WASHINGTON, May 22 – The Senate today approved legislation that includes support for veterans and for people who need help paying spiraling home heating bills. Both provisions were championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Sanders played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in securing an additional $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. “At a time when the cost of oil is soaring, it is important to expand the home heating assistance program to make certain that no Vermonter goes cold next winter.”
Dramatically improved veterans education benefits also were rolled into the bill that senators approved. Cosponsored by Sanders, the bill would guarantee a full scholarship to any public, in-state university for veterans who served three years in the military, including activated National Guard troops and reservists. The expanded benefits also could be used for students at private colleges and for graduate schools.
Unlike the GI benefits that transformed American society after World War II, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have discovered that current GI benefits cover only half the national average cost for tuition, room and board. “The original GI Bill was an appropriate way for a grateful nation to say thank you to the service and sacrifice of those who wear our country’s uniform. That bill also helped reshape the American economy and allowed millions to enter the middle class,” Sanders said. “We owe no less to this generation of service men and women.”
The House still has to act on the bill, and President Bush has threatened to veto it.