The Senate voted Wednesday to restore tuition assistance for all services, reversing a budget-cutting move ordered by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Sponsored by Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., the order is part of the Senate’s version of the 2013 budget. If it becomes law — and that is not yet certain — it would apply only through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The amendment, passed by voice vote, does not say how the cost would be covered, only that the Defense Department would have to restore funding.
“Veterans mobilized to reinstate tuition assistance, and today the Senate listened,” said Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who used tuition assistance when he was a civil affairs specialist to work toward a college degree.
No similar provision is included in the House version of the government funding bill, HR 933, so the fate of tuition assistance rests with negotiations to work out a compromise measure. There is a March 27 deadline for completing the bill because that is when current federal funding expires. Without the extension, a government shutdown is possible.
Student Veterans of America is one of the groups that has been pushing to restore tuition assistance since the services began, one by one, announcing its termination.
“Restoring tuition assistance is absolutely critical to the long-term vitality of our service members,” said Michael Dakduk, SVA’s executive director. “Education leads to success, both in uniform and out. By cutting tuition assistance, we set a dangerous precedent in our country that education is not valued in our military.”
Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Hagan, chairwoman of the armed services subcommittee on emerging threats, had both pressed for an amendment to the appropriations bill and introduced separate, free-standing legislation to restore a benefit that they said did not need to be cut.
“Denying educational benefits to our men and women in uniform is not the way to get our fiscal house in order,” said Hagan in a statement. “Many of our service members join the forces with the goal of advancing their educations, and we must keep our promises to them.”
Inhofe said, “This is an earned benefit that not only assists in recruiting and retention efforts for our all-volunteer force, but it also improves the lives of our men and women as they seek leadership opportunities within the military.”