Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Colonel Robert F. Norton, USA (Ret.)

Colonel Robert F. Norton, USA (Ret.), Military Officers Association of America, Deputy Director, Government Relations

MADAM CHAIRMAN AND DISTINGUISHED MEMBERS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE, on behalf of the 366,000 members of the Military Officers Association of America (

MOAA ), I am honored to have this opportunity to present the Association’s views on updating the Montgomery GI Bill to meet the needs of our Armed Forces and to strengthen its value as a readjustment tool for our veterans.

MOAA is an original founding member of the Partnership for Veterans’ Education, a consortium of 45

mil itary, veterans, and higher education groups which advocate for passage of a “total force” approach to the Montgomery GI Bill to meet the needs of our operating forces – active duty, National Guard and Reserve -- and veterans in the 21st century.

MOAA does not receive any grants or contracts from the federal government.



As a general principle, GI Bill benefits for the 21st century should be structured according to the length and type of duty performed by all members of the armed forces, provide better support to recruitment and retention programs, and improve readjustment outcomes for our veterans.  This approach to the MGIB is endorsed by Veterans Advisory Committee on Education, a congressionally established panel that advises the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs on educational benefits programs. 

MOAA would, of course, prefer to see enactment of a “WWII-style” GI Bill.  However, past proposals along these lines by retired Ranking Member Lane Evans of this Committee have not been taken up.  We believe that the existing MGIB can be restructured to better achieve desired outcomes, namely: support armed forces recruitment / retention and the readjustment needs of our veterans, including National Guard and Reserve veterans who have been called into active federal service:  

  1. Recodify reserve MGIB programs from Title 10 to Title 38. (Section 525, H.R. 1585) so that the MGIB can match 21st century

    mil itary policy and better accomplish statutory purposes.

  2. Establish a 10-year readjustment benefit – as authorized for active force members --  for National Guard and Reserve veterans called to active federal service (Chap.1607, 10 USC)
  3. Raise MGIB monthly rates to cover the average cost of a four-year public college / university education.  Dept. of Education data indicate the MGIB covers about 75% of such costs.
  4. Authorize cumulative month-for-month entitlement under the MGIB (Chapter 30, 38 USC) for reservists who serve on multiple active duty tours in contingency operations.
  5. Restore proportional parity between basic reserve MGIB (Chapter 1606, 10 USC) rates and the active duty program (Chapter 30).
  6. Repeal the 14-year in-service limitation for basic reserve benefits (Chapter 1606).
  7. Expand the scope of programs that can offer accelerated payments under the MGIB for designated training, education, and licensure / certification programs.
  8. Authorize “buy up” provisions for the reserve MGIB programs.
  9. Extend the post-service usage period for the MGIB.
  10. Repeal the $1200 payroll reduction for active duty service entrants.



MOAA believes that the first priority in creating a more effective MGIB is to evaluate proposals against the principle of aligning benefits with the length and type of duty performed by members of our nation’s armed forces team – active duty, National Guard and Reserve.  In short, a “total force” approach to the MGIB is needed.

In achieving this objective – an objective we believe is essential to better accomplish recruitment, reenlistment, and readjustment purposes –

MOAA strongly recommends that the Committee endorse the following approach to updating the MGIB.   

First, all active duty and reserve MGIB programs would be consolidated under Title 38.  DoD and the Services would retain responsibility for cash bonuses, MGIB “kickers”, and other enlistment / reenlistment incentives.  Second, MGIB benefit levels would be structured according to the level of

mil itary service performed.

The Total Force MGIB would restructure the MGIB as follows:

  • Tier one, the Active Duty MGIB (Chapter 30, Title 38) – initially, no statutory change.  Individuals who enter the active armed forces would earn MGIB entitlement unless they decline enrollment. 
  • Tier two, the Selected Reserve MGIB (Chapter 1606, 10 USC) -- MGIB benefits for a 6-year enlistment or reenlistment the Guard or Reserve.  Chapter 1606 would transfer to Title 38.  Congress should consider adjusting benefit rates to restore the originally intended relationship to the active duty program.   Historically, Selected Reserve benefits have been 47-48% of active duty benefits (vs. today’s 29%). 
  • Tier three, Reserve Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 1607, 10 USC), -- MGIB benefits for mobilized members of the Guard / Reserve on “contingency operation” orders.  Chapter 1607 would transfer to Title 38 and be amended to provide mobilized servicemembers one month of “tier one” benefits (currently, $1101 per month) for each month of activation after 90 days active duty, up to a maximum of 36 months for multiple call-ups.

