Fighting for You: Soldier Wants Education Benefits Back, State Proposing New Law

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Imagine serving your country, being promised something for signing up not getting it. A former soldier believes the government broke its promise. Mike Wiley planned to pay his children’s college tuition using the money he earned serving in the Army.

Mike Wiley emailed WHNT NEWS 19 about the issue. The government acknowledges Wiley served, but is not giving him the money.

It all comes down to a rules change. Wiley collected education benefits for his wife and one child before, but can’t get those same benefits for his other two children.  The state’s Office of Veterans Affairs removed one word. Wiley feels he is trapped in a word game.

Wiley was a specialist in the Army. He worked six years in infantry.

“We stayed out in the woods a lot, got rained on and slept in the snow,” said Wiley.

Wiley traded in his enlistment in 1988 for the Alabama G.I. Dependents’ Scholarship. The benefit paid for his wife and son’s college education. Wiley wants to send one more child off to college.

“I applied for his benefits and was told he was not entitled because I did not serve during wartime. That’s by itself is confusing to me,” added Wiley.

Wiley served from 1982 to 1988.

“I felt very hurt. I basically feel used,” added Wiley.

The former soldier was confused, but kept pushing for the benefit. He called the Veterans Affairs Commissioner and Governor, but got no where.

WHNT NEWS 19 asked,” Did they really just say ‘I am sorry?”

Wiley replied, “Pretty much, pretty much ‘I am sorry, there’s nothing we can do.”

WHNT NEWS 19 did some digging and found out the state’s VA reviewed the state law authorizing the benefit in 2010. The VA discovered it had been issuing benefits the wrong way.

“Everybody gave something. Some more than others, but we all gave,” added Wiley.

Wiley is a peacetime veteran. The benefit was for wartime veterans. The agency stopped giving money to peacetime vets in 2011.

“It seems like a word game and they are playing with the word ‘war’,” added Wiley.

“I believe it is unfairly targeted, that this exclusion, now that we are going to suddenly apply the wartime provision.  What we are doing is working to do is have the wartime provision removed,” said State Senator Bill Holtzclaw.

Sen. Holtzclaw is working on a bill sponsored by State Senator Bryan Taylor to make things right for Wiley.

“It deletes the wartime service requirement from the law, so that we go back to the way the department has enforced the law or applied the law for decades,” said Sen. Taylor.

The senators believe the proposed bill will pass, but not easily. The bill’s passage would also reimburse Wiley for money he paid out-of-pocket since being denied benefits.

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