gi bill

G.I. Bill

The G.I. Bill (officially titled Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, PL346, 58 Statutes at Large 284) provided for college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs or G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses.


Largely written and proposed as an omnibus bill by Warren Atherton (1891-1976), the G.I. Bill is sometimes considered to be the last piece of New Deal legislation . U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland was actively involved in the bill's passage and is known, with Atherton, as one of the "fathers of the G.I. Bill.

The bill which President Franklin D. Roosevelt initially proposed was not as far reaching. The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repeat of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War I ended. The American Legion was essentially responsible for many of the bill's provisions. The Legion, led by Atherton, managed to have the bill apply to all who served in the armed services, including African Americans and women.

An 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. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class. Although black servicemen were eligible for these loans they were prevented from leaving the inner cities or rural areas because many suburban communities, and real estate brokers used redlining and other racial segregation techniques to not sell homes to African Americans and other minorities.

Another provision was known as the 52–20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52–20 Club was distributed. Rather, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.

After World War II

The 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, or G.I. Bill of Rights, attracts praise as one of the most significant pieces of social legislation of the twentieth century for its redeeming effects on both the national economy and its beneficiaries. Academics and politicians credit the benefits offered by the bill with forestalling a widely feared post-World War II economic depression, expanding the home-owning middle class, and forever changing the nature of higher education in the United States.

A cursory look at the available statistics reveals that these later bills had an enormous influence on the lives of returning veterans, higher education, and the economy. A far greater percentage of Vietnam veterans used G.I. Bill education benefits (72 percent) than World War II veterans (51 percent) or Korean War veterans (43 percent). The government poured over 38.5 billion dollars into higher education under the Vietnam-era bills, almost two-and-a-half times the cost of the World War II G.I. Bill (when adjusted for inflation).

Moreover, because of the ongoing military draft from 1940 to 1973, as many as one third of the population (when both veterans and their dependents are taken into account) could potentially have benefited from the elaborate and generous welfare system created by the expansion of veterans’ benefits.

The success of the 1944 G.I. Bill prompted the government to offer similar measures to later generations of veterans. The Veterans’ Adjustment Act of 1952, signed into law on July 16 1952 offered benefits to veterans of the Korean Conflict that served for more than 90 days and had received an “other than dishonorable discharge.” Korean Conflict veterans did not receive unemployment compensation — Korean Vets weren't members of the 52–20 Club like WWII vets, but they were entitled to unemployment compensation starting at the end of a waiting period which was determined by the amount and disbursement dates of their mustering out pay. They were entitled to 26 weeks at $26 a week to be paid for by the federal government but administered by the various states. One improvement in the unemployment compensation for Korean War veterans was they could get both state and federal benefits, the federal benefits beginning once state benefits were exhausted.

One significant difference between the 1944 G.I. Bill and the 1952 Act was that tuition was no longer paid directly to the chosen institution of higher education. Instead, veterans received a fixed monthly sum of $110 from which they had to pay for their tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. The decision to abort direct tuition payments to schools came after a 1950 House select committee uncovered incidents of overcharging of tuition rates by some institutions under the original G.I. Bill in an attempt to defraud the government.

Although the monthly stipend proved sufficient for most Korean conflict veterans, this decision would have negative repercussions for later veterans. By the end of the program on January 31, 1965 approximately 2.4 million of 5.5 million eligible veterans had used their benefits. Roughly 1.2 million had used them to enter higher education, over 860,000 for other education purposes, and 318,000 for occupational training. Over 1.5 million Korean Conflict veterans obtained home loans.

Whereas the G.I. Bills of 1944 and 1952 were given to compensate veterans for wartime service, the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 forever changed the nature of military service in America by extending benefits to veterans who served during times of war and peace. At first there was some opposition to the concept of a peacetime G.I. Bill. President Dwight Eisenhower had rejected such a measure in 1959 after the Bradley commission concluded that military service should be “an obligation of citizenship, not a basis for government benefits.” President Lyndon B. Johnson believed that many of his “Great Society” social programs negated the need for sweeping veterans benefits. But, prompted by unanimous support given the bill by Congress, Johnson signed it into law on March 3 1966.

Almost immediately critics within the veterans’ community and on Capitol Hill charged that the bill did not go far enough. At first, single veterans who had served more than 180 days and had received an “other than dishonorable discharge” received only $100 a month from which they had to pay for tuition and all of their expenses. Most found this amount to be insufficient. In particular, veterans who had endured the hardships of the Vietnam War recoiled at the government’s failure to provide them with the same generous educational opportunities as their World War II predecessors. Consequently, during the early years of the program, only about 25% of Vietnam veterans used their education benefits.