A servicemember would have up to 10 years to use remaining entitlement under Tier One or Tier Three programs upon separation or retirement.   A Selected Reservist could use remaining Second Tier MGIB benefits only while continuing to serve satisfactorily in the Selected Reserve.  Reservists who qualify for a reserve retirement or are separated / retired for disability would have 10 years following separation to use their benefits.  In accordance with current law, in cases of multiple benefit eligibility, only one benefit could be used at one time, and total usage eligibility would extend to no more than 48 months.

Guard and Reserve Warriors Denied Earned Veterans’

Benefits Under REAP

Third-tier benefits are earned by mobilized reservists who serve the nation on active duty for at least ninety days during a national emergency under ‘contingency operation’ orders.  The REAP (Chapter 1607, 10 Code) benefit package was cobbled together with little consultation / coordination with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and other stakeholders.  For example, the benefit rate structure is based on an administratively cumbersome percentage of active duty MGIB Chapter 30 benefits.  Ironically, substantial benefits are awarded after 90 days service, but no post-service access to those benefits is authorized. 

Clearly, the principle of scaling benefits proportional to service performed was not used in fashioning REAP. 

The Total Force MGIB would address these concerns by establishing in law month-for-month entitlement to active duty MGIB benefits (Chapter 30).  With enactment of a portability feature for earned REAP benefits (the same 10 years established since WWII for non-Reserve active duty veterans), the program ultimately would be fairer to all members of the force and serve as an incentive for continued service in the Guard or Reserves. 

A restructured REAP would support DoD policy of calling up the “operational reserve” for one-year tours every five or six years.  The proposal would enable a G-R member potentially to acquire full MGIB entitlement after 36 months aggregate service on contingency operation orders.  DoD reports that more than 142,000 members of the Guard and Reserve already have served two or more tours of active duty.  

Presently, however, Chapter 1607 benefits are awarded only for a single tour of active duty.   Additional benefits cannot be earned for additional active duty service performed.  This becomes a built-in disincentive for continued service and can only hurt the morale of operational reservists.

A key feature of the total force MGIB proposal is that reservists mobilized for at least 90 days under federal contingency operation orders would have access to their remaining REAP benefits for up to 10 years after separation.  That is, they would be entitled to post-service readjustment benefits under the MGIB

America’s volunteer

mil itary – active duty and reserve component – become veterans when they complete their active duty service agreements.  When mobilized reservists return from an active duty call-up (under contingency operation orders) they become veterans of the Armed Forces, and no American would dispute that fact.  Why then should they be treated as second-class citizens for purposes of the MGIB?  If an active duty member who serves two years on active duty and no Iraq service may use MGIB benefits for up to 10 years after leaving service, do we not owe equal treatment to a Guard or Reserve member who serves two or more years in Iraq over a period of six or eight years of Guard/Reserve service?

Some argue that allowing post-service use of MGIB benefits earned on active duty would discourage continued service.  If that were actually true, the government would never have approved post-service use of MGIB benefits for active duty service men and women, whether their commitment is two years or more.  Moreover, the DoD survey of reserve component members (DoD Status of Forces Survey, November 2004) indicates that “education” is not a key component in extension or reenlistment decisions.  Moreover, a reenlistment or extension decision enables a servicemember to retain original Reserve MGIB benefits (currently, Chapter 1606) as well as the potential to earn more active duty MGIB entitlement through successive call-ups. 

Reservists who elect to continue their service in the Guard / Reserve, and are subsequently activated, would earn one month of active duty MGIB benefits for every month mobilized, up to 36 months of benefits.  In short, there is a built-in incentive to continue serving in the Selected Reserve because of the potential to earn more MGIB entitlement under the proposal.

