In 1993, the Air Force Association (AFA) — “an independent, nonprofit, civilian education organization promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation” — awarded Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) the W. Stuart Symington Award, AFA’s top award for civilian contributions to national defense. While presenting the award, the AFA noted McCain’s “continued championing of programs important to the men and women of the armed forces.”
Since then, McCain’s record on veterans issues may have given the AFA pause. Most recently, McCain has been a vocal opponent of the Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) 21st Century GI Bill. He offered his own watered-down version of the bill but shut out most veterans groups from the crafting of the legislation. Now the AFA and McCain have officially parted ways, with the AFA endorsing Webb’s bill, S.22:
Updating the bill to tie it to the current costs as proposed in S. 22 will help Airmen achieve a complete four-year education and thus a better quality of life after serving, while bolstering recruitment efforts throughout the military and helping lower post-military unemployment rates of veterans.
McCain has claimed he has the support of “literally every veterans organization in America.” Yet the AFA is just one of many groups who object to McCain’s opposition to the GI Bill — a bill he found so unimportant he skipped the vote on it:
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “The GI Bill is the military’s single most effective recruitment tool…an expanded GI Bill will play a crucial role in ensuring that our military remains the strongest and most advanced in the world.”
American Legion: “This bill would encourage young men and women to join the military.”
Military Officers Association of America: “We believe the new ‘greatest generation’ deserves an education benefit more consistent with that the government provided the World War II generation.”
Student Veterans of America: “After years of dedicated and dangerous service in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans must now battle to afford an education upon returning home. … Student Veterans of America calls on the members of the 110th Congress to support…S.22.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars: “The group’s national commander, George Lisicki, emerged from a meeting with the president expressing strong support for…[Webb's] legislation.”
This is only a partial list of the 15 veterans groups — not to mention the 30 governors — who have endorsed Webb’s bill.