The tuition assistance program has been at the center of much debate in Washington over the last several weeks. First, the popular benefit was suspended until at least October and then an amendment attached to the upcoming budget bill was defeated. However, there was some good news on Thursday when Congress passed a bill that restored the program to every branch of the military except the Coast Guard, The Associated Press reports.
Initial efforts fall flat
Soon after it was announced that the program would be suspended, thousands of complains came flooding in. Veterans' advocates in Congress, led by Senators James Inhofe and Kay Hagan, worked to propose an amendment that would restore funding for the program attached to the upcoming government spending bill. However, the plan was initially shot down because lawmakers wanted to move forward as quickly as possible on the law to avoid the potential for a government shutdown.
Change of course
Despite the setback, Inhofe and Hagan kept pushing for the amendment and eventually got it attached under one condition: the military would have to make cuts to other areas to save the estimated $250 to $350 million that suspending the tuition assistance program would have done. Inhofe applauded the decision of Congress to change its actions and accept the amendment to the government funding bill.
"What this does is reverse the decision from the Department of Defense that took away some of the abilities of our troops, when they are brought into the service, have in terms of subsidizing their tuition," said Inhofe, a senator from Oklahoma.
What it means for military families
While the amendment is certainly a victory for servicemembers and their loved ones, the addition of the amendment is not a permanent solution. Specifically, it only extends the benefit through the end of the fiscal year 2013 – which is through September 30. Still, it could have a significant impact on the financial future of military families. The program pays up to $250 per semester hour for active duty personnel, which adds up to as much as $4,500 per year. The program has been a big help to many soldiers looking to pick up a degree or earn a new license, which could help lower the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans.