In 1944 the Congress passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill of Rights, which rewarded World War II veterans with higher education benefits paid for by the federal government.
As a result, some 7.8 million returning veterans were afforded the chance to complete their education and prepare for the future - at four-year colleges, vocational schools or agricultural training programs.
The resulting efforts and enterprise of these veterans allowed the United States economy to flourish and laid the foundation for the technological, industrial and agricultural boom that would last for decades.
The men and women of today's military match the service, valor, and sacrifice of that Greatest Generation. Up until very recently, however, some of the benefits our active duty troops and veterans depend on for their education have not kept pace with rising education costs, or the needs of military families. They deserve benefits that will place a prosperous future within their grasp - whether in career military service or in the civilian job market.
In June, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, an emergency funding bill that included a sweeping measure to provide expanded education benefits to educate and equip our troops and veterans and their loved ones for future opportunities.
For more than a decade, troops and veterans have implored Congress to extend these benefits to military families. In 2005, the Army launched a pilot program allowing GI Bill funds to be transferred to the spouse of a service member with a critical skill. Although a good start, the provision was restrictive and limited transferability to a narrow group of beneficiaries.
The new GI Bill will allow a broader group of military personnel to transfer up to half of their unused benefits to their spouse or child after six years of service and the full amount after 10 years. In January, I introduced the Education Assistance Transferability Act of 2008, a separate bill that goes even further by allowing any service member - active duty, Guard or Reserve - who has paid into the GI Bill program the ability to transfer education benefits to his or her spouse or child once the service member has served six years and commits to additional service.
The revised GI Bill that passed broadens education benefits for all active duty military personnel, as well as eligible activated National Guard and Reserve members, who have paid into it and have served at least three years since Sept. 11, 2001. Veterans may receive educational benefits along with a cost of living stipend.
The law doubles the value of education assistance, and restores today's veterans' benefits to the levels of aid that enabled World War II veterans to thrive.
Finally, this bill will fund operations in two theaters of conflict well into 2009. It will provide our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan the resources and equipment they need to complete their mission and to help safeguard our nation from the violent threat of global terrorism.
In a time of war, when our nation's servicemen and women are bravely carrying out the Global War on Terror, it is critical that lawmakers come together and stand behind our troops. With passage of this legislation, Congress has provided our outstanding military service men and women, and their families who sacrifice so much, what they need and deserve - both on the battlefield, and for their futures.
Kay Bailey Hutchison is a U.S. Senator for the state of Texas. Readers may contact her via telephone at (210) 340-2885.