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December 02, 2019 | In The News

Record Editorial: A Bill We Can get Behind

No. you’re not seeing things. The headline is correct.

There’s a new bill making its way through the U.S. House we believe a majority of Americans can and will get behind. It stands out for its clarity of purpose. It also stands out because if you can name three real bills debated this year in Congress, you’re doing better that us.

Lawmaking is at a standstill while impeachment proceedings go on — and on.

One of Florida’s own, Rep. Greg Steube, is sponsoring the Modern GI Bill Act, according to our sister newspaper The Lakeland Ledger. It reports that the modern U.S. military is the most ethnically diverse and educated group ever. A 2013 study it draws from shows 83% of officers had college degrees compared to 30% of the general population. More than 94% of enlisted personnel have high school diplomas. It’s 60% for the general population.

According to Pentagon numbers, in 2010 12% of enlisted men and women and 84 percent of officers had at least a two-year degree. In 2017 the numbers were 19% and 86% respectively.

Steube is a veteran who enlisted in the Army following the 9/11 attacks. He was an officer in the 25th Division during Iraqi Freedom. Steube was a college grad when he signed on. He told news sources recently it took him 15 years to repay student loans. He said many of his comrades were in the same boat: stuck in a spiral of debt, while serving their country.

One of our county’s greatest and more successful programs has been the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, more commonly known as the GI Bill. It was enacted in 1944 in order to give those service men and women lucky enough to make it home from the war, a helping hand with college. Millions of former military have taken advantage of the program, attending college when their duty was done. It opened up higher education to those who may have never dreamed of college.

Countless returning soldiers made totally new lives with financial security and bright futures because of the GI Bill.

Steube’s bill would expand that. It would entitle service men and women to receive GI Bill benefits to help pay down at least a portion of student loan debt incurred prior to enlisting. It would have the same financial parameters as existing GI Bill benefits.

Studies have demonstrated that there is an $8 return for every $1 spent on post-9/11 GI Bill programs.

President Donald Trump signed a law into law last year, called the GI Forever Bill. It allows vets to use their benefits throughout their lives, not under a 15-year cap that existed prior to that.

This Modern GI Bill is a needed and worthy addition to that. It’s a common sense perk for our returning service men and women, and a likely be an incentive for educated young men and women to look at service in the armed forces after finishing traditional college work.

We hope Congress sees it that way, too — if it ever gets around to passing law again.