But for the next decade, a battle raged in the government to increase veterans’ benefits. Congress succeeded, often in the face of fierce objections from the fiscally conservative Nixon and Ford Administrations, to raise benefit levels. In 1967, a single veteran’s benefits were raised to $130 a month; in 1970 they rose to $175; under the Readjustment Assistance Act of 1972 the monthly allowance rose to $220; in 1974 it rose to $270, $292 in 1976, and then $311 a month in 1977.

As the funding levels increased, the numbers of veterans entering higher education rose correspondingly. Indeed, it was not until 1976, fully ten years after the first veterans became eligible, that the highest number of Vietnam-era veterans were enrolled in colleges and universities. By the end of the program, proportionally more Vietnam-era veterans (6.8 million out of 10.3 million eligible) had used their benefits for higher education than any previous generation of veterans.

And contrary to the popular stereotypes of the Vietnam veteran, most who served in Vietnam used their benefits to construct productive and successful lives after service. Education benefits during the Vietnam era did not have the same impact on higher education as the original 1944 Bill because higher education had become much more commonplace in America. But the G.I. Bills of this period did have a similarly positive impact on the lives of the beneficiaries.

Despite the movement to an all-volunteer force in 1973, veterans continued to receive benefits, in part as an inducement to enlist, under the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), and the Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB). From December 1976 through 1987, veterans received assistance under the VEAP. The VEAP departed from previous programs by requiring participants to make a contribution to their education benefits. The VA then matched their contributions at a rate of 2 to 1. Enlisted personnel could contribute up to $100 a month up to a maximum of $2700. Benefits could be claimed for up to 36 months.

To be eligible, a veteran had to have served for more than 180 days and received an “other than dishonorable discharge.” Nearly 700,000 veterans used their benefits for education and training under this program. The MGIB replaced the VEAP for those who served after July 1, 1985. This was an entirely voluntary program in which participants could choose to forfeit $100 per month from their first year of pay. In return, eligible veterans receive a generous tuition allowance and a monthly stipend for up to 36 months of eligible training or education.

Merchant Marine

Congress failed to include merchant marine veterans in the G.I. Bill, even though they are considered military personnel in times of war in accordance with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. As he signed the G.I. Bill in June 1944 President Roosevelt said: "I trust Congress will soon provide similar opportunities to members of the merchant marine who have risked their lives time and time again during war for the welfare of their country." Now that the youngest veterans are in their 80s, there are efforts to recognize their contributions by giving some benefits to the remaining survivors. In 2007, three different bills related to this issue were introduced in Congress, one of which passed the House of Representatives only.


Chapter 30

The Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty (MGIB) states that active duty members forfeit $100 per month for 12 months; if they use the benefits, they receive as of 2007 $1101 monthly as a full time student (tiered at lower rates for less-than-full time) for a maximum of 36 months of education benefits. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses if the veteran is enrolled full-time. Part-time veteran students receive less, but for a proportionately longer period. Veterans from the reserve have different eligibility requirements and different rules on receiving benefits. MGIB may also be used while active, but as each service has additional educational benefit programs for active duty members most delay using MGIB benefits until after separation, discharge or retirement.

Buy-Up Program

The Buy-Up Program is an optional program that allows active duty members to contribute up to $600 more toward their MGIB. The additional contribution must be made while still on active duty. Members that choose to participate will receive up to $5400 in additional funds, but not until after leaving active duty.

Time limit/eligibility

MGIB benefits may be used up to 10 years from the date of last discharge or release from active duty. The 10-year period can be extended by the amount of time a service member was prevented from training during that period because of a disability or because he/she was held by a foreign government or power.

The 10-year period can also be extended if one reenters active duty for 90 days or more after becoming eligible. The extension ends 10 years from the date of separation from the later period. Periods of active duty of less than 90 days qualify for extensions only if one was separated for one of the following:

  • A service-connected disability
  • A medical condition existing before active duty
  • Hardship, or
  • A reduction in force.

For those eligible based on two years of active duty and four years in the Selected Reserve, they have 10 years from their release from active duty, or 10 years from the completion of the four-year Selected Reserve obligation to use MGIB benefits.


  • College, business
  • Technical or vocational courses
  • Correspondence courses
  • Apprenticeship/job training
  • Flight training (with the exception of private pilot training)

Under this bill, benefits may be used to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree at a college or university, a cooperative training program, or an accredited independent study program leading to a degree.

