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CC February 25, 2010

Commander's Communique for February 25, 2010

 
The Commander's Communique is your bi-weekly source for talking points relevant to the issues of the day affecting the Wisconsin American Legion.  It is intended to be used as a tool to communicate the Legion's message to your members and the public.  Print it out and take it your Post meeting and make sure that everyone is informed.
 
Operation Comfort Warriors needs your vote
We are in the final days for voting in the Operation Comfort Warriors/Pepsi Refresh program, still holding second place and "in the running" for a $250,000 grant.
 
We don’t know how far behind first place we are or how close the current third-place holder might be, so we must garner as many votes as possible every day until the close of voting on Sunday, February 28 at midnight.
 
On Tuesday, February 23, national headquarters issued a call to action with email notification to more than 300K addressees. I ask that you be a "force multiplier" by issuing this notice to fellow Legionnaires, family and friends on your business and personal email address lists. Remind them daily that they can vote daily.
 
Here’s hoping that National Commander Hill can make the announcement at the 2010 Washington Conference that Operation Comfort Warriors is a winner.
 
Click this link to vote. http://www.refresheverything.com/operationcomfortwarriors
 
 
Big 12 Pledge
At the beginning of the 2010 membership year. Commander Endres made a pledge that the Department of Wisconsin would be at 91.67% of our membership goal by March 10th.
 
We are very close to making this, so please make sure that any memberships you are holding are mailed in to Department Headquarters as soon as possible.
 
If we meet the goal, the Department will receive a grant in the amount of $2,000 from National to purchase new technology for Department Headquarters.
 
 
Phone Blast
This Saturday, members who have not renewed their membership for 2010 will receive a phone call from Commander Endres asking them to do so.
 
The call is being scheduled to coincide with renewal notices which will be mailed by the National organization and are scheduled to arrive next week.
 
Please follow-up with your expired members and ask them to get their renewals in.
 
It is easy to renew online, just visit our homepage at www.wilegion.org.
 
GI Bill Legislation
State Representative Steve Hilgenberg is introducing legislation titled "The Wisconsin GI Bill Enhancement Act" in an effort to fix problems with the way the GI Bill is being implemented in the state.  The Department feels that this is a step in the right direction and is cautiously optimistic about the legislation.  The Department is encouraging members to contact their legislators and ask that legislation be introduced that would restore the full benefits provided under the Wisconsin GI Bill.
 
Below is information on the legislation provided by Representative Hilgenberg's office:
 
Wisconsin GI Bill
In 2005, Wisconsin lawmakers created a tuition remission program, known as the Wisconsin GI Bill, for eligible veterans who entered service from Wisconsin and certain family members who are students at any University of Wisconsin (UW) System or Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) institution.
 
The Wisconsin GI Bill provides a full waiver (“remission”) of tuition and fees for eligible veterans and their dependents for up to 128 credits or 8 semesters, whichever is longer, at any UWS or WTCS institution.  There were no restrictions on the level of collegiate study (undergraduate or graduate) and veterans were able to use this benefit in conjunction with existing federal education programs, such as the Montgomery GI Bill.
 
Implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Limits to the Wisconsin GI Bill
 
In 2008, Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which creates a new federal GI bill, known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill expands the educational benefits for veterans who have served since September 11, 2001.
 
Unlike the Montgomery GI Bill, under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the federal government provides upfront tuition payments directly to the school –as well as a monthly living allowance and a book stipend directly to the veteran.  Because the federal government pays tuition and fees directly to the school, states like Wisconsin stand to gain millions in federal payments and remission savings.
 
Accordingly, the arrival of the Post-9/11 GI Bill prompted a modification of the Wisconsin GI Bill as part of the 2009-2011 biennial budget.  The new provisions require, with minimal exceptions, that if a student is eligible for any Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, they must use those benefits before accessing the Wisconsin GI Bill, starting with the spring 2010 semester.  If a student does not use available Post-9/11 benefits, the student cannot receive the Wisconsin GI Bill tuition remission. 
 
This requirement was enacted to maximize the capture of federal dollars for UW and WTCS schools and provide Wisconsin GI Bill savings.  Accordingly, current estimates suggest that over the next biennium, usage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill by all eligible current users of the Wisconsin GI Bill will reduce Wisconsin GI Bill expenses by $26 million.
While these new provisions produce important savings for UW and WTCS institutions, there is legitimate concern within the veterans community that these changes reduce the benefits and undercut the educational opportunities dedicated to Wisconsin veterans and their families.
 
The primary concern involves the relationship between federal and state benefits and the amount of Wisconsin GI Bill benefits (credits or semesters) available to eligible users.  A section of the new provisions is being interpreted as requiring a credit-for-credit loss of Wisconsin GI Bill benefits for every credit of Post-9/11 benefits used.  In other words, any use of Post-9/11 benefits reduces total benefits available under the Wisconsin GI Bill, whether the veteran is using the Wisconsin GI Bill or not.
 
It is our steadfast position that veterans should not be required to forfeit the entirety of their state benefits simply because they exercise their entitlement to a federal benefit.  This is not consistent with the original intention of the Wisconsin GI Bill.  Furthermore, this change effectively negates the value of the state benefit in terms of flexible use.  Veterans will in most cases be limited to undergraduate degrees.  Also, veterans will garner a greater benefit by seeking undergraduate education out of state to avoid the loss of credits, and many of these veterans will choose not to return for employment purposes.
 
The Wisconsin GI Bill Enhancement Act
 
LRB 3490/4 restores partial access to the Wisconsin GI Bill after a veteran’s federal benefits are exhausted, thereby ensuring that (1) Wisconsin maximizes federal funding and (2) veterans have access to the benefits they need as they transition back to civilian life.
 
This bill requires UW and Tech College institutions to grant full remission of academic fees charged for 128 credits or 8 semesters, whichever is longer, less 50 percent of the number of credits or semesters for which the student received educational assistance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the federal Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Program, or the federal Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Act.  Accordingly, the bill permits a student to receive up to 64 credits or 4 semesters from the Wisconsin GI Bill after they have exhausted their benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
 
This bill is designed to effectively marry state and federal programs so as to maximize the capture of federal dollars while preserving veterans benefits for current and future users.  In doing so, it restores the Wisconsin GI Bill to its original purpose:  to supplement federal benefit programs to better ensure that Wisconsin veterans have the opportunity reshape their careers, support their families, and enrich Wisconsin’s economy.
 
 
Eat at Sobelman's amd Tall Grass Inn on Sunday!
On February 28th, Dave Sobelman will again hold a fundraiser for The Wisconsin American Legion Troop and Family Support Fund at his restaurants in Milwaukee.
 
$1 from ever burger and $1 from every bottle of Sprecher Root Beer sold will be donated to the Fund.
 
Please visit one of his two restaurants on February 28th and show your support.
 
Tall Grass Inn
1952 N Farwell 
Milwaukee 
414-273 4727
 
Sobelman' Pub and Grill
1900 St Paul Ave 
Milwaukee
414-931-1919
 
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