The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m), known informally as the G.I. Bill, was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to every veteran who had been on active duty during the war years for at least ninety days and had not been dishonorably discharged; combat was not required. By the end of the program in 1956, roughly 2.2 million veterans had used the G.I. Bill education benefits in order to attend colleges or universities, and an additional 6.6 million used these benefits for some kind of training program.
Since the original 1944 law, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service. Historians and economists consider the G.I. Bill a major political success—especially in contrast to the treatments of World War I veterans—and a major contribution to America's stock of human capital that sped long-term economic growth.
On June 22, 1944, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 became a law, commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights.
During the war, politicians wanted to avoid the postwar confusion about veterans' benefits that became a political football in the 1920s and 1930s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted a postwar assistance program to help transition from wartime, but he also wanted it on a need-basis for poor people, not just veterans. The veterans' organizations mobilized support in Congress that rejected FDR's approach and provided benefits only to veterans of military service, including men and women. Ortiz says their efforts "entrenched the VFW and the Legion as the twin pillars of the American veterans' lobby for decades."
Harry W. Colmery, a former national commander of the American Legion and former Republican National Chairman, is credited for writing the first draft of the G.I. Bill. He reportedly jotted down his ideas on stationery and a napkin at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland, D-Arizona, was actively involved in the bill's passage and is known, with Warren Atherton, as one of the "fathers of the G.I. Bill." One might then term Edith Nourse Rogers, R-Mass, who helped write and who co-sponsored the legislation, as the "mother of the G.I. Bill". Like Colmery, her contribution to writing and passing this legislation has been obscured by time.
The bill was introduced in the House on January 10, 1944, and in the Senate, the following day, both chambers approved their own versions of the bill.
The bill that President Roosevelt initially proposed had a means test—only poor veterans would be aided. The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932 when World War I veterans protested for years they had not been rewarded.
An important provision of the G.I. Bill was low interest, zero down payment home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Another provision was known as the 52–20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52–20 Club was distributed. Rather, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.
After World War II
A look at the available statistics reveals that these later bills had an important influence on the lives of returning veterans, higher education, and the economy. A greater percentage of Vietnam veterans used G.I. Bill education benefits (72 percent) than World War II veterans (51 percent) or Korean War veterans (43 percent).
Moreover, because of the ongoing military draft from 1940 to 1973, as many as one third of the population (when both veterans and their dependents are taken into account) were eligible for benefits from the expansion of veterans’ benefits.
The success of the 1944 G.I. Bill prompted the government to offer similar measures to later generations of veterans. The Veterans’ Adjustment Act of 1952, signed into law on July 16, 1952, offered benefits to veterans of the Korean War that served for more than 90 days and had received an “other than dishonorable discharge.” Korean War veterans did not receive unemployment compensation—they were not members of the "52–20 Club" like World War II vets, but they were entitled to unemployment compensation starting at the end of a waiting period which was determined by the amount and disbursement dates of their mustering out pay. They could receive 26 weeks at $26 a week that the federal government would subsidize but administered by the various states. One improvement in the unemployment compensation for Korean War veterans was they could receive both state and federal benefits, the federal benefits beginning once state benefits were exhausted.
One significant difference between the 1944 G.I. Bill and the 1952 Act was that tuition fees were no longer paid directly to the chosen institution of higher education. Instead, veterans received a fixed monthly sum of $110, which they used to pay for their tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. The decision to end direct tuition payments to schools came after a 1950 House select committee uncovered incidents of overcharging of tuition rates by some institutions under the original G.I. Bill in an attempt to defraud the government.
Although the monthly stipend proved sufficient for most Korean War veterans, the decision would have negative repercussions for later veterans. By the end of the program on January 31, 1965, approximately 2.4 million of 5.5 million eligible veterans had used their benefits: roughly 1.2 million for higher education, over 860,000 for other education purposes, and 318,000 for occupational training. Over 1.5 million Korean War veterans obtained home loans.
