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The G.I. Bill (officially titled Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m) was an omnibus bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs) 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. Since the original act, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service.


On June 22, 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights. By the time the original GI Bill ended in July 1956, 7.8 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program and 2.4 million veterans had home loans backed by the Veterans' Administration (VA). Today, the legacy of the original GI Bill lives on in the Montgomery GI Bill.

Harry W. Colmery, a World War I veteran and the former RNC chairman, wrote the first draft of the G.I. Bill. He reportedly jotted down his ideas on stationery and a napkin at the Mayflower Hotelmarker in Washington, DCmarker. U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland was actively involved in the bill's passage and is known, with Warren Atherton, as one of the "fathers of the G.I. Bill." One might then term Edith Nourse Rogers, R-Mass., who helped write and who co-sponsored the legislation as the "mother of the G.I. Bill". Like Colmery, her contribution to writing and passing this legislation has been obscured by time.

The bill was introduced in the House on Jan. 10, 1944, and in the Senate the following day. Both chambers approved their own versions of the bill.

The bill which President Roosevelt initially proposed was not as far reaching. The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended.

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.

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

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).

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.

In 1985 a bill sponsored by Democratic Congressman "Sonny" Gillespie V. Montgomery improved and expanded the GI Bill. 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 relatively 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.


All veteran education programs are found in law in Title 38 of the United States Code. Each specific program is found in its own Chapter in Title 38.

Chapter 30

In 1984, former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery revamped the GI Bill. From 1984 until 2008, this version of the law was called "The Montgomery G.I. Bill". 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 $1321 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 Option

The Buy-Up option allows active duty members to contribute up to $600 more toward their MGIB. For every dollar the service member contributes, the federal government contributes $8. