GI Bill receives worthy bump

Published Aug 12, 2017 at 4:00pm

This summer, the Rethink Vets program launched by The Heinz Endowments has been encouraging employers to consider hiring more veterans. The advertising campaign -- “Don’t just call veterans heroes. Call them for an interview” -- also worked to influence the public perception of veterans and underscore their readiness to join the workforce.

The goals of this campaign have just received substantial support from Congress. Both the House and Senate unanimously passed the “Forever GI Bill,” a sweeping expansion of education benefits. It boosts them by more than $3 billion over the next decade and provides flexibility in their use.

It’s worth marveling a moment over the unanimous votes in the House and Senate, two bodies riven by internal warfare. The jaundiced view is that political extinction awaits anyone who votes against support for our vets, those heroic Americans who get thanked for their service by strangers and moved to the front of the line at airports.

But the more accurate view is that the GI Bill has been one of the most successful tools for social advancement in American domestic policy.

Created in June 1944 for the wave of World War II veterans about to re-enter civilian life, its wisdom was to provide money for life’s building blocks -- education, vocational training, low-cost mortgages, business loans -- rather than just put cash in hand. Think of how many profiles of successful people from that era include the detail that they “went to school on the GI Bill.”

In more recent times, look at the story of “Hillbilly Elegy” memoirist J.D. Vance, who worked his way out of poverty in Appalachia with a stint in the Marines and a degree from Ohio State, paid for mostly by the GI Bill.

The divisions in American society may appear to grow deeper every day, but the unanimous support for the GI Bill shows that Americans will rally around common-sense social programs with proven track records.