Whereas the G.I. Bills of 1944 and 1952 were given to compensate veterans for wartime service, the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-358) changed the nature of military service in America by extending benefits to veterans who served during times of war and peace. At first there was some opposition to the concept of a peacetime G.I. Bill. President Dwight Eisenhower had rejected such a measure in 1959 after the Bradley commission concluded that military service should be “an obligation of citizenship, not a basis for government benefits.” President Lyndon B. Johnson believed that many of his “Great Society” social programs negated the need for sweeping veterans benefits. But, prompted by unanimous support given the bill by Congress, Johnson signed it into law on March 3, 1966.
Almost immediately critics within the veterans’ community and on Capitol Hill charged that the bill did not go far enough. At first, single veterans who had served more than 180 days and had received an “other than dishonorable discharge” received only $100 a month from which they had to pay for tuition and all of their expenses. Most found this amount to be sufficient to pay only for books and minor fees, and not enough to live on or attend college full-time. In particular, veterans of the Vietnam War disliked the fact that the bill did not provide them with the same educational opportunities as their World War II predecessors. Consequently, during the early years of the program, only about 25% of Vietnam veterans used their education benefits.
In the next decade, efforts were made to increase veterans’ benefits. Congress succeeded, often in the face of fierce objections from the fiscally conservative Nixon and Ford Administrations, to raise benefit levels. In 1967, a single veteran’s benefits were raised to $130 a month; in 1970 they rose to $175; under the Readjustment Assistance Act of 1972 the monthly allowance rose to $220; in 1974 it rose to $270, $292 in 1976, and then $311 a month in 1977.
As the funding levels increased, the numbers of veterans entering higher education rose correspondingly. In 1976, ten years after the first veterans became eligible, the highest number of Vietnam-era veterans were enrolled in colleges and universities. By the end of the program, proportionally more Vietnam-era veterans (6.8 million out of 10.3 million eligible) had used their benefits for higher education than any previous generation of veterans.
The United States military moved to an all-volunteer force in 1973, and veterans continued to receive benefits, in part as an inducement to enlist, under the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) and the Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB). From December 1976 through 1987, veterans received assistance under the VEAP. The VEAP departed from previous programs by requiring participants to make a contribution to their education benefits. The Veterans Administration then matched their contributions at a rate of 2 to 1. Enlisted personnel could contribute up to $100 a month up to a maximum of $2700. Benefits could be claimed for up to 36 months.
To be eligible for VEAP, a veteran had serve for more than 180 days and receive an “other than dishonorable discharge.” Nearly 700,000 veterans used their benefits for education and training under this program.
In 1985, a bill sponsored by Democratic Congressman "Sonny" Gillespie V. Montgomery expanded the G.I. Bill. The MGIB replaced the VEAP for those who served after July 1, 1985. This was an entirely voluntary program in which participants could choose to forfeit $100 per month from their first year of pay. In return, eligible veterans received a tuition allowance and a monthly stipend for up to 36 months of eligible training or education.
Congress did not include merchant marine veterans in the original G.I. Bill, even though they are considered military personnel in times of war in accordance with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. As President Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill in June 1944 he said: "I trust Congress will soon provide similar opportunities to members of the merchant marine who have risked their lives time and time again during war for the welfare of their country." Now that the youngest veterans are in their 80s, there are efforts to recognize their contributions by giving some benefits to the remaining survivors. In 2007, three different bills related to this issue were introduced in Congress, one of which passed the House of Representatives only.
All veteran education programs are found in law in Title 38 of the United States Code. Each specific program is found in its own Chapter in Title 38.
Unlike scholarship programs, the MGIB requires a financial commitment from the service member. However, if the benefit is not used, the service member cannot recoup whatever money was paid into the system.
In some states, the National Guard does offer true scholarship benefits, regardless of past or current MGIB participation.
In 1984, former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery revamped the G.I. Bill. From 1984 until 2008, this version of the law was called "The Montgomery G.I. Bill". The Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty (MGIB) states that active duty members forfeit $100 per month for 12 months; if they use the benefits, they receive as of 2014[update] $1564 monthly as a full-time student (tiered at lower rates for less-than-full-time) for a maximum of 36 months of education benefits. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses if the veteran is enrolled full-time. Part-time veteran students receive less, but for a proportionately longer period. This means for every month the veteran received benefits at the half-time, the veterans benefits are only charged for 1/2 of a month. Veterans from the reserve have different eligibility requirements and different rules on receiving benefits (see Ch. 1606, Ch. 1607 and Ch. 33). MGIB may also be used while active, which only reimburses the cost for tuition and fees. Each service has additional educational benefit programs for active duty members. Most delay using MGIB benefits until after separation, discharge or retirement.
