Thursday, December 20, 2007

Braley Continues Fight for Iowa Guard Members’ GI Bill Benefits

One thing that Iowa’s Rep. Bruce Braley has proven during his freshman year in Congress is that he’s not afraid to take on the entrenched powers of Washington, D.C. While serving on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Braley, D-Iowa, earned the respect of the blogosphere in March, when he grilled Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), over ethics allegations involving her role in briefing managers on the Republican Party’s prospects for 2008. (see video below the fold)

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"

1 comment:

acctmir said...

I recently read this letter and feel it is a very important letter for veterans to hear:

When I was mobilized with the Iowa National Guard's 1st Battalion of
the 133rd Infantry based in Waterloo for Operation Iraqi Freedom in
October of 2005, I knew that we were embarking on a long and
difficult mission. After being extended four months, and mobilized
for a total of 22 months, we returned to Iowa in July 2007 to an
emotional homecoming.

More than 600 of us were part of the longest serving unit since the
invasion of Iraq in 2003. During our 16 months on the ground in
Iraq, we witnessed massive waste by government contractors who
abused their no-bid contracts with the Pentagon. While private
contractors bled the U. S. Treasury with little oversight, soldiers
and Marines died because they lacked proper equipment and the newest
life saving vehicles.

Back home, we were aware that only one Democratic candidate for
President, Senator Joe Biden, kept his promises to us that he would
fight for the funds needed to produce Mine Resistant Ambush
Protected (MRAP) vehicles which dramatically reduce the number of
casualties from improvised explosive devices (IED's). When other
presidential candidates were going back on their word to support
those of us in harm's way, only Senator Biden remained steadfast in
his support, regardless of any political consequences.

While still on the ground in Iraq, many of us from Iowa resolved
that we would go back home and stand up for Senator Biden " just as
he stood up for us on the floor of the United State Senate. We want
to help make sure that our troops still in Iraq will have the best
Commander in Chief possible on inauguration day in 2009.

We also support Senator Biden because he is the only candidate with
the vision and the courage to come forward with a comprehensive and
realistic plan to exit Iraq without leaving the region behind in
mass disorder. It is clear that we need new leadership and a new
approach to allow us to start withdrawing our troops.

I hope that you and thousands of other Iowa veterans will join with
me in working to nominate and elect Senator Joe Biden as our 44th
President. No one else possesses his depth of knowledge and
experience in foreign affairs as well as the vision for restoring
America's proper place in the world community. Please join us in a
noble cause.


James D. Mowrer
State Coordinator, Iowa Veterans for Biden.