Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) asked his colleagues on Monday to support his proposal to reinstate GI Bill benefits for veterans who have been thrown out as a result of the Biden govt.’s vaccine requirement.
Smith’s proposal would ensure that no troops get anything other than an honorable discharge for failing to comply with the mandate, allowing them to keep their earned educational perks.
He is pleading with his colleagues to include his plan in the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2023, which is set to be decided on later this week.
The plan would improve on current law by converting “generic” discharges to “honorable” discharges, which are prohibited under the vaccine mandate.
“Congress must take immediate action to reinstate the education benefits taken from the brave men and women who accepted our Nation’s calling to serve and then were forcefully dismissed as a result of Pres. Biden’s COVID vaccine requirement,” Smith stated in a statement.
“As the former Head of the House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs and the writer of the Veterans Education & Benefits Expansion Program of 2001, it is my firm belief that our Country’s veterans deserve the utmost respect for their service and courageous sacrifices in the defense of democracy and freedom,” he continued.
Smith also supports and has drafted legislation to restore troops who were dismissed due to the mandate, but his present proposal would ensure that the individuals who stay separated due to the mandate receive at least their educational benefits.
Smith stated in a letter to the leaders and senior members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that his plan was prepared in response to contact from many people who were dismissed with a “general” discharge due to the mandate and were in danger of losing their benefits.
“This is an unacceptable way to treat our brave service men and women who place their lives in danger and sacrifice so much in order to preserve and protect our freedoms and safety,” said Smith, former head of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and writer of the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001.
“Our country’s veterans, who deserve the highest respect for their valiant sacrifices to safeguard our democracy,” he said, “must be guaranteed the hard-earned benefits they were promised.”
When Smith proposed his plan as a revision to the House’s version in July, Democrats on the Rules Committee stopped it, denying it a vote by the entire House.