The "Buy-Up" option, also known as the "kicker", allows active duty members to forfeit up to $600 more toward their MGIB. For every dollar the service member contributes, the federal government contributes $8. Those who forfeit the maximum ($600) will receive, upon approval, an additional $150 per month for 36 months, or a total of $5400. This allows the veteran to receive $4,800 in additional funds ($5400 total minus the $600 contribution to receive it), but not until after leaving active duty. The additional contribution must be made while still on active duty. It is available for G.I. Bill recipients using either Ch. 30 or Ch. 1607, but cannot be extended beyond 36 months if a combination of G.I. Bill programs are used.
MGIB benefits may be used up to 10 years from the date of last discharge or release from active duty. The 10-year period can be extended by the amount of time a service member was prevented from training during that period because of a disability or because he/she was held by a foreign government or power.
The 10-year period can also be extended if one reenters active duty for 90 days or more after becoming eligible. The extension ends 10 years from the date of separation from the later period. Periods of active duty of less than 90 days qualify for extensions only if one was separated for one of the following:
- A service-connected disability
- A medical condition existing before active duty
For those eligible based on two years of active duty and four years in the Selected Reserve (also known as "call to service"), they have 10 years from their release from active duty, or 10 years from the completion of the four-year Selected Reserve obligation to use MGIB benefits.
At this time, service members cannot recoup any monies paid into the MGIB program should it not be utilized.
Service members may use GI bill in conjuntion with Military Tuition Assistance (MilTA) to help with payments above the MilTA CAP. This will reduce the total benefit available once the member leaves service.
- College, business
- Technical or vocational courses
- Correspondence courses
- Apprenticeship/job training
- Flight training (usually limited to 60% for Ch. 30, see Ch. 33 for more flight information)
Under this bill, benefits may be used to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree at a college or university, a cooperative training program, or an accredited independent study program leading to a degree.
Montgomery G.I. Bill "Chapter 31" is a vocational rehabilitation program that serves eligible active duty servicemembers and veterans with service-connected disabilities. This program promotes the development of suitable, gainful employment by providing vocational and personal adjustment counseling, training assistance, a monthly subsistence allowance during active training, and employment assistance after training. Independent living services may also be provided to advance vocational potential for eventual job seekers, or to enhance the independence of eligible participants who are presently unable to work.
In order to receive an evaluation for Chapter 31 vocational rehabilitation and/or independent living services, those qualifying as a "servicemember" must have a memorandum service-connected disability rating of 20% or greater and apply for vocational rehabilitation services. Those qualifying as "veterans" must have received, or eventually receive, an honorable or other-than-dishonorable discharge, have a VA service-connected disability rating of 10% or more, and apply for services. Law provides for a 12-year basic period of eligibility in which services may be used, which begins on the latter of separation from active military duty or the date the veteran was first notified of a service-connected disability rating. In general, participants have 48 months of program entitlement to complete an individual vocational rehabilitation plan. Participants deemed to have a "serious employment handicap" will generally be granted exemption from the 12-year eligibility period and may receive additional months of entitlement as necessary to complete approved plans.
The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) is available for those who first entered active duty between January 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985, and elected to make contributions from their military pay to participate in this education benefit program. Participants' contributions are matched on a $2 for $1 basis by the Government. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses.
Chapter 33 (Post-9/11 G.I. Bill)
Congress, in the summer of 2008, approved an expansion of benefits beyond the current G.I. Bill program for military veterans serving since September 11, 2001, originally proposed by Senator James Webb. Beginning in August 2009, recipients became eligible for greatly expanded benefits, or the full cost of any public college in their state. The new bill also provides a housing allowance and $1,000 a year stipend for books, among other benefits.
