Letter: In response to Nevada Sen. Dean Heller on GI Bill (opinion)
I took great interest in Sen. Heller’s column on strengthening the GI Bill. However, I did not see any point to address older vets that had GI Bill benefits cut off.
Although it was called a “Forever GI Bill,” it does not appear to right any of the previous wrongs of prior benefits that were earned. This bill has provisions for schools that close, but not doors of opportunity closed by Congress.
As Sen. Heller mentioned, the GI Bill is a great success for those willing to get an education. However, there are some veterans like me who have been left in a chasm between the different versions, or authorizations, of the GI Bill.
I enlisted in the Army just after Viet Nam and fell under that authorization. Being the eldest of four kids of a single-mom, this was my only hope of going to college. I remained in the service for eight years thinking I would make it a career. It was during downsizing I was forced out, and was to have 10 years to go to school upon getting out of the service.
I started school in late 1986 after getting settled in Sacramento. I went to school at night while working full time and supporting a family. In 1989, the GI Bill I earned and expected was yanked away. Congress did not re-authorize my GI Bill. I did not qualify for the newer version they had passed (Montgomery Bill) at the time, nor any version passed since.
I wrote letters to a number of members of Congress over many years, but I only heard silence in return. I left school for a while as I could not afford it at the time. But I had to finish what I started. I did so, all while serving the public working in various government jobs and taking classes at night. I wound up taking out student loans to fill the void and continue before graduating with a master’s in 2003.
I put my education to use in my jobs with the government, so they received the benefit of my education. I worked to realize the benefits of a variety of transportation technologies in use today. But still, I am left holding the bag of debt I should never have had.
I do not qualify for any student loan forgiveness program or back payment for what I proudly earned, and still provided in my many years of service to the public. I would welcome any interest by any member of Congress in righting this long-standing wrong to the few veterans like me.
South Lake Tahoe, California