Besides providing economic relief and financial benefits to returning veterans, the G.I. Bill strongly stimulated the post-World War II economy as veterans spent their government benefits on education opportunities and private housing. As an ongoing program, the G.I. Bill continues to provide economic opportunities to former members of the armed forces.
The U.S. government has a long history of rewarding veterans of its wars. Veterans of the Revolutionary War and early nineteenth century wars received land bounties as compensation for their services, and the government promised veterans of World War I (1917-1818) a cash bonus that veterans would collect in 1945. The onset of the Great Depression caused many veterans to demand their money early, and the 1932 clash between protesting veterans demanding their bonuses (the Bonus Army) and the army caused great embarrassment for the government and the U.S. Army. To prevent a reoccurrence of the Bonus Army, the government decided to implement a system of compensation to World War II veterans known as the G.I. Bill (“G.I.” was a World War II slang term for a common soldier), that provided assistance immediately, instead of years later like the World War I bonus.
Although Franklin D. Roosevelt often receives the credit for the G.I. Bill as part of his New Deal programs, the G.I. Bill (officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the G.I. Bill of Rights) was the result of proposals by Henry W.
The G.I. Bill was a significant reason that American society and the economy changed so rapidly after World War II. Thanks to subsidized
The availability of easy home loans also significantly changed the American economy and landscape, as 5.9 million veterans applied for
The original G.I. Bill of 1944 expired in 1956, but the concept of veteran compensation continued, with all subsequent legislation still referred to as G.I. bills. In 1952 Congress passed the Veterans’ Adjustment Act to compensate veterans of the Korean War (1950-1953). There were some minor differences between the World War II and Korean G.I. Bills, but the outcome was broadly similar. More than two million Korean War veterans used the G.I. Bill to go to college, and 1.5 million financed new homes. The G.I. Bill underwent a significant change in 1966, when Congress passed the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act (VRBA) as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society slate of social programs. The VRBA removed the requirement of serving in combat to receive government benefits, and instead made G.I. Bill benefits available to anyone who served in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime. Since 1966 the G.I. Bill has undergone a series of modifications and adjustments, but the fundamental benefits subsidizing education and home ownership remain the same. The Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB), enacted by Congress in 1985, provides educational stipends to former members of the military who contribute a small portion of their pay during their time in the service. The Post 9/11 Veterans Assistance Act of 2008 (effective date August, 2009) substantially increased the amount of tuition and housing assistance, allows veterans to transfer benefits to their spouses and children, and provides tuition benefits for National Guard and Reserve members.
Humes, Edward. Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream. New York: Harcourt, 2006. Excellent study of the G.I. Bill that offers a full description of the political struggle to create the bill and a discussion of how the law changed America’s definition of middle-class status. Mettler, Suzanne. Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation. New York: Oxford, 2005. An examination of the G.I. Bill from an economic standpoint, this book looks at how the G.I. Bill created a concept of civil virtue out of a successful government program. Michel, Christopher. The Military Advantage: A Comprehensive Guide to Your Military and Veterans Benefits. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. An insider’s look at the G.I. Bill, this book contains a good history of the G.I. Bill and a clear explanation of benefits offered to American military personnel. Simon, Richard. “Bush Signs Emergency War Funding Measure: It Also Expands Veterans Benefits Under the G.I. Bill and Extends Unemployment Aid.” Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2008, p. A5.
World War I
World War II