I am so PISSED OFF at an action the Dept. of the Army pulled off yesterday and I am asking everyone who reads this to contact their Congressional Representatives and to also make this message go viral. This affects 201,000 Soldiers.
Enlisted members of the military have had (until 5pm this afternoon) an incentive called Tuition Assistance. This is an educational program that allows a service member to attend college or vocational training and the military helps to off-set some or most of the cost. This is not the GI Bill, but is a program that can only be used while a service member is on active duty.
In some cases it was used by the service member as a way to plan on how they would do their military contract when they signed up. It isn't a program that can be used over and over, but one where you have one shot at a single level of education (AA Degree to BA to MA). If you fail a course, you have to pay back the money. Once you earn a degree, say a BA, you can only use it to get an MA. If you use it to get an MA, that's it. Officers can get PhDs with it, but not enlisted people.
The Army version of the program paid up to a maximum of $250 per credit hour for TUITION with an annual cap of $4,500 per year. It does not pay for books or other fees. It also means that if the Soldier is going for say a graduate degree or has chosen a program that costs more than $250/hr, then they pay for that out of their own pocket. In my daughter's case, she is in a graduate program that directly relates to her MOS, so her out-of-pocket tuition cost,per class, is $225, plus books and fees using TA. Without TA, she simply cannot afford to continue to go to school. She is over a year into it.
She chose the SLRP instead of the GI Bill specifically because the TA program was shown to her when she joined and gave her the option. She already had her BA.
Education improves not just the person, but also the Army. What the Army did was just sleezy and underhanded. On Thursday, March 7, the Army announced that they were stopping the program as of 5pm March 8. If you were already in a class or signed up for a class, then they would pay for that. If not, tough luck. This wasn't some big announcement, but was learned by accident by people around the world.
When my Soldier initially signed up, gave up her GI Education bill rights to take a far less valuable incentive program, under the promise of this program being in place, which would allow her to earn her Masters degree while serving. With it being cut, the Army (as well as the other branches of the military) has effectively lied to 201,000 Soldiers. The Soldiers have been screwed over with no notice nor chance to do a contingency plan.
I would have no problem is they had cut say 12% off the annual cap, to bring it down from $4,500 to $4,000 per year. That exceeds the sequester rules. Instead they just shut it down completely. That means our Soldiers who are trying to better themselves have just been given a $4,500 pay cut, with a day's notice.
The cost of the Army program is $373 million per year. That is the cost of 1 of the 2,200 planned F-35 fighter planes (that isn't needed or wanted). Remember, 201,000 Soldier are in this program.
Some may say, well, use your GI Bill. The problem with that is that some don't have it, many haven't accrued enough time for it and primarily, it wrecks the bill's usage. I have been speaking with CSMs and Officers all morning on this and they are pissed. They feel they have been made to lie to their Soldiers, as the unofficial policy was to use TA and not the GI Bill because the normal Soldier only has enough spare time to take 1 or maybe 2 classes per semester, not 4 or 5.
An educated work force is a better work force. Business 101.
Please, contact your legislative morons in Washington, your news outlets and your friends. This has to be stopped, it is just wrong what they are doing and how they went about doing it.
I don't mean any personal offense to your Soldier here. I want to present a sort of academic point for consideration. I don't like the suspension of TA any more than anyone else. However, are we not all volunteers? I mean, there is nothing in the oath of enlistment that says anything about benefits. Sure, some of our contracts have bonuses, you said your Soldier received SLRP, some get cash, but TA is not one of those. I just think most of us these days are incredibly spoiled. If we are proud to serve, then we can't be mad when someone doesn't give us enough goodies for our service. That's not how volunteering works, that's why its called service.
I have seen Iraqi Army conscripts live in what we would consider squalor and immediate danger because their government tells them too. Quite a few of them were happy for the opportunity. I see Korean KATUSA soldiers every day suspend education at top-tier Universities because their government requires two years of service. In return, they get some uniforms, a spot in our barracks and about $100 a month (their regular ROK counterparts are much worse off).
No one made any of us sign up and no one promised us anything outside our contracts (I mean promised in the legal sense, I know some recruiters can be shady). The Army is not a scholarship program, nor does it present itself as one (its also not a welfare organization but that is another argument). Soldiering is sacrifice for the good (hopefully) of our nation. A sacrifice. The view of many modern American Soldiers is backward. It shouldn't be about what my country, or the Army owes me, but rather about what I can give for my country until I get out.