At the 2008 American Legion convention in Phoenix, Arizona, last week,
representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs took part in a round-table
session on the new G.I. Bill
, where they discussed plans to
outsource the bill's implementation. According to participants at the
roundtable, the department's plans received a frosty reception from veterans organizations and
members of Congress in attendance.
Derek Blumke, president of Student Veterans of America
and one of the roundtable participants, said in a Facebook message that
the department plans to outsource not just the start-up of the new G.I.
bill--which will deliver education benefits for veterans on par with
those enjoyed by WW-II-era veterans--but the long-term operations as
well. His message said "The feedback around the table was unanimous. No
one wants this to happen!!!"
Blumke cited the likely problems in holding the department accountable for its performance when contractors are involved, and
recent experiences in outsourced telephone help lines, which reportedly had
long waits on hold and automated systems that hung up on callers.
The American Legion passed a resolution at the convention urging the department to hire regular staff instead of outsourcing. In a related statement
, Marty Conatser, the national commander of the American Legion, said, "Our newest generation of veterans deserve the benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, not outside contractors."
According to the statement, Rep. Harry Mitchell
, D-Ariz., the House sponsor of the new G.I. Bill, told Legionnaires he was disappointed as well. "I just cannot believe that we'd ever allow this to happen," Mitchell said. "The level of service won't be the same."