Statement: “There are 700,000 of those veterans in college right now,” mayoral candidate and Congressman Bob Filner said March 14 of veterans who’ve benefitted from a congressional bill he supported.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: Appealing to San Diego’s military families and returning veterans has been a major theme of the mayoral election so far.

All four major candidates — Filner, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and City Councilman Carl DeMaio — have emphasized plans to create jobs for the city’s veterans. Fletcher has highlighted his Marine service along the campaign trail, while Filner has boasted of his legislative track record.

At a forum last week, Filner cited legislation called the G.I. Bill for the 21st Century, also known as the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Passed by Congress in 2008, the bill expanded education benefits for veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty since September 2001.

Filner pushed for the legislation as chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee and often says he authored the bill to honor his father, who benefitted from a similar bill for World War II veterans. Filner said at the forum last week:

They can get a college education at no cost to them and an ability to buy a house with very little down payment. There are 700,000 of those veterans in college right now and it was one of the achievements that I’ve had. And I’m looking forward to apply that kind of leadership to the city of San Diego.

Because Filner cited the number of veterans to prop up the law’s impact and therefore his own credentials, we decided his statement merited a Fact Check. Are 700,000 veterans currently enrolled in the program Filner helped create?

For the answer, we referred to a statement by Keith Wilson, the Veterans’ Affairs official who oversees the federal program, posted on the VA’s official blog March 8.

Wilson wrote that more than 400,000 veterans have applied for the program this spring and a cumulative total of more than 700,000 veterans have received the benefits since they became available in 2009.

So the 700,000 figure Filner cited during the mayoral forum represented the cumulative impact of the G.I. Bill, not how many veterans are currently enrolled in college. Because that’s an important nuance, we’ve knocked the statement’s accuracy down to Mostly True.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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