G. I. Bill of Rights
The GI Bill of Rights transformed America. The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more popularly known as the G. I. Bill of Rights was introduced in Congress in January 1944, and President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944. The G. I. Bill provided books, tuition, and a monthly stipend for veterans who enrolled in colleges and universities. More than 2 million veterans attended college on the G.I. Bill, and it is estimated that, in 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college students. Another 5 million veterans attended vocational schools or participated in on-the-job training opportunities funded through the G. I. Bill. The unemployment pay included in the G.I. Bill was known as 52/20 Club, which provided a payment of $20 dollars a week for up to 52 weeks while veterans looked for jobs following their discharge. Another 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.
Harry Colmery of Topeka was a member of the American Legion’s national legislative committee before, during, and after WWII. Between World War I and World War II, he worked to change regulations to allow veterans to be treated at Veteran’s Hospitals for non-service related illnesses and to allow for the expansions of the veteran’s hospital system. During WWII, he was involved in the debate of how to assist the millions of veterans that would be returning to the work force at the end of the war. Many feared a return to the Great Depression with men and women who had served their country joining the ranks of the unemployed after they were discharged. These members of the American Legion worked for the passage of the G. I. Bill
Historians believe that the benefits of the G. I. Bill changed the nature of American society in the years following WWII. Enrollment at colleges and universities increased dramatically, allowing millions of veterans to receive professional training and thus increase their earning potential. Suburbs were built to accommodate the boom in post war home building spurred by the G. I. Bill’s home loan provisions. The American Legion insisted that the provisions of the bill were also available to African-Americans and women. In essence, the middle class of the United States expanded with home ownership and college education for veterans and their children becoming the standard.
Subsequent versions of bills to benefit veterans were based on the first highly successful version.
Entry: G. I. Bill of Rights
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: February 2011
Date Modified: March 2013
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