In it’s never-ending efforts to make sure your children’s future income is spent as efficiently as possible, the Army is ensuring National Guardsmen returning from 22 months in Iraq do not qualify for full educational benefits under the G.I. bill. Those clever bean counters at the Pentagon deployed more than 1,100 of them for only 729 days… exactly one day short of the 730 days needed to guarantee thousands of dollars a year for college.
When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush’s surge.
1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.
“It’s pretty much a slap in the face,” Anderson said. “I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership… once again failing the soldiers.”
Anderson’s orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.
Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.
“Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month,” Anderson said.
Both Hobot and Anderson believe the Pentagon deliberately wrote orders for 729 days instead of 730. Now, six of Minnesota’s members of the House of Representatives have asked the Secretary of the Army to look into it — So have Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman.
Klobuchar said the GI money “shouldn’t be tied up in red tape,” and Coleman said it’s “simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq.”
Senators Klobuchar and Coleman released a joint statement saying the Army secretary, Pete Geren, is looking into this personally, and they say Geren asked a review board to expedite its review so the matter could be solved by next semester.
Minnesota National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Kevin Olson said the soldiers are “victims of a significant injustice.”
Hobot and Anderson must be some of those “phony soldiers” Rush spoke of this week.