The VA announced in September 2008 that it would manage the new benefit itself instead of hiring an outside contractor after protests by veteran's organizations and the American Federation of Government Employees. Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake stated that although it was "unfortunate that we will not have the technical expertise from the private sector," the VA "can and will deliver the benefits program on time."
Pending Changes to the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
In December 2010 Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010. The new law, often referred to as G.I. Bill 2.0, expands eligibility for members of the National Guard to include time served on Title 32 or in the full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR). It does not, however, cover members of the Coast Guard Reserve who have served under Title 14 orders performing duties comparable to those performed by National Guard personnel under Title 32 orders.
The new law also includes:
Effective October 1, 2011, a new (reduced) housing stipend for online (distance) learners, which pays $673.50 for students who pursue a full-time degree program online. If the student is pursuing training on a part-time basis, then the student must have at least a 51% rate of pursuit, in order to receive 1/2 of the maximum allowable distance BAH.
Prorated Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments will now be in effect. Before August 1, 2011, if the veteran had at least a 51% rate of pursuit (7 credit hours for most programs) then the veteran received the entire E-5 w/ dep BAH. Effective August 1, 2011, the VA will pro-rate BAH payments based on the veterans actual rate of pursuit. This means if the veteran is attending 9 semester hours in a semester where 12 hours is considered full-time, then the rate of pursuit is 80% (9/12 =75%, rounded to the nearest tenth). The veteran will then be paid 80% of the maximum BAH award allowed by the VA.
Break pay is no longer payable after August 1, 2011. Before 8-1-11 if the veteran had two periods of enrollment with a break not exceeding 6 weeks in length, the VA would pay for the break period at the rate of the previous period of enrollment. The new change will result in many "uneven" BAH payments because more periods will be subject to pro-ration. For example, if the veteran is attending a term ending 8-13-11, and the next term begins 8-22-11, then the veteran will not be paid for the break between enrollment periods. In this case if the veteran is full-time, and his or her maximum BAH rate is $1500 per month, then he or she will receive (13/30)x$1500 = $650 for the end of the first period of enrollment, then the veteran will receive (10/30)x$1500 = $500 for the beginning of the second period of enrollment. Effectively, the change in break-pay means the veteran will receive $1150 per month for August instead of $1500 per month. This have a significant impact in December - January BAH payments since most Colleges have 2-4 week breaks.
Another change enables active-duty servicemembers and their G.I. Bill-eligible spouses to receive the annual $1,000 book stipend (pro-rated for their rate of pursuit), adds several vocational, certification and OJT options, and removes the state-by-state tuition caps for veterans enrolled at publicly funded colleges and universities.
Changes to Ch. 33 also includes a new $17,500 annual cap on tuition and fees coverage for veterans attending Private Colleges and foreign colleges and universities.
The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA) provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or who died while on active duty or as a result of a service related condition. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. Spouses may take correspondence courses
The Montgomery G.I. Bill — Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) program may be available to members of the Selected Reserve, including all military branch reserve components as well as the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses.
The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) is available to all reservists who, after September 11, 2001, complete 90 days or more of active duty service "in support of contingency operations." This benefit provides reservists return from active duty with up to 80% of the active duty (Chapter 30) G.I. Bill benefits as long as they remain active participants in the reserves.
MGIB comparison chart
|Type||Active Duty MGIB Chapter 30||Active Duty Chap 30 Top-up||Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Chapter 33||Voc Rehab Chapter 31||VEAP Chapter 32||DEA Chapter 35||Selected Reserve Chapter 1606||Selected Reserve (REAP) Chapter 1607||Additional Benefits Tuition Assistance||Additional Benefits Student Loan Repayment Program|
|Time Limit (Eligibility)||10 yrs from last discharge from active duty.||While on active duty only.||15 yrs from last discharge from active duty.||12 yrs from discharge or notification of service-connected disability, whichever is later. In cases of "extreme disability", the 12-year timeline can be waived.||Entered service for the first time between January 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985;Opened a contribution account before April 1, 1987;Voluntarily contributed from $25 to $2700||While in the Selected Reserve||
While in the Selected Reserve. If separated from Ready Reserve for disability which was not result of willful misconduct, for 10 yrs after date of entitlement.
