Little Bits of History

June 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 22, 2017

1944: The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act is signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  After World War I, servicemen returning to the United States were supposed to have benefits available to them as gratitude for their service. However, things did not go smoothly and it became a political issue throughout the 1920s and 1930s. As benefits to all veterans of military service, both men and women, were delayed, those veterans formed into Veterans’ organizations with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion as the two main pillars seeking redress from Washington, D.C. When World War II came along, knowing the dismal record of taking care of veterans, the older generation set out to ensure the Greatest Generation would be properly cared for should they return home.

Harry Comery, former National Commander of the American Legion, has been credited with writing the first draft of what we call today the GI Bill. Senator Ernest McFarland (D-Arizona) was helped by Warren Atherton, a lawyer and then-current National Commander of the Legion, and they are considered to be the “fathers of the GI Bill”. Congresswoman Edith Rogers (R-Massachusetts) was co-sponsor and she was the “mother of the GI Bill”. These four people helped to write and get the bill through both houses of Congress. Roosevelt had proposed a bill as a test to help poor veterans returning home and he sought to limit that help to just one year of funding. Only top scorers on a test would get four years of paid college.

The Bill as presented went beyond Roosevelt’s plan and applied to all veterans regardless of wealth. They were to be offered a low interest, zero down payment home loan with better deals available for new construction rather than older homes. This had the effect of spurring many returning veterans to move out of urban apartments into newly built homes in the suburbs. Unemployment benefits were to be paid out for those actively looking for work for up to 52 weeks. Monies set aside for this went unused as many returning servicemen were able to find better jobs or were pursuing higher education upon their return. This was also covered under the Bill. High school, college, and vocational/technical schools were all covered.

By 1956, about 2.2 million returning vets had used the Bill to attend college or university while another 5.6 million vets were able to gain further training for better employment opportunities. The law has been updated several times over the years. Vietnam veterans were even more willing to use the Bill to finance college (71%) when compared to World War II vets (51%) and Korean War vets (43%). A 1952 adjustment began to send tuition help directly to veterans since it was discovered colleges and universities were overcharging veterans to acquire more cash. President Obama also signed Executive Order 13607 to ensure predatory colleges did not aggressively target veterans and their families to exploit this law designed to help veterans re-assimilate into civilian society.

Twenty-five million veterans are living among us today. These men and women selflessly set aside their civilian lives to put on the uniform and serve us. – Steve Buyer

I want people to take the initiative to find veterans that need help, veterans that are suffering and in need of assistance reintegrating from combat back into society, into normal family lives and jobs. We need to take a real ‘boots on the ground’ approach to helping veterans in need. – Max Martini

The sacrifices made by veterans and their willingness to fight in defense of our nation merit our deep respect and praise – and to the best in benefits and medical care. – Sue Kelly

When the peace treaty is signed, the war isn’t over for the veterans, or the family. It’s just starting. – Karl Marlantes

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