Today June 22, 2012 marks the 68th anniversary of the signing of the G.I. Bill of Rights, or technically the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. Originally meant only for those who served in times of war, it was adjusted in 1966 to extend benefits to those who serve in times of war or peace. Since that time there have been other changes but the original intent to help those who serve in our military remains intact.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made many reforms during his administration, but this one piece of legislation has lasting benefits for anyone who serves this country in our armed forces.
The bill was meant to not only help servicemen and women but also to avoid a relapse into another depression after the end of World War II. The American Legion, a veteran’s organization was instrumental in forming many of the provisions of the bill. Truth is, they fought hard to get access to funding for benefits like education, low-interest home and business loans, and the unemployment compensation package included in the bill.
The implementation of the bill opened doors, and helped veterans cope when returning to the US from World War II. Even today, it still provides aid and help to them and their families in ways that might never have been possible without this bill.
In my opinion the best benefit of the G.I. Bill is the educational one. I believe that this could be the one which can be the most life transforming. Before World War II, college was an option for only about 10-15% of Americans but by 1947 veterans made up nearly half of the nation’s college enrollment. When you have an education (formal or informal), at any cost, you move yourself up to another level. Your ability to get a job, keep a job, make a living wage and succeed in whatever you chose increase.
The G.I. Bill was one of the major forces that fueled expansion in the U.S. lasting over 30 years. The impact on America in 50+ years has been enormous. Over 20 million veterans have taken advantage of the provisions for education, and a whopping 14 million homes were able to be purchased through it’s loans guarantees.
The newest revision of the bill (signed in 2009) extended benefits to veterans of the war on terrorism, post 9/11, including those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families, reservists and National Guard members.