Timothy McMahon: Veterans’ GI Bill choices should not be limited | TribLIVE.com
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Timothy McMahon: Veterans’ GI Bill choices should not be limited

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After four years of serving our country in the Air Force, I began a career as an educator in Pennsylvania. For 4½ decades, I have worked with students and employers all across Pennsylvania to give students in-demand skills and give employers career-ready graduates.

At Triangle Tech, we have had the privilege of educating thousands of former service members. Recently, we have been discussing with our student veterans and alumni veterans why they chose to attend our career schools versus some other type of school in the community, and asked them what they think about proposals in Congress to limit access for veterans.

Some are surprised to learn that there are a number of proposals that, if enacted, would dictate to veterans where their earned GI Bill education benefits could be used. This would severely limit their choices to pursue an education at a career school like Triangle Tech. The GI Bill benefits were promised to every veteran who signed up to protect America. Any limitation on the education benefits earned by veterans would be a disservice and a broken promise.

I am a beneficiary of the original GI benefit, as it was my only option for pursuing higher education. I was one of seven kids; my father was a city police officer, and the only way I could afford to pursue an education was to join the Air Force. Luckily for me and so many others, the Air Force did everything it promised to do for me. While I had no clue at the time what my plans would be following my time in the Air Force, I now know that if I had come out of the military and had limitations on where I could take my benefit, it would have changed the direction of my career. And that’s what we should be concerned about with the legislation in Congress that will limit veterans’ choices.

Veterans’ freedom to choose where they pursue an education is extremely important because our nation’s veterans are capable people. Veterans are Americans who have functioned in a completely different environment, who are used to making difficult decisions under duress. It is beyond me, and so many other veterans, to think that lawmakers believe we don’t have the capacity to decide which education is best for us.

Today at Triangle Tech, we enroll over 200 veterans, around 20% of our student population. For those student veterans and every student enrolled, we assign a career adviser, a financial adviser and an academic adviser to make sure each student is reaching his or her potential. We go above and beyond to provide a cost-effective, high-quality career education so that our students — and student veterans — walk out of the door well prepared and well on their way to a successful career of their own choosing.

How can lawmakers in Washington tell my student veterans who so willingly sacrificed for the liberty of our great nation, that one school is better for their future than another? Personal freedom is ingrained in our country.

Veterans have a choice, and that choice should remain available to all those who served and those currently in uniform. Whether it be a community college down the road, a traditional four-year university, or a welding and fabrication career program, veterans know what is best for their own future.

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