Think Progress has a couple of pieces worth reading on the Administration's disingenuous justification for opposing an enhancement to veterans' educational benefits, the "GI BIll," sponsored by Virginia Senator Jim Webb.
We have no issue with the fact that Senator Webb wishes to provide a more generous education benefit to troops. But we are certainly concerned that this would be eligible to them after only two years of service. We think pegging it to a longer period of service — the number we have in mind, at this point, is six years of service — that the longer you stay in, the sweeter the benefits are to you. Six years would show a commitment to service. … The last thing we want to do is provide a benefit — or the last thing we want to do is create a situation in which we are losing our men and women who we have worked so hard to train.
A budgetary justification, while politically unpalatable, would be far easier to swallow than this. As John Soltz points out, the standard term of enlistment is eight years, four of which are active duty and four of which are in the reserves, which for many servicemembers results in a call-up soon after release. This isn't the 90s.
In the 90s, at least one could have made the argument that people are joining the military for the sweet, sweet educational benefits, intending to ditch at the earliest possible moment, with a straight face. We were only fighting air wars against Serbia and ground wars against the roving machete gangs of Haiti after all. But today it seems safe to say that anyone signing up is doing so with the understanding that real combat in real war zones isn't just a possibility. It's likely. To suggest that soldiers are joining up or will with the purpose of cheating the government out of a barely earned educational benefit is ludicrous, and insulting.
But the ones most insulted are those who actually do get out of the military in less than four years. That falls mainly into two classes: the dishonorably discharged (who get no benefits at all); and … disabled veterans, who today are overwhelmingly combat casualties.
I can't imagine there are too many soldiers rushing into enemy fire to get an early educational benefit. Maybe the administration knows something I don't.