Today in 1944, president FDR put his name to the G.I. Bill. It was a wide-ranging law that provided a suite of benefits for returning veterans of World War II. The legislation was framed by the American Legion, with the intention of giving benefits to the majority of WWII vets without major delay.
After the first World War, American veterans were infuriated by postponed life insurance payouts. The controversy lasted for years, and the G.I. Bill was designed to prevent a repeat of the same.
Veterans who qualified for the Bill received tuition payments, living stipends to attend high school, cheap mortgages, low-interest business loans and an entire year of unemployment pay. To qualify, veterans were required to have been on active duty during the War for at least ninety days, without dishonorable discharge. The G.I. money was also not taxed.
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It was a significant success. Nearly eight million vets utilized the G.I. Bill. Just over two million of them pursued higher education on the Bill and 5.6 million received professional training. The gains made are credited with helping fuel the post-war boom that led to ensuing decades of prosperity. Canada, who implemented similar programs, also enjoyed a resultant economic boost.
The Bill was, and is, not without problems. Many businesses jumped on the opportunity to rake in G.I. dollars. There was not much regulation. Half-cocked colleges proliferated, then shuttered when the boom in enrollments subsided.
The G.I. Bill continues to be seen as a bright spot in American governance. It is difficult to imagine such a piece of legislation being put forward today without accusations of communism.