The President is pleased that Congress answered his call to ensure that military families will soon be able to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouse or children. This legislation will build upon the GI Bill's historic legacy of ensuring brighter futures for service members and their families. We urge both the House and Senate to immediately pass this bipartisan agreement.

President Bush also continues to call upon Congress to support his other initiatives which would strengthen support for our military families, including expanding access to childcare, creating new authorities to appoint qualified spouses into civil service jobs, and providing education opportunities and job training for military spouses. President Bush strongly believes that these additional measures will help further demonstrate America's strong appreciation for the sacrifices of America's service members and their families.

After overwhelming bipartisan votes for a new GI Bill in the House and Senate, the White House has reached a compromise with House leadership to pass a new GI bill, modeled after Rep. Mitchell and Rep. Brown-Waite's H.R. 5740. This WWII style GI bill will renew the social contract with our men and women in uniform and their families. This new GI Bill will not only fully fund the cost of an education, it will also allow servicemembers who stay in the military the opportunity to transfer their education benefits to spouses and their children.

The bipartisan agreement reached by the House Majority and Minority Leaders and endorsed by the White House is just one more shining example of the broad bipartisan support for this new GI Bill.

The best news is that the basic benefit structure of HR 5740 is still completely intact; the only substantive changes involve transferability. The White House's included proposal for a permanent transferability program breaks down like this:

  • Six years of service, coupled with an additional service agreement of at least four years grants up to 36 months transferability. This 10-year commitment is similar to what our transferability amendment would have required for full 36-month transferability.
  • Spouses would be eligible to receive transferred benefits after the service member has reached six years.
  • To transfer to children, the service member would need to serve 10 years before transferring.
  • The Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs may prescribe regulations changing the years of service required.
  • There are no reporting requirements to Congress as our pilot program amendment had required.
  • They have included language to create similar transferability programs in the three existing GI educational benefit programs as well: Montgomery GI Bill (Ch. 30), Montgomery GI Bill-Select Reserve (1606), and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (1607).
  • This transferability program has apparently been scored at $10 billion over 10 years, bringing the cost of the total package to $62 billion.
  • There is no offset for the GI bill, tax or otherwise.
    This is a big victory for veterans and their families. We hope to see an overwhelming show of bipartisan Congressional support when this bill comes up for a vote later today.

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