This article originally appeared on the National Review
It should come as little surprise that veterans oppose this exploitation of the HEROES Act.
President Biden’s unconstitutional executive order allocating $430 billion for student-debt forgiveness is being framed by the administration and its media cheerleaders as a lifeline for current and former students. But how do veterans feel about it, considering that the White House, in an effort to carry out its plan, is exploiting a law originally intended to benefit service members and others?
According to a poll of 6,202 veterans conducted by Mission Roll Call, a leading veterans’ advocacy organization, 76 percent said they disapprove of the push to forgive student-loan debt for those who haven’t served in the military.
Their view should carry weight. After all, Biden issued the order citing the post-9/11 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act, which gives the secretary of education the power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs” when “necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”
Not only is the “emergency” phase of the Covid-19 pandemic — which was the justification claimed by the administration — widely considered to be over, but Cole Lyle, executive director of Mission Roll Call, stressed the fundamental detail that this law was enacted to “help those who served in the war on terror and face undue financial stress as a result of their deployment.”
Further, this scale of student-debt relief would only exacerbate the military’s recruitment crisis, which has become a national-security problem. Last year, for example, the Army failed, by about 25 percent, to achieve its target of recruiting 60,000 new soldiers. In offering to millions of Americans who haven’t served benefits comparable to what military personnel have historically received through the GI Bill, Biden has further eroded a major incentive for joining the services. This could not come at a more inopportune moment as the nation enters an age of revived great-power competition with China and Russia.
Lyle explained that “a wide swath of people that join the military come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and it can be a springboard to the middle class through things like the GI Bill for people who would otherwise not have the financial means to access these resources. Unfortunately, as this benefit becomes more widely available, the GI Bill’s incentives are degraded.” The fact that Biden’s plan compounds this issue is evidence that “the veteran perspective was excluded from the policy-making process,”
Another concern veterans have with the Biden administration’s student-debt-relief program is how it cheapens the significance of military service. Veteran sacrifices are diminished when the exclusive benefits they have earned are universalized. In an op-ed for Fox News, Lyle argued that “policies that forgive student loan debt minimize [veterans’] efforts and experiences.”
The authors of the 2002 statute, meanwhile, have filed an amicus brief in Biden v. Nebraska and in Department of Education v. Brown, the two cases before the Supreme Court that are challenging the executive order, “to make clear that Congress never intended anything like the loan cancellation effort underway here.”
For millions of veterans across the nation, military service is a family affair. A small minority of Americans have shouldered the burdens of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving veterans and their families a unique perspective on the challenges confronting our military. When policy-makers ignore their input in weighing the merits of a relevant new initiative, it’s no wonder they bristle at the outcome.