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House Approves G.I. Bill Extension

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In a near-unanimous vote, the House of Representatives has agreed to extend indefinitely the new GI Bill program, which provides financial aid to veterans pursuing a college degree.

By a 401-to-2 vote, the House late last month made the GI bill a permanent program. The new GI bill, passed in 1985, replaced the popular education grants authorized by the Congress after World War II.

Under the new program, the government will match, up to a maximum of $10,800, whatever military personnel can put toward their college education. The program was scheduled to expire in June.

The Senate is not expected to consider its own GI Bill until the first week in May.

"It would be a tragic mistake to shove such a critically important and successful program back into the closet without letting it achieve its full potential,'' said Representative G.V. "Sonny'' Montgomery, Democrat of Mississippi, the sponsor of the GI Bill extension and chairman of the House Veterans Committee.

Pentagon officials have strongly supported the extension, warning that the declining number of military-age men and women over the next decade will require the armed services to offer improved benefits in order to attract qualified volunteers.

Representative Gerald Solomon, Republican of New York, warned that the pool of eligible recruits will decline by nearly 2 million men and women over the next eight years.

"The success and very survival of the all-volunteer force are at stake,'' he said in a statement.

According to the Defense Department, more than 265,000 active-duty recruits have signed up for the benefits offered under the new G.I. bill. Another 46,000 participants are already enrolled in the nation's colleges and universities. --WM

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