|On the day you leave the Selected Reserve; this include voluntary entry into the IRR.||On the day you leave the Selected Reserve; this include voluntary entry into the IRR.|
|Months of Benefits (Full Time)||36 months||36 months||36 months||48 months||1 to 36 months depending on the number of monthly contributions||up to 45 months||36 Months||36 Months||Contingent as long as you serve as a drilling Reservist.||Contingent as long as you serve as a drilling Reservist.|
- Glenn C. Altschuler and Stuart M. Blumin, The GI Bill: a new deal for veterans (2009) p 118
- Olson, 1973 and see also Bound and Turner 2002; and /
- Stephen R. Ortiz, Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill: how veteran politics shaped the New Deal era (2013) p xiii
- Ortiz, Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill: how veteran politics shaped the New Deal era (2009) p xiii
- The GI BILL's History: Born Of Controversy: The GI Bill Of Rights
- James E. McMillan (2006). Ernest W. McFarland: Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Governor and Chief Justice of the State of Arizona : a biography. Sharlot Hall Museum Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-927579-23-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=_NAmWD6lvfMC.
- See The Historical Development of Veterans' Benefits in the United States: A Report on Veterans' Benefits in the United States by the President's Commission on Veterans' Pensions, 84th Congress, 2d Session, House Committee Print 244, Staff Report No. 1, May 9, 1956, pp. 160-161. Also see "The New GI Bill: Who Gets What," Changing Times (May 1953), 22 and Congress and the Nation, 1945-1964: A Review of Government and Politics in the Postwar Years, Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1965, 1348.
- Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2007
- GI-BILL History
- Buy-Up Program
- Davenport, Christian, "Expanded GI Bill Too Late For Some", Washington Post, October 21, 2008, p. 1.
- More Details on GI Bill 2.0
- Montgomery G.I. Bill Guidelines for Active Duty (MGIB)
- Montgomery G.I. Bill - Active Duty - (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
- Top-up Tuition Assistance - Military Veteran Education Benefits - G.I. Bill Veteran Resources
- Tuition Assistance Top-up - (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
- VEAP - Military Veteran Education Benefits - G.I. Bill Veteran Resources
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) - (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
- Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program - (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
- Montgomery G.I. Bill Guidelines for Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
- MGIB-SR General Information - (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
- Payment Rates
- Payment Rates
- Payment Rates
- Payment Rates
- Bound, John, and Sarah Turner. "Going to War and Going to College: Did World War II and the G.I. Bill Increase Educational Attainment for Returning Veterans?" Journal of Labor Economics Vol. 20, No. 4 (October 2002), pp. 784–815 in JSTOR
- Humes, Edward (2006). Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream. Harcourt. ISBN 0-15-100710-1.
- Jennifer Keane, Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)
- Kathleen Frydl, "The G.I. Bill," Ph.D dissertation, University of Chicago, 2000.
- Olson, Keith, "The G. I. Bill and Higher Education: Success and Surprise," American Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 5 (December 1973)596-610. in JSTOR
- Olson, Keith, The G.I. Bill, The Veterans, and The Colleges (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974)
- Ross, David B., Preparing for Ulysses: Politics and Veterans During World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969).
- Bennett, Michael J., When Dreams Came True: The G.I. Bill and the Making of Modern America (New York: Brassey’s Inc., 1996)
- Greenberg, Milton, The G.I. Bill: The Law That Changed America (New York: Lickle Publishing, 1997).
- Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
- Boulton, Mark, "A Price on Freedom: The Problems and Promise of the Vietnam Era G.I. Bills," Ph.D dissertation: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2005).
- Stanley, Marcus (2003). "College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills". pp. 671–708. Digital object identifier:10.1162/003355303321675482.
- Van Ells, Mark D. To Hear Only Thunder Again: America's World War II Veterans Come Home. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001.
- The American Legion's MyGIBill.org
- The Department of Veteran Affairs' GI Bill website
- Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors analysis of the MGIB
- Education Fact Sheet for Guard & Reserve Members
- Education Benefits Available by States
- Web-Enable Education Benefits System
- GI Bill top up program
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