MOAA strongly recommends that the Committee and House leadership ensure that in negotiations with the Senate over the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R.1585), the House insist upon final passage of Section 525 to recodify the MGIB in Title 38; and, Section 676 of the Senate bill, to establish a 10-year post-service readjustment benefit for MGIB benefits earned on active duty by reservists.     

Below is a summary of

MOAA ’s top ten priorities for updating the MGIB, along with other MGIB initiatives that we respectfully ask the Subcommittee to consider.  The summary is tied to legislation that has been introduced in both chambers in this session.

  • Transfer reserve MGIB programs from Title 10 to Title 38. (Section 525, H.R. 1585).  (See Total Force MGIB discussion, above).  MGIB jurisdiction is split between the Veterans Affairs Committees (Title 38), who handle traditional GI Bill benefits for active force members and the Armed Services Committees (Title 10) who handle Guard/Reserve GI Bill programs.  Title 38 benefits have been increased significantly in recent years, but Guard/Reserve benefits have not.  Because of the growing proportional benefit gap and the dramatic surge in duty requirements of our Guard/Reserve members, the total GI Bill program is no longer structured to match the nation’s

    mil itary policy for the operational integration of our active and reserve forces. 

    Benefits should be structured to match the length and type of duty performed by active duty and reserve component service men and women.  The House took an essential first step by favorably voting Section 525 as a provision in the FY 2008 Natl. Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 1585.  Section 525 is cost-neutral. (Section 525, H.R. 1585, S.644)

  • Establish a readjustment benefit (post-service use) eligibility period under the MGIB (Chap. 1607, 10 Code) for Guard and Reserve veterans of the War on Terror. (See Total Force MGIB discussion, above).  Regular active-force members have 10 years after leaving service to use their GI Bill – regardless of any deployment experience.  But Guard/Reserve members who have been mobilized for multiple tours in can’t use their mobilization-related GI Bill benefits once they complete their service obligation and separate.   Post-service access to benefits earned on active duty in defense of the nation is the only veterans’ benefit denied returning Guard and Reserve veterans.  It is

    MOAA understands that CBO informally has scored the cost of 10-year portability of such benefits at $50

    mil lion in 2008, $165

    mil lion over five years and $235

    mil lion over ten years.  The cost could be reduced by changing the effective date until 1 October 2008 (FY 2009) (retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001 and adjusting the post-service usage period to 5 years for each 12 months served on active duty  (the DoD call-up policy). (H.R. 1102, S. 644)

  • Raise MGIB monthly rates to cover the cost of education at the average four-year public college / university. (See Total Force MGIB discussion, above).   The present monthly rate for full-time study for active duty veterans is $1101 (Chapter 30, 38 U.S. Code), which covers about 75% of the current cost of education for books, fees, and expenses at the average four-year public college or university according to Dept. of Education data. The Partnership for Veterans Education has long sought benchmarking MGIB rates to track with the average cost at a four-year public college or university.  S.22, S.1409 would accomplish this objective but would use differing metrics to achieve it.   
  • Authorize cumulative month-for-month credit under the MGIB (Chapter 30, 38 Code) for reservists who serve on active duty in a contingency operation. (See Total Force MGIB discussion, above).  Operational reserve policy requires Guard and Reserve members to expect activation for 12 months at a time every five or six years.  Since 9/11, 132,000+ Guard and Reserve members have been activated two or more times.  Under the “total force MGIB” concept sponsored by the Partnership for Veterans Education, reservists should be able to aggregate multiple periods of active duty for MGIB entitlement up to the maximum allowable in law, 36 months. Currently, a Guard/Reserve member’s benefit is based on the longest single period of mobilization.  A member who has had two separate one-year mobilizations gains no added education benefit for the second mobilization. (H.R. 1102, S. 644, H.R. 81, S.22)
  • Restore proportional parity between basic reserve MGIB (Chapter 1606, 10 Code) rates and the active duty program. (See Total Force MGIB discussion, above).  The basic reserve MGIB rate was set at 47% of the active duty program in 1984 and retained that ratio for 15 years from 1985-1999.  Subsequent increases in active duty program benefit levels, combined with static reserve benefit levels, mean reserve MGIB rates have now dropped to less than 29% of the active duty program’s, at a time when Guard and Reserve recruiting is under enormous strain.  If proportional parity were restored in one year, basic reserve rates for full-time study would increase from $309 to $505 per month.  Stairstep increases would lower the cost over a three to five year period.  (H.R. 81)
  • Repeal the 14-year in-service limitation for basic reserve benefits (Chapter 1606).  As an incentive to continued service in the National Guard and Reserve, the 14-year limit on in-service use of basic reserve MGIB benefits should be repealed.  Reservists who remain in the Selected Reserve could use such benefits until they are exhausted.  S.1261 and H.R. 1330 would repeal the 14-yr limitation for in-service usage.  H.R. 1330 also would permit 10-years post-service access to Chapter 1606 benefits, a provision which DoD and the Partnership for Veterans Education oppose.  To clarify, the Partnership supports post-service use of mobilization-related GI Bill benefits, but not for the basic reserve MGIB benefits. 
  • Expand the scope of programs that can offer accelerated payments under the MGIB for designated training, education, and licensure / certification programs.  The law permits accelerated payments under the MGIB for programs leading to employment in the “high technology” industry.  To support veterans’ readjustment and employment opportunities, expansion of the accelerated payment authority is needed.  (S.1293, H.R. 1824, S.526, S.1278)
  • Authorize “buy up” provisions for the reserve MGIB programs.  Under “buy up,” active duty servicemembers may invest $600 of their own money in their MGIB accounts in $20 increments to yield an additional $150 per month in MGIB benefits above their basic entitlement.  Reservists have no such option. (S.1293)
  •  Extend the post-service usage period for the MGIB.  Congress wisely enacted a change in law in recent years to permit survivors of those killed in the War on Terror to have 20 years to use their Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance

