Tuesday at noon, some big-name Democrats, including Senator Jim Webb and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will be leading a press conference on the steps of the Capitol - and they'll be joined by some of Congress's leading Republicans, including Senators Chuck Hagel and John Warner. With the political situation so polarized this election year, it's like seeing players from the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox sit down for Sunday afternoon tea.
What has brought them together? A commitment to ensuring that troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan get the chance to go to college.
After World War II, the "GI Bill" ensured that more than two million combat veterans could get a college education. Economists have said this legislation rebuilt the country after five years of war. Now, however, the GI Bill pays only a fraction of the cost of a four-year college - and today's veterans just aren't getting the same readjustment opportunities afforded to the Greatest Generation.
We're already seeing the results. Currently, 18% of newly returned veterans are unemployed--that's three times the national unemployment average. And more than a thousand Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already shown up in the nation's homeless shelters.
Luckily for our troops, there's a great new GI Bill in the works, which was introduced by some of the leading combat veterans now serving in Congress: Senators Jim Webb, John Warner, Chuck Hagel, and Frank Lautenberg. This bill would make college affordable to every single Iraq and Afghanistan veteran coming home.
IAVA has been galvanizing support behind this new GI Bill. We've met with hundreds of Senators and Congressmen, our members have run op-eds in their local papers, and we've run a nationwide campaign of hard-hitting print and online advertisements.
Our efforts are paying off. The new GI Bill now has the support of more than half of the Senate and more than half of the House of Representatives. (Are your representatives in Congress on the list? Check here.) In such partisan political times, this is an amazing achievement.
Today is another milestone. At noon, more than 100 veterans from across the country will join members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to rally on the steps of the Capitol to call for immediate legislative action on the new GI Bill. All the supporters of the new GI Bill deserve great credit for getting the legislation this far.
Press conferences are nice, but how soon is Congress going to take action? It could be as early as this week. There's an excellent chance we'll see the GI Bill appear in the upcoming war funding bill. We at IAVA will be watching at every step in the process, to ensure that all this good work does not go to waste. You can join us in the fight at www.GIBill2008.org.
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