After six years of war, it is our country's moral obligation to provide real support for our troops and veterans. Our military is being tested like never before, while our veterans lack timely and sufficient health care and benefits. This generation of warriors is also facing new and unique problems, from Traumatic Brain Injury and alarming rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to inadequate educational benefits and multiple, extended deployments. To meet this need, IAVA has released our annual Legislative Agenda. Our 2008 Legislative Agenda covers the entire warfighting cycle - before, during and after deployment - offering sound policy solutions to the most urgent problems facing America's newest generation of veterans and their families.
The cornerstone of our 2008 Legislation Agenda is a new GI Bill. After World War II, nearly eight million servicemembers took advantage of GI Bill education benefits. A veteran of WWII was entitled to free tuition, books and a living stipend that completely covered the cost of education. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, however, receive only a fraction of the support offered to the Greatest Generation. For many, the burden of student loans and mounting debt can simply become too great.
Today we have the opportunity to renew our social contract with our servicemen and women, and help rebuild our military. IAVA supports reinstating a World War II-style GI Bill that will cover the true cost of education and will fairly reward all combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Critics have said the GI Bill is too expensive. The fact is a new GI Bill would be a bargain. The current GI Bill cost the Veterans' Affairs Department $1.6 billion in 2004. Even if a World War II-style GI Bill were to double that cost, it would be about what we spend in a week in the War on Terror. And the GI Bill is more than a veterans' benefit. It is also an effective tool to stimulate the economy and to improve military readiness. Above all, a World War II -style GI Bill would thank this generation of combat veterans for their service and their sacrifice.
Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Mitt Romney has said the current GI Bill is outdated. It's critical that we pass a new GI Bill that actually pays for the cost of college. Today's troops deserve the same educational benefits World War II veterans received. We need less talk and more action from lawmakers on this vital issue, and we look forward to meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to get a new GI Bill passed this year.
For the next few weeks, IAVA will be bringing this message to Washington. Starting the week of February 11th, IAVA veterans from across the country will storm Capitol Hill to urge Senators and Representatives to support key legislation for veterans. We hope you will join us.