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Servicemen's Readjustment Act

Servicemen's Readjustment Act

G.I. Bill

Legislation

By: United States Congress

Date: June 22, 1944

Source: "Servicemen's Readjustment Act." U.S. Congress, June 22, 1944.

About the Author: The Congress of the United States was established by Article 1 of the United States Constitution of 1787. It is the legislative arm of the U.S. Federal Government.

INTRODUCTION

The 1944 Servicemen's Readjustment Act, popularly known as the G.I. Bill, provided assistance to veterans returning to civilian life after military service during World War II. One of the most successful bills ever enacted by Congress, it dramatically expanded the ranks of the middle class.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into law on June 22, 1944. It provided five benefits to veterans: education and training; guaranteed loans for a home, farm, or business; unemployment pay of $20 per week for up to one year; job placement assistance; and review of dishonorable discharges. The act also called for the building of additional Veteran's Administration hospitals. To be eligible for G.I. Bill benefits, a World War II veteran had to have served ninety days or more after September 1940 and had to have been honorably discharged. A veteran received one year of full-time education plus a period equal to his or her time in service up to a maximum of forty-eight months. Educational institutions received up to a maximum of $500 per year for each veteran admitted for tuition, books, fees, and other costs. The Veterans Administration paid an unmarried veteran an allowance of up to $50 a month while veterans with dependents received additional money.

The legislation emerged from Congress after months of intense debate and parliamentary maneuvering. Opposition came from those concerned about the possible effects that the bill might have on admissions standards at colleges and universities. The eventual success of the legislation is attributed to the American Legion, which publicized the G.I. Bill from its introduction in January 1944 until its passage.

PRIMARY SOURCE

SERVICEMEN'S READJUSTMENT ACT

AN ACT

To provide Federal Government aid for the readjustment in civilian life of returning World War II veterans.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944."

TITLE I

CHAPTER I—HOSPITALIZATION, CLAIMS, AND PROCEDURES

SEC. 100. The Veterans' Administration is hereby declared to be an essential war agency and entitled, second only to the War and Navy Departments, to priorities in personnel, equipment, supplies, and material under any laws, Executive orders, and regulations pertaining to priorities, and in appointments of personnel from civil-service registers the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs is hereby granted the same authority and discretion as the War and Navy Departments and the United States Public Health Service: Provided, That the provisions of this section as to priorities for materials shall apply to any State institution to be built for the care or hospitalization of veterans.

SEC. 101. The Administrator of Veterans' Affairs and the Federal Board of Hospitalization are hereby authorized and directed to expedite and complete the construction of additional hospital facilities for war veterans, and to enter into agreements and contracts for the use by or transfer to the Veterans' Administration of suitable Army and Navy hospitals after termination of hostilities in the present war or after such institutions are no longer needed by the armed services; and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs is hereby authorized and directed to establish necessary regional offices, sub-offices, branch offices, contact units, or other subordinate offices in centers of population where there is no Veterans' Administration facility, or where such a facility is not readily available or accessible: Provided, That there is hereby authorized to be appropriated the sum of $500,000,000 for the construction of additional hospital facilities.

SEC. 102. The Administrator of Veterans' Affairs and the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy are hereby granted authority to enter into agreements and contracts for the mutual use or exchange of use of hospital and domiciliary facilities, and such supplies, equipment, and material as may be needed to operate properly such facilities, or for the transfer, without reimbursement of appropriations, of facilities, supplies, equipment, or material necessary and proper for authorized care for veterans, except that at no time shall the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs enter into any agreement which will result in a permanent reduction of Veterans' Administration hospital and domiciliary beds below the number now established or approved, plus the estimated number required to meet the load of eligibles under laws administered by the Veterans' Administration, or in any way subordinate or transfer the operation of the Veterans' Administration to any other agency of the Government.

Nothing in the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, as amended, or any other Act, shall be construed to prevent the transfer or detail of any commissioned, appointed or enlisted personnel from the armed forces to the Veterans Administration subject to agreements between the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy and the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs: Provided, That no such detail shall be made or extend beyond six months after the termination of the war.

SEC.103. The Administrator of Veterans' Affairs shall have authority to place officials and employees designated by him in such Army and Navy installations as may be deemed advisable for the purpose of adjudicating disability claims of, and giving aid and advice to, members of the Army and Navy who are about to be discharged or released from active service.

SEC. 104. No person shall be discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces until his certificate of discharge or release from active duty and final pay, or a substantial portion thereof, are ready for delivery to him or to his next of kin or legal representative; and no person shall be discharged or released from active service on account of disability until and unless he has executed a claim for compensation, pension, or hospitalization, to be filed with the Veterans' Administration or has signed a statement that he has had explained to him the right to file such claim: Provided, That this section shall not preclude immediate transfer to a veterans' facility for necessary hospital care, nor preclude the discharge of any person who refuses to sign such claim or statement: And provided further, That refusal or failure to file a claim shall be without prejudice to any right the veteran may subsequently assert.

Any person entitled to a prosthetic appliance shall be entitled, in addition, to necessary fitting and training, including institutional training, in the use of such appliance, whether in a Service or a Veterans' Administration hospital, or by out-patient treatment, including such service under contract.

SEC. 105. No person in the armed forces shall be required to sign a statement of any nature relating to the origin, incurrence, or aggravation of any disease or injury he may have, and any such statement against his own interest signed at any time, shall be null and void and of no force and effect.

SIGNIFICANCE

The G.I. Bill ended in July 1956. The program had a dramatic impact upon American higher education by increasing the number of students. In the peak year of 1947, veterans accounted for forty-nine percent of all college enrollments. Almost eight million veterans received training at a total cost to the government of $14.5 billion. Additionally, the program helped control the unemployment rate after demobilization and allowed veterans to enter the labor market with additional skills.

Although the G.I. Bill technically applied equally to both men and women, comparatively few women took advantage of its benefits. While the virtues of the G.I. Bill were extolled to male veterans, the same effort at spreading the information was not made for women. Upwards of a third of female veterans did not even know they were eligible for the G.I. Bill. There were also several provisions of the bill that discriminated against women, specifically the portions that dealt with the reception of benefits by widowers. While WACs (women in the Army after 1943), SPARs (women in the Coast Guard), Women Marines, and WAVES (women in the Navy) were included from the beginning in the G.I. Bill, it was not until the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s that WAACs (women in the Army from 1941 to 1943) and WASPs (women in the Air Service) were awarded benefits, most of which had expired. The discrimination against male dependents and survivors of female veterans lasted until 1972.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Bennett, Michael J. When Dreams Came True: The G.I. Bill and the Making of Modern America. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 1996.

Gelber, Sidney. Politics and Public Higher Education in New York State: Stony Brook. New York: P. Lang, 2001.

Greenberg, Milton.The G.I. Bill: The Law That Changed America. New York: Lickle, 1997.

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