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Texas veterans in college can’t win for losing


The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Jan. 9 not to hear the case of a Georgia man, who moved to Texas after his discharge from the military, then sued for inclusion in the state’s Hazlewood Act of 1923.

The piece of legislation waives tuition at public state universities for honorably discharged military veterans—or their children—who enlisted in the military while living in Texas.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled that it was acceptable only for Texas veterans to be included in receiving an education at Texas institutions tuition free. Personally, I can say that this was a relief. As a Texas veteran, I am counting on the Hazlewood Act to pay for my son’s higher education when the time comes, since my education is already paid for through the G.I. Bill and my Hazlewood Act money remains untouched.

Had the case been heard by the Supreme Court and the lower court’s ruling been overturned, the cost to the state of Texas for the Hazlewood Act—an estimated $380 million by 2019—could have ballooned even higher. Luckily, the Supreme Court decided that in this case it was acceptable for Texans to have something of their own.

Unfortunately, Texas Republicans decided not to leave this victory well enough alone. A bill introduced by Texas Senator Brian Birdwell, R-Grandbury, which did not pass last session would have drastically changed the Hazlewood Act to exclude more eligible people. This upcoming session, Republicans plan to attempt to change the Hazlewood Act in one way or another—to save Texas as much money as possible.

On the “Grand Old Party’s” website, the first page referencing veterans states, “we must honor those who served in the armed services to defend our freedom. The Republican Party is committed to providing our veterans the care and dignity they deserve.” It seems that Texas Republicans may not have read this portion of the GOP’s website.

Then again, if the president himself cannot be expected to read the veteran’s portion of the site, how can the members of the Texas House.

Just below the above statement is another statement that reads, “the Republican Party seeks to end the backlog in the Department of Veteran Affairs. Our veterans have earned our respect, and they shouldn’t have to wait in line for months or years just to see a doctor.”

How much does President Trump care about this portion of the GOP’s pledge to help veterans? Veterans who have waited for months on end to be seen at the VA hospital? Veterans who have committed suicide while waiting to be seen in the backlogged mental health clinics at the VA hospital? Veterans who have died from various diseases and sicknesses due to lack of treatment while waiting on the VA backlog?

Well, President Trump helped them by signing an executive order on his third day in office, which placed a freeze on the VA hiring any new employees to fill any of the 45,000 vacancies within the hospital system. Then again, as with everything so far during the Trump transition and flurry of executive orders, this order is also very confusing and may or may not be a complete hiring freeze. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs requested clarification—perhaps due to a lack of communication within the bureaucracy—and was told that some jobs were still eligible for hiring.

Point being, the GOP has a website with a lot of promises to veterans, none of which seem to be of any importance to the actual members of the GOP.

So now I must wonder if I need to save for my kid’s college. If a promise that was made to me and my fellow veterans years ago can be yanked out from under us by a group of Republicans, who would rather save money in this area than, I don’t know, maybe “tax credits for billion-dollar corporations, sales tax exemptions on gun sales, tax breaks for yacht buyers and billions on border security.”

Those were not my words, they are from state Representative Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, who is also a veteran. In an article recently for the Texas Tribune, the UTEP alumna wrote that money could be taken from plenty of other places and that during the “last legislative session, veterans were caught off guard by efforts to scale-back Hazlewood.”

He stated that this session they would not be. He and his Democratic counterparts will be ready to fight, and so should Texas veterans—for their own sake and the sake of their children’s education.

While we’re at it—we might as well be ready to fight against that other guy, who has no idea about the GOP’s commitment to veterans either.

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Jason Green, Contributor
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Texas veterans in college can’t win for losing