Late last week, a new petition was launched on the White House's "We the People" website, and it's already caused quite a stir, generating about 86,000 signatures as of this morning. The topic may not be front-page news, but it's important: veterans' benefits cut under the military's Tuition Assistance program.
Service members hoping to get financial aid to further their education will be out of luck as the Army's Tuition Assistance program becomes the latest casualty of budget cuts.The Army announced on Friday that soldiers would no longer be able to submit new requests for tuition assistance. The decision will exempt those service members already enrolled in courses and receiving aid."The Army understands the impacts of this action and will re-evaluate should the budgetary situation improve," said Lt. Col. Tom Alexander, spokesman for the Army's personnel chief.
In this case, "should the budgetary situation improve" is a polite way of saying "should congressional Republicans stop screwing around."
The Marine Corps has also suspended its Tuition Assistance program.
It's not altogether clear whether the sequester is the only reason for the TA cuts, and the branches may be facing unrelated budget pressures, but the timing certainly suggests there's a connection -- both the Army and the Marines announced the move shortly after the sequestration deadline passed -- and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said the sequester helped lead to cuts.
Student Veterans of America's executive director, Michael Dakduk added, "It is utterly unacceptable that the first casualties of Congress' inability to act are education benefits for servicemembers."
IAVA also noted there are other programs for veterans that help with education costs, but the fact Tuition Assistance is being cut at all is a problem.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said last week he's "looking into" the problem, though it's unclear if he's done any work on the issue since.