Chapter 31

Montgomery GI Bill Chapter 31 is a Vocational Rehabilitation program is for service-disabled veterans who require further education to attain suitable and stable employment. This program may provide vocational and other training services and assistance including tutorial assistance, tuition, books, fees, supplies, handling charges, licensing fees and equipment and other training materials necessary.

Vocational rehabilitation for individuals that do not necessarily have military affiliations is set up on a state-by-state basis under Federal guidelines. Funding is obtained through the Federal government with a legislated match by each state. Vocational rehabilitation (VR) services include things like provision of assistive technology, medical and psychiatric intervention to improve work-readiness, on-the-job supports (for example, a job coach) to help an individual acclimate to a work setting and requirements of the job, job assistance, vocational training, college education related to employment preparation, and VR counseling and guidance. VR services may begin as early as the senior year of high school.

Chapter 32

The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) is available for those who first entered active duty between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985 and elected to make contributions from their military pay to participate in this education benefit program. Participants' contributions are matched on a $2 for $1 basis by the Government. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses.

Chapter 35

The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA) provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or who died while on active duty or as a result of a service related condition. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. Spouses may take correspondence courses.

Chapter 1606

The Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) program may be available to members of the Selected Reserve, including all military branch reserve components as well as the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses.

Chapter 1607

The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) is available to all reservists who, after September 11, 2001, complete 90 days or more of active duty service "in support of contingency operations." This benefit provides reservists return from active duty with up to 80% of the active duty (Chapter 30) G.I. Bill benefits as long as they remain active participants in the reserves.


Over the past decade, numerous flaws in the MGIB and its use in recruiting potential service members have been exposed. Among the criticisms are that the initial $1200 forfeiture is non-recoverable, even if the service member dies or does not go to college. Often, recruiting material will fail to mention that other means of college aid, such as Pell Grants, are available without financial commitment or time limitations. In some cases, other means of financial aid are not available to MGIB recipients, even if MGIB benefits do not completely cover the cost of attending school.

Another criticism is that the government, rather than the service member, dictates how and when potential benefits are used. This is rarely the case with other types of financial aid.

By far, one of the biggest concerns is the use of the MGIB in recruiting material. Often, recipients receive amounts far less than those advertised. While huge amounts are touted in recruiting material, the amounts actually received do not match those advertised. What some people do not know, is that there are 2 separate programs, the standard MGIB which is roughly $35,000 and the Army College Fund, when which coupled with the MGIB, can equate to upwards of $80,000.

MGIB Comparison Chart

Type Active Duty Chapter 30 Active Duty Chapter 30 Top-up Vocational Reabilitation Chapter 31 VEAP Chapter 32 DEA Chapter 35 Selected Reserve Chapter 1606 Selected Reserve (REAP) Chapter 1607 Additional Benefits Tuition Assistance Additional Benefits Student Loan Repayment Program
Info Link
Time Limit (Eligibility) 10 yrs from discharge Entered service for the first time between January 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985;Opened a contribution account before April 1, 1987;Voluntarily contributed from $25 to $2700 Prior to October 1, 1992 = 14 years, on or after October 1, 1992 = 10 years, or on the day you leave the Selected Reserve; this include voluntary entry into the IRR. 10 Years from date of eligibility, or the day you leave the Selected Reserve; this include voluntary entry into the IRR. On the day you leave the Selected Reserve; this include voluntary entry into the IRR. On the day you leave the Selected Reserve; this include voluntary entry into the IRR.
Months of Benefits (Full Time) 36 Months 1 to 36 months depending on the number of monthly contributions up to 45 months 36 Months 36 Months Contingent as long as you serve as an Active Reservist. Contingent as long as you serve as an Active Reservist.

See also

External links


Further reading

  • Humes, Edward (2006). Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream. Harcourt.
  • Jennifer Keane, Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)
  • Kathleen Frydl, "The G.I. Bill," Ph.D dissertation, University of Chicago, 2000.
  • Olson, Keith, The G.I. Bill, The Veterans, and The Colleges (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974)
  • Ross, David B., Preparing for Ulysses: Politics and Veterans During World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969).
  • Bennett, Michael J., When Dreams Came True: The G.I. Bill and the Making of Modern America (New York: Brassey’s Inc., 1996)
  • Greenberg, Milton, The G.I. Bill: The Law That Changed America (New York: Lickle Publishing, 1997).
  • Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • Boulton, Mark, "A Price on Freedom: The Problems and Promise of the Vietnam Era G.I. Bills," Ph.D dissertation: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2005).
  • Stanley, Marcus (2003). "College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills". The Quarterly Journal of Economics 118 (2): 671–708.

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