Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is launching an investigation into an Army error that left thousands of National Guard soldiers without G-I Bill educational benefits. The guardmembers include over 600 members of the Iowa National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry based in Waterloo.
Braley says the investigation will focus on three questions: why the Iowa National Guard troops and others were denied educational benefits in the first place, whether the Army and Department of Defense are taking action to resolve the problem in a timely manner, and whether other guard units have been denied benefits currently, or in the past. The issue with the Iowa National Guard has gotten lots of attention and politicians from both parties have pledged to help rectify the situation.
Braley says there still needs to be an investigation. He says the problem is the circumstances arise on a case-by-case basis, and the subsequent publicity prompts the Army to act, but Braley says that does nothing to stop the problem from happening in the first place. Braley says this is similar to the problem where the extension of the 133rd’s tour of duty was announced to the media before families were told.
Braley says they want to get to the bottom of why it happened and what steps the Army is taking to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and to determine if others have been impacted, so they can have a broad solution. Braley says he’s been given assurances by an undersecretary of the Department of Defense that the Iowa soldiers will be able to get the benefits, even as the investigation continues.
Braley says the department has done some aggressive outreach with the Minnesota National Guard to solve the problems and expedite their appeal. Braley says he’s confident that they are focused on fixing the problem, but says he made it clear that he expects he promise to be fulfilled in time for the spring semester.
The problem developed when the Pentagon wrote orders for Iowa and Minnesota National Guard troops that left them one to five days short of meeting eligibility requirements for educational benefits under the GI Bill. That despite the Iowans serving the longest continual deployment of any ground combat unit in Iraq.