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tion benefits, and learning a skill while serving their country, as their primary reasons for enlisting in the military. Our remarkable success during Desert Storm demonstrated conclusively that the All-Volunteer Force is made up of the men and women the Armed Forces need—the best and the brightest-and a principal reason these individuals chose to enter the armed services was to earn education assistance.
We promised our military personnel that, in exchange for honorable service, we would provide them the means to go to school, to further their education, and to increase their individual productivity. Neither the President nor the Congress has kept that commitment. A very moderate increase in Montgomery GI Bill benefits was included in Public Law 102-25, the Persian Gulf Conflict Supplemental Authorization and Personnel Benefits Act of 1991. This modest increase, however, is assured for only two years, and the increased benefit is still significantly below what we should be providing.
In spite of the soaring costs of education, neither the current nor the previous Administration has included an increase in GI Bill benefits in its budget request since the program was enacted in 1984. This year, however, the Administration is proposing a $1.2 billion increase in funding for the Pell Grant Program. This is an increase of 22 percent over FY 1992 funding levels and includes a 54 percent increase in the maximum award under the program. The President's budget document states that this significant increase is being provided in order to grant "major new relief from the rising cost of higher education." In sharp contrast, the Administration would reduce veterans' education benefits by requiring that the basic pay reduction required under the GI Bill be increased to $117 per month for 12 months, with no corresponding increase in the level of the earned benefit. Accordingly, it is up to Congress to ensure that our servicemembers are treated fairly and provided adequate educational assistance.
We are also deeply concerned about the men and women being discharged from the Armed Forces as a result of the drawdown in military personnel. These former servicemembers are entering the civilian workforce during a time of instability and economic recession and, although many will leave the armed services with job skills transferable to the civilian workplace, others who have specialized in critical areas such as combat arms will be unable to easily make the adjustment. There has been discussion of a jobs training package. In the event such a program is developed, we must ensure that individuals being forced out of the military are primary beneficiaries of any job training opportunities that are provided.
A provision of Public Law 101-510 established a program of transition assistance (TAP) to be provided by the Secretary of Labor, in conjunction with the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs, to servicemembers separating from the Armed Forces. The pro
gram has been successful and demand for the three-day TAP classes far exceeds the resources available to provide this training which includes resume writing, job search techniques, and other valuable information. Adequate funding for this program should be provided to ensure that every member of the armed services who wants to participate in TAP has the opportunity to do so.
In addition, this Nation has made a commitment to meet the health needs of veterans. However, in recent years, this obligation has fallen increasingly by the wayside. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs established the Commission on the Future Structure of Veterans Health Care whose detailed report was submitted to Congress in November, 1991. The Commission describes the Department's health care system as “an American health asset at risk.” The Chairman of the Commission stated, “Notwithstanding the many roles and contributions of the VA, a tug-of-war between the Office of Management and Budget, the VA and Congress has persisted for many years. During much of the nineteen eighties, budgets recommended by the VA were cut by OMB by about one billion dollars each year . . . VA medical appropriations have fallen behind the inflation line by about 20% over ten years. In the absence of specific guidance from the highest levels of this or any Administration, the future of the veterans medical program is jeopardized.” What could be more logical than to apply the peace dividend to adequately fund a system which provides care for those individuals who continue to pay the price of peace?
This fiscal year will be no exception. The FY 1993 budget proposal is approximately $300 million short of current services, though services have already been cut back considerably. Such shortfall does not take into account the near billion dollar backlog in procurement of new and replacement medical equipment, increased expenditures incurred by the Department for salary increases to essential medical personnel and unanticipated and unprecedented cost increases of pharmaceutical products after enactment of OBRA 90. Coupled with the $300 million needed for FY 1993 current services, the sum of $250 million per year for the next five years would go far towards alleviating these serious fiscal constraints. The result would be increased services to veterans and the preservation of the VA system as a national health care resource. There is without a doubt a tremendous price for peace. In reality, there can be no real peace dividend until the health care needs of America's disabled veterans are met.
Mr. Leader, we can and we must provide our former military personnel with a decent educational assistance benefit and the training and skills necessary to successfully enter the civilian labor force. In addition, when they leave active duty, we must provide them with quality medical care and the opportunity to purchase a home. Our committee is prepared to work with you and Mr. Michel in putting together a legislative proposal to do these things. Although we have not advocated that further reductions in the defense budget be used to increase domestic spending, any so-called
"peace dividend" must give the highest priority to the young men and women who served in the Persian Gulf War to preserve the peace for all mankind. Sincerely,
G.V. (SONNY) MONTGOMERY,
BOB STUMP, Ranking Minority Member.
From Congressman Evans to Chairman Montgomery, February 14, 1992 ...