GI Bill Provides College Money, More Benefits For Local Veterans

East Texas lawmakers and service members are calling the new GI Bill a huge victory. President Bush signed the bill into law Monday as part of a war funding package.

It will more than double the GI Bill college benefits for our troops and veterans.

After serving in the Marine Corps for 5 years, Darrell Geisendorff is now paying his dues in college.

"I'm doing some part time jobs and going to school full time...I didn't have any scholarships when I first started college, so it was hard. A lot of it was out-of-pocket and everything I had saved up from the military."

With this new bill, lawmakers say getting that college degree will be less stressful financially for current troops and some veterans.

"I was just thrilled that we got it through Congress," Representative Louie Gohmert told us today.

Over the next 10 years, the package includes 63 billion dollars in college aid for those who served after September 11th.

Lawmakers say that will cover 4 years in public college, a monthly housing stipend and $1,000 dollars a year for books.

Those who serve at least 3 years get the full benefit.

"The 100% tuition is outstanding. That's going to eliminate a lot of problems."

Plus, in the revised bill, the benefits could be passed on to a family member.

"I love the will allow veterans to either use their educational benefit or let a child or a spouse use the benefit," said Rep. Gohmert.

As for those still deployed, more than 160 billion dollars has been approved to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It makes sure that the troops who are in harm's way get what they need: they get the protection, the equipment...and so we got a clean bill that would fund them through next summer," Rep. Gohmert explained.

Though the benefits will kick in a little too late for him, Geisendorff says fellow Marines still serving are excited, and his work has paid off. He's set to graduate from UT Tyler this December.

Many hope the boost in benefits will equal a boost in recruiting numbers.

The package also provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for troops, and nearly 3 billion dollars in emergency flood relief for the Midwestern United States.

Courtney Lane, reporting.