05/30/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Stance On GI Bill Points To His Veterans' Problem

Of all the voting groups John McCain will target this fall, none would seem like more of a sure thing than this country's war veterans. So why is the celebrated Vietnam War hero and POW bracing for a potentially bad week with so many men and women who have served in uniform?

The point of contention between the two seemingly natural allies is a piece of legislation the Senate is expected to vote on this week to update the 1944 G.I. Bill to provide expanded education assistance and opportunities to the armed forces. The bill, co-sponsored by two other Vietnam veterans in the Senate, Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia, would effectively provide full tuition and housing costs at a four-year public university for veterans who have served at least three years of active duty. Given his family's and his own long and distinguished service career, the bill would seem like a natural fit for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. But McCain, concerned about the estimated $4 billion annual price tag and the incentive he worries it might give people to leave an already strapped military, has sponsored his own competing proposal. It increases the existing monthly education benefit from around $1,100 to $1,500 a month while adding more generous benefits for those who've served more than 12 years.

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