Another prominent public policy voice called for an expansion of the popular GI Bill education program beyond military members in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, as Michigan leaders have already moved to copy the program for health workers and other frontline responders.
Last month, political analyst Hugh Hewitt suggested that extending veterans education benefits to hospital staffers and other medical personnel facing extreme working conditions would be a way to reward their service, and reported that the idea is “on the president’s mind.”
On Monday, officials from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the idea should be used to help encourage more public service needed to stabilize the country in the wake of the pandemic.
“The pandemic experience ought to lead to new national service programs, a public-health reserve corps, for example, and a similar disaster-relief initiative to cope with the harsh realities of a changing climate,” wrote William Burns, president of the group.
“(Incentives for service) could include an array of educational and economic benefits: greater loan repayment or tuition assistance; GI Bill–like programs, based on the length of committed public service; and ROTC or JROTC-like programs to promote interest in civilian service.”
Burns’ commentary comes less than a week after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a new “Futures for Frontliners” initiative, grating tuition-free college classes to medical workers, grocery store employees and those protecting public safety.
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Specifics of how the program will work were not unveiled, but officials said the idea was inspired by the existing military GI Bill program.
The most popular military education benefit in use today is the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, put in place in 2010 in response to criticism that the traditional Montgomery GI Bill benefits had not kept pace with cost of higher education.
The post-9/11 GI Bill grants 36 months of housing stipends and tuition equal to the cost of the most expensive state university where the recipient lives. The total value can exceed more than $100,000, depending on where students are located.
To qualify for full benefits, servicemembers must serve in the active-duty ranks for at least three years or be wounded in combat before reaching that service level. National Guard troops and Reservists who serve on active duty for at least 30 days can qualify for partial benefits.
The Department of Veterans Affairs made more than $11 billion in veterans education payments in fiscal 2018.
White House officials have not publicly commented on the idea of expanding GI Bill programs to non-military members or copying the program for other public servants.
About Leo Shane III
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.