With its history of expansions and additions to benefits for service members and veterans, the GI bill has been a life-changing piece of legislation since it first passed in 1944. Today, the GI bill helps qualifying veterans pay for higher education and training programs.
The original bill, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, expired in 1956, but the colloquial term “GI bill” refers to legislation that has created programs for veterans since then. The legislation was extended as the Montgomery GI bill and again in the form of the Post-9/11 GI bill.
Former President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI bill in 2017 which, in many cases, increased benefits and lengthened the time frame in which the veteran or service members must use their benefits.
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act
Concern about another depression when some 16 million service members returned to the U.S. after the second World War spurred the passage of the 1944 GI bill. Without formal job training outside the military, many of these service members would have been unemployed. After Congress passed the legislation, then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944.
The “GI Bill of Rights,” as it was dubbed, provided extensive benefits — job counseling, employment services, and tuition assistance for educational pursuits for honorably discharged veterans. These services kept veterans from flooding the job market all at once while increasing educational and employment opportunities to anyone who served after Sept. 16, 1940.
The bill also provided for home loans, gave $500 million to veterans hospitals and elevated the Veterans Administration to a war essential agency.
When it expired in 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million WWII Veterans were able to participate in an education or training program under the GI bill.
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Post-World War II Extensions
In 1984, Mississippi Rep. Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery proposed legislation to make the GI bill an enduring benefits program for veterans during peacetime, especially those returning from the Vietnam War. The legislation passed, and it is known today as the Montgomery GI bill, which assists veterans and service members in the pursuit of higher education. This program is available still today to applicable service members who served at least two years on active duty.
The GI bill was extended again in 2008 as the Post-9/11 GI bill, also known as the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. It expanded benefits for many members of the military who served on active duty after September 10, 2001. This legislation also created the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows higher education institutions to fund a specific portion of veterans’ and, if applicable, their dependents’ educations and have their contribution matched by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Post-9/11 GI bill gave a 15 year timeline for veterans to use their benefits or transfer them to dependents. Under President Donald Trump, this timeline was eliminated under The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, or as it’s commonly known, the Forever GI bill. The changes under this bill, passed unanimously by Congress, make it easier for guardsmen and reservists to qualify for benefits associated with the Post-9/11 GI bill.