Sen. John McCain spoke at Memorial Day event in Albuquerque, NM about benefits for soldiers. McCain said that he believed in an increase in educational benefits but doesn’t support Sen. Jim Webb’s bill. McCain cited a study that said retention rates would be lowered by as much as 16% if Sen. Webb’s bill becomes law.
Partial Transcript via closed captions
I also believe we should provide veterans with a substantial increase in educational benefits. I have joined with colleagues to offer legislation that will do just that. The bill we’ve sponsored would increase monthly education benefits to $1,500 and eliminate the $1,200 enrollment fee and offering a hundred dollars annually for books and supplies. Very importantly, we would allow veterans to transfer those benefits to their spouses or dependent children or use a part of them to pay down existing student loans. We also I increase benefits to the Guard and Reserve and even more generously, to those who serve in the Selected Reserve.
I know that my friend and fellow veteran Senator Jim Webb, an honorable man, who takes his responsibility to veterans very seriously, has also offered legislation that would provide more generous benefits, for the men and women who serve, both Senator Webb and I are united in our deep appreciation for them. And I take a back seat to no one. My affection, respect and devotion to veterans.
I grew up in the Navy. I served 22 years as a Naval officer. And like Senator Webb, personally experienced the terrible cost war imposes on the veteran. The friendships, I formed in war, remain the closest relationships in my life. The Navy is still the world I know best. And love most.
But as you might know, I’m running for the office of commander in chief. That is the highest privilege in this country and it — that is the highest privilege in this country and it imposes the greatest responsibilities. And this is why I’m committed to our bill, despite the support Senator Webb’s bill is receiving.
It would be easier, much easier politically me to of joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation. More importantly, I feel, just as he does, we owe the veterans the respect and generosity of a great nation because no matter how generously we show our gratitude, it will never compensate them fully for all of the sacrifices they have borne on our behalf.
The most important difference between our two approaches is that Senator Webb offers veterans who served one enlistment, the same benefits as those offered veterans who have reenlisted several times. Our bill has a sliding scale. It offers generous benefits to all veterans but increases those veterans’ benefits according to the veterans’ length of service. It’s important to do that. Because, otherwise, we will encourage more people to leave the military after they have completed one enlistment.
At a time when the United States military is fighting in two wars and we’re finally, finally beginning the long overdue and very urgent necessity of increasing the size of the army and marine corps, one study estimates that Senator Webb’s bill will reduce retention rates by 16%.
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast May 26, 2008.