Congressman Collin Peterson -- Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District
Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2007
CONTACT: 
Allison Myhre/218-731-1657

Peterson & Walz send Letter to Army Secretary Regarding GI Bill Benefits for the 1/34TH Brigade Combat Team

(Washington, D.C.) – In a letter sent to Army Secretary Geren, Representatives Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, as well as four other members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, expressed their concern that some members of the 1/34th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the Minnesota National Guard are not able to receive full GI Bill benefits despite their extended tour of duty in Iraq. 

The letter, which Walz and Peterson circulated among their colleagues after hearing of the problem from the Minnesota National Guard, states “We are deeply concerned that the soldiers of the 1/34th BCT of the Minnesota National Guard are not all able to receive Active Component GI Bill benefits,” and asks the Army Secretary to take action to ensure that all members of the unit will be able to receive their full benefits.

In order to qualify for full, Active Component educational benefits under the GI bill, soldiers must serve at least 22 months on Active Duty and must be ordered to Active Duty for 730 days or longer. Walz and Peterson said that 1,162 of the unit’s soldiers meet the 22-month deployment requirement, but fall short of the 730 day requirement. 

“When I first learned of this issue, I could not believe that the brave members of this unit were not all able to receive full GI Bill benefits,” Walz said. “These dedicated men and women have sacrificed 22 months of their lives in service to their state and country and they deserve every service-related educational benefit the federal government has to offer. I look forward to Army Secretary Geren’s response and I will continue to fight to ensure these soldiers receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

The soldiers of the 1/34th BCT recently returned from a lengthy deployment in Iraq, which was the longest continuous tour of any U.S. ground combat unit in the Iraq War.

“Our National Guard soldiers have served longer than any ground combat unit in this war, and this discrepancy in their GI Bill benefits is not acceptable,” Peterson said. “The Army needs to take action on this matter immediately.”

The text of the letter follows. 


The Honorable Preston M. Geren, III
Secretary of the Army
Office of the Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon Washington, DC 20310-0101


Dear Secretary Geren:

We are deeply concerned that the soldiers of the 1/34th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the Minnesota National Guard are not all able to receive Active Component GI Bill benefits and seem to lack a coherent set of orders. These soldiers have recently returned home from a 22 month mobilization, including a 16 month deployment to Iraq. Their tour, which was extended due to the President’s surge strategy, was the longest of any ground combat unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Nearly half of the unit’s 2,600 Minnesotan soldiers either qualify or nearly qualify for the Active Component GI Bill entitlements. These soldiers meet the 22-month deployment and MOS requirements. However, 1,162 of the unit’s soldiers fall just a few days short of the 730 day requirement. We feel the issue arose when the units had their orders amended due to the extension. Different elements of the same unit had different numbers of days listed on their orders –some orders were for 730 days and some were not – even though they were all deployed together.

It is our hope that you can reissue a new set of orders to those soldiers who do not meet the 730 day requirement. We are confident that this particular issue can be resolved through action by your office, and that all members of the 1/34th BCT can be made eligible for the full active component educational benefits. 

We urge you to address this matter in a timely fashion, and to take action to ensure that Guard and Reserve members returning home from extended deployments in Iraq receive all the benefits to which they are entitled. Thank you for your careful consideration of this matter. 

Sincerely, 

Collin C. Peterson, Member of Congress
Tim Walz, Member of Congress
Jim Oberstar, Member of Congress
Betty McCollum, Member of Congress
Keith Ellison, Member of Congress
Michelle Bachmann, Member of Congress

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