    Benefits (Chapter 35, 38 U.S. Code).  Veterans themselves face daunting challenges in readjusting to civilian life.  Overcoming PTSD and employment challenges often takes years, leaving insufficient time to use the MGIB.  (S.22, S.1261)

  • Repeal the $1200 payroll reduction for active duty service entrants.  The MGIB should be an automatic entitlement for service entrants.  Federal student loan applicants obtain generous loans with no obligation of national service and no upfront costs; yet, armed forces recruits must forego $100 per month of their first year’s pay for the privilege of serving their country. S.723 would require reimbursement of the payroll reduction to War on Terror servicemembers and allow those who previously declined MGIB participation to enroll.  H.R. 81 would reimburse the pay reduction for MGIB participants who extend their service beyond the initial MGIB qualifying contract. 
  • Permit active duty service members who entered on / after Sept. 11, 2001 and made “an election not to receive” educational benefits under the MGIB – i.e., chose to disenroll --  a one-time opportunity to enroll.  Service men and women are bearing the brunt for the nation in the war on terror.  They should not be penalized for youthful decisions to withdraw from MGIB eligibility especially since such decisions often were made in the face of financial debt and fa

    mil y obligations during the early, stressful days of

    mil itary service. S.723

  • Exempt the value of MGIB benefits in the calculation of annual gross income for the purposes of applying for federal student loans.  Veterans are disadvantaged in applying for such loans because the value of their MGIB benefits is used against them (counted as income) in determining the amount of federal loans they may qualify for. H.R. 100
  • Allow active duty service members who were eligible for but declined enrollment in the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) (Chap. 32, 38 Code) to enroll in the MGIB prior to discharge / retirement.  The VEAP was a low-value program that allowed enrolled members to defer making their qualifying deposits until they were ready to use the benefit, and many education counselors recommended against enrollment.  Congress subsequently enacted changes in law that permitted VEAP participants to enroll in the MGIB for a $2700 late-enrollment penalty.  But those who declined participation in the VEAP program upon entrance (often based on being told it wasn’t a good program) were never made eligible for MGIB.  Currently serving men and women who declined VEAP at service entry should be afforded the same one-time MGIB enrollment opportunity as those who enrolled but made no deposit. 
  • Amend the MGIB transfer authority to permit all service participants to transfer up to half of their entitlement to dependents at the 12th- 14th year of service in return for a reenlistment agreement.  Current law gives each Service Secretary the authority to use “MGIB transferability to dependents” as a reenlistment incentive in critical skills at the 6th year of service.   Members may transfer up to half of their unused MGIB benefit, and benefits may be accessed by eligible dependents at the 10th year of service. 

    MOAA has long maintained that transferability should be used in conjunction with career reenlistment programs, but present rules hardly favor

    mil itary fa

    mil ies.  A limited USAF test of transferability under current rules yielded disappointing results.  The Army is currently offering transferability to fa

    mil y members in conjunction with a reenlistment contract, but requires the servicemember to forfeit a substantial portion of a cash reenlistment bonus.  Not surprisingly, the number of ‘takers’ has been very low to date.  The law should be modified to provide greater access to the transfer option for

    mil itary fa

    mil ies (but only as a full-career service incentive) for members who are motivated to provide for their spouse’s or children’s education.  (H.R. 81)

  • Cover the full cost of tuition, fees, and expenses for education and training programs at any public or private institution – a World War II-style GI Bill.  In one form or another, "World War II-style:" GI Bill legislation has been around for years.  What’s new is that unlike the citizenry of that era, only a minute fraction of the population – 1% -- is defending the other 99% in the war on terror, a conflict which has no known conclusion.  To address the enormous strain on

    mil itary recruitment and to support the readjustment to civilian life of the few who defend the many, Congress should consider a comprehensive GI Bill of educational benefits, recognizing that history shows the return value to America of the WWII program (in terms of increased productivity, increased career earnings, and increased tax revenue realized) far exceeded the original program’s cost to the government.  (S.22, S.1409)

  • Establish a stipend for living expenses associated with full-time education / training programs.  Many veterans are married with one or more dependent children or are single parents when they separate from

    mil itary service.  Economic, employment and fa

    mil y responsibilities work together to discourage use of MGIB benefits.  A cost of living stipend would enable more veterans to use their earned benefits, leading to more productive lives, higher incomes, and greater tax revenues for the nation.  (S.22)

  • Permit active duty and reserve component officers who graduated from a


    Academy or a SROTC scholarship program an enrollment opportunity in exchange for a service extension agreement.

      Officers from these commissioning programs are ineligible for the MGIB, based on the argument that the government already funded their bachelor’s degrees.  This is a short-sighted rationale, given that the services typically require their officers to obtain advanced degrees for promotion.  Further, the Army and its reserve components are severely understaffed in the grade of captain (03).  Fill rates range from about 50-60%.  In addition, the Army is offering Service-funded “tuition assistance” to officers in designated career fields.  Paired with the MGIB, this program would have greater potential to reduce company grade officer shortages. 
  • Refund the $1200 payroll reduction for active duty service members who entered service on / after Sept. 11, 2001.  In recognition of the service and sacrifice of those who continue to serve the nation in the war on terror, the MGIB enrollment “tax” on their first year pay should be refunded. S.723


Myth.  Current MGIB benefits for activated reservists are more generous than the “total force” proposal. 

Reality.  The Total Force

Montgomery GI Bill proposal ultimately would result in fairer and more generous benefits in two significant ways.   First, benefits earned on active duty could be used for up to 10-years following honorable separation.  That is not the case today.  Second,   benefits would accrue for multiple activations.  That is also not the case today.  Under current statutory interpretation, Chapter 1607, 10 USC entitlement is restricted to a single tour of active duty.  Yet, national policy calls for “operational reservists” to expect to be activated for 12 months every five or six years.  Reservists also can’t access their mobilization benefits after honorable service is completed.  Thus, even though it would appear that very short 90 day activations would result in greater benefits, they come with huge disincentives that hurt morale and don’t match continued service and sacrifice. The Total Force approach is more consistent with service call-up policies, fairer to the active duty and reserve forces, and ultimately more generous.  The following table compares Total Force proposal benefits to current-law benefit calculations:



6-Yr SELRES Contract





Chap   1606
(no change)

REAP - Chap 1607

Total Force





15 mos. AD Call-up


60% Chap 30: $23,781**

$1101 x 15 mos. =

2d Call-up, 12 mos AD




Chap 1606 Remainder


12 mos. 1606:






* Assumes continued service in the SELRES: if all Chap. 1607 exhausted, revert to 12 mos. of any remaining Chap. 1606 entitlement.  At separation, may access remaining Chap. 1606 immediately for “length of one activation, plus four months”

** All REAP entitlement forfeited at separation

*** 10-year post-service use of accrued REAP (only) using month-for-entitlement formula = $29,727 for full-time study.

In short, the total force proposal tracks with operational reserve policy and affords greater benefits consistent with the length and type of duty performed; and, unlike REAP, allows activated reservists to access earned benefits upon honorable completion of their service.

Myth:  Allowing post-service use of the MGIB for service on active duty by reservists would harm retention. 

Reality:  If the government really believed that, DoD and Congress never would have authorized 10 years of post-service benefit use for people who complete regular active duty service.  No one argues that GI Bill benefits entice regular servicemembers to leave service, so it makes no sense to argue that it would have any such enticement for Guard and Reserve members.

The Total Force MGIB proposal recognizes and rewards continued service in the reserve forces by allowing reservists to accrue additional MGIB entitlement under Chapter 1607 during successive call-ups, matching benefits to service performed.  Basic reserve MGIB benefits (Chapter 1606) are available for enlistment and reenlistment.  If the retention value of the MGIB were of concern, benefit rates would have kept pace with the 48% historic ratio of reserve-to-active duty benefits.  But those rates have dropped to 29% of active duty rates since September 11, 2001, devaluing them for recruitment and retention purposes.  Manpower planners rely on targeted cash bonuses to reach retention goals and these have proven to be successful for that.  Finally, the DoD’s own Status of Forces Survey (2004) of Guard and Reserve personnel indicates that “education” ranks far down the list of reasons why Guard / Reserve men and women remain in service or separate.

Myth: The MGIB overall is functioning well and “there are no significant shortcomings” according to DoD. 

Reality.  MGIB reimbursement rates account for only 75% of the cost of education at the average four-year public college / university.  Moreover, basic reserve benefits have dropped far below their historic ratio of 48% of active duty rates to 29% today.   Finally, “operational reservists” have no post-service access to benefits earned on active duty, nor may they accrue entitlement for more than one tour of active duty.  In comparison to its historic antecedents – the WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War era GI Bill programs – the MGIB has not kept pace with the cost of education.  Those programs generally paid all or nearly all of the costs of education / training as a readjustment benefit. 

MOAA recognizes that benefits for an All Volunteer Force should be structured to help meet DoD manpower and quality needs as well as effective readjustment outcomes.  Thus, a MGIB that meets more or all of the cost of education with no ($1200) payroll reduction “tax” would be a more effective tool for recruiters.  Armed Forces demographics in the 21st century also point to the need for a better MGIB.  That’s because service men and women serve much longer tours on average than conscript-era servicemembers did, and more than 60% of separating men and women are married or have dependent children.  A MGIB that doesn’t cover basic education costs increases the prospect that veterans with economic, skill or education deficits won’t take advantage of the MGIB. 

Myth.  The Total Force MGIB proposal would transfer responsibility for MGIB “kickers” from DoD to the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Reality.  Section 525 of the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1585) tranfers the reserve MGIB programs to Title 38 and retains within the Armed Services Committees’ jurisdiction the authority to fund and oversee MGIB kickers for the active duty and reserve forces.  Under Section 525, DoD and the Services would continue to determine eligibility for reserve MGIB programs and the VA would continue responsibility for administration and payment of all MGIB benefits to eligible participants.  Funding responsibility would transfer from the National Guard and Reserve Personnel Accounts to the VA.  (The VA has been responsible for active duty MGIB funding since 1984 based on Service enlistment / enrollment information). 


The Military Officers Association of America commends the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity for holding this hearing on the Montgomery GI Bill.  In passing its version of the defense authorization bill for FY2008, the House adopted a provision to recodify the reserve MGIB programs into Title 38.  Importantly, the House also adopted a “sense of the Congress” provision that activated reservists should have a readjustment period to use earned benefits at the completion of their service agreement or retirement. 

MOAA respectfully but strongly recommends that House leaders insist on these upgrades as essential first steps in restructuring the MGIB for our 21st century troops and veterans.