G.I. Bill

Feb 29, 2012

dictionary-150What is the G.I. Bill?

The G.I. Bill is commonly referred to as the G.I. Bill of Rights and is also known as The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944. It was signed into law on June 22, 1944 by President Roosevelt. The law provided a comprehensive benefits package that included up to four years of education or training, federally guaranteed home, business, or farm loans with no down payment, and unemployment compensation that set aside a weekly unemployment allowance of $20 for 52 weeks. Those eligible had to have been in active duty for at least 90 days, even if they were not in combat, and couldn't have been dishonorably discharged. The Veterans Administration was responsible for implementing these key components of the bill.

What's the significance?

While for most Americans higher education and home ownership were unattainable dreams before WWII, the G.I. Bill allowed millions of veterans to take part, and by 1947 they made up 49 percent of college admissions. By 1956, nearly 7.8 million of the 16 million WWII veterans had taken part in an education or training program and the VA had guaranteed 5.9 million home loans. It represented a huge contribution to the welfare of veterans and their families and to U.S. economic growth.

While it was a controversial bill, many agreed that they did not want to see a repeat of what happened after WWI. At that time, the Great Depression made it extremely difficult for veterans to assimilate into civilian society. Many were only compensated with a $60 allowance and a train ticket home. While they were supposed to get bonuses from the Bonus Act, they found out that they wouldn't see this money for 20 years and began protesting. The G.I. Bill was initially stalled due to disagreement in the Senate and House over the unemployment provision, as some believed this would make veterans lazy. However, after it was eventually passed, less than 20 percent of the funds set aside for unemployment benefits were actually used.

The education benefits didn't last long, and after the Veterans Adjustment Act of 1952 the government no longer paid tuition directly to colleges and universities, affecting veterans from the Korean War and the Vietnam War. While the 'Montgomery G.I. Bill' was introduced in 1984 to revamp the original and provide more money for education, it couldn't keep up with the rising cost of tuition in higher education and it was decided that a '21st Century G.I .bill' was needed.

The Post-911 G.I. Bill, also known as The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, went into effect in August 2009 and has greatly expanded the education benefits for those who were active duty on or after September 11th, 2011.

Who's talking about it?

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow David Woolner honors FDR's legacy and shows how the G.I. Bill opened up higher education for millions of americans...As of February 28th 2012, WAVY-TV 10 reports that G.I. Bill benefits are nearly 90 days late and that veterans are expressing their frustration on the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill Facebook page...Policy Mic criticizes the current G.I. Bill and writes that it's doing a bad job of providing for veterans...Jim Lehrer interviews historians and a journalist about how the G.I. Bill changed America...Salon.com reports on the passing of the new G.I. Bill in the Senate despite Republican opposition...NPR's "All Things Considered" discusses whether too much of the G.I. Bill money is going to for-profit education institutions...WBUR looks back on how the Bonus Army led to the GI Bill.

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