From today's Christian Science Monitor
New GI Bill too popular for the Pentagon's own good?
Veterans are rushing to take advantage of the comprehensive education benefits, raising the question of whether the bill will hurt retention.
By Gordon Lubold | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
This was one of the original criticisms of the bill while it was being written and reviewed. I have a lot of problems with the criticism.
First off, it was my impression of the critics that they thought that it cost too much to implement and were scrambling to come up with reasons to support their goal of preventing the passage of yet another "expensive" bill. The focus on retention in the criticism relative to recruitment rates is also ignored - if recruitment goes up and retention goes down, it is still possible that the military retains more troops than before. To be fair, the critics' fears could happen. But it is the sort of fear relative to something sensationalized in the media versus the everyday risks we encounter, like swine flu versus car crashes. More people die of car crashes than swine flu in a given year, yet because swine flu could become the next pandemic, it is given more coverage on the news. It could happen, but the odds are better that you will get into a fender-bender at the whole-foods parking lot because somebody on their cellphone wasn't looking.
Second, the number of applications for this benefit is currently high because there are a lot of veterans and soldiers who are applying, not just soldiers - the rate of applications will trickle down to mostly soldiers once the VA handles the first wave. Attributing the number of applications to the number of soldiers who could leave the military is misleading or just a reflection of the misunderstanding of how things work in the military.
Third, on the grounds of it being enough of a financial incentive to leave, the military has been trying to lure people to join with college $ for years. Newly joined soldiers are forced to sign away $1200 their first year for the MGIB, even if they never use it. The 911 bill is voluntary. If the new bill is suspected of providing an incentive to leave, it isn't as different from the MGIB as the critics think in that the soldier who leaves service for college will still have to take out college loans like before in a poor economy. On the basis of money alone, at the end of the 4 or 6 year term, a soldier will be making enough money to seriously reconsider his/her thoughts of leaving for college. The soldier has housing provided, healthcare provided, a gym, food, etc. and can grow accustomed and comfortable with these things. The military does a bad job of adequately preparing those leaving service for the real world - which could be on purpose for reasons of retention. This can be frightening for someone who has taken their situation (the many expenses and services they receive at little to no cost) for granted.
Finally, as Cole S. Law suggested, if they are leaving right now it could be more likely because of how much our leaders have abused our fellow service members in the last 8 years. The military is not an environment for everyone. War zones are an environment tolerated by even fewer individuals.