U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham defended extended benefits given to veterans under the so-called Post-9/11 GI Bill in a rally with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and allied veterans groups Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
The first-term Democrat from Tallahassee said the bill’s enhanced educational and career benefits should not be sacrificed in favor of cost-cutting measures floated by some in Congress.
“Our country made a promise to our veterans that we’d support them when they came home from war – and now Congress needs to keep that commitment,” Graham at press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol.
“Our veterans and their families make great sacrifices fighting for our freedom. I’m committed to fighting for them once they come home. Congress should focus on cutting waste, fraud and abuse – not balancing our budget on the backs of the men and women who serve in uniform,” said Graham.
Among the supporters of the legislation joining Graham was IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, who also spoke from the podium to reporters.
“The fact that we even have to fight to protect this critical earned benefit that has empowered so many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families is beyond disappointing,” said Rieckhoff, himself a veteran of the Iraq War. “The Post-9/11 GI Bill has created unparalleled educational and career opportunities for the nearly one million veterans who took advantage of it after service to our country.
“Veterans will not sit idly by while Members of Congress use the benefits we’ve earned as a piggy-bank for other programs,” Rieckhof said, saying his group was 425,000 members strong.
Cuts to the bill’s provisions were quietly made in an omnibus veterans bill passed by the House in February.
Also flanking the veterans in support of the enhanced benefits were U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Tim Walz, Tulsi Gabbard, Tammy Duckworth, Brad Ashford and Kathleen Rice, all Democrats.