In October, Braley set his sights on the Pentagon. When he found out that 600 members of the Iowa National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry’s educational benefits had been shortchanged, Braley helped launch a formal congressional investigation into the matter. After returning home from 17 months of combat duty in Iraq, members of the 1-133rd were initially denied full GI Bill educational benefits because their active duty orders were written one to five days short of the 730-day GI Bill qualifying requirement.
"When the Pentagon's ineptitude leads to soldiers and their families being denied the benefits they deserve, it is Congress' role to provide oversight, accountability, and answers," Braley said in a press release. “While I'm hopeful that the cases of the members of the 1-133rd will all be resolved before classes begin next spring, the question of why the Army worded soldiers' orders just one to five days short of the 730-day requirement, when the Army clearly knows that this is the threshold for receiving Montgomery GI Bill Benefits, is still unresolved."
To help expedite claims and keep the soldiers and their families informed about the latest developments in the congressional investigation, Braley launched a website Dec. 12. “I’m also pleased to hear that over half of the 1-133rd members who were initially denied their benefits have been informed by the Army that they now qualify for full GI Bill educational benefits,” Braley said in a recent statement found on the new site. “I’m hopeful that the Pentagon will achieve their promise of getting full benefits to all of the troops affected by the error by the beginning of the spring 2008 semester in January.”
Rock Island Arsenal Furloughs: "Politics at its Worst"
Last week, Braley joined fellow Congressman Phil Hare, D-Il., to take on the White House and the Department of Defense, arguing it is unnecessary for the DoD to issue furlough notices to federal employees working at the Rock Island Arsenal.
In November, the White House and Defense Department warned that furloughs for 200,000 civilian employees could be sent before the holidays if they did not receive additional funding for the war in Iraq. However, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service issued a report Dec. 13, “Extending Army Operations in Advance of a Supplemental War Appropriation,” that found the DoD could continue operations on current DoD funds until March 2008.
Despite this, the Defense Department apparently intends to move forward with notifying civilian defense employees of possible furloughs as soon as this week. “Threatening Rock Island Arsenal and other Defense Department employees with ‘possible’ layoffs in the days before Christmas is politics at its worst,” Braley said. “The Congressional Research Service report has demonstrated that furloughs are unnecessary. The President’s politics of fear only serve to intensify the partisanship that is already poisoning politics. I’ll be working with Congressman Hare to do everything possible to protect Arsenal jobs from becoming a casualty of these ridiculous Washington games.”
In fact, the president has already approved billions of dollars of funding for Defense Department operations in FY 2008. Last month, President Bush signed the $459.3 billion Defense Department appropriations bill (HR 3222) into law. That bill included money for operations at the Rock Island Arsenal and represented a funding increase of $37.9 billion from FY 2007.
Bruce Braley Questions GSA Administrator Lurita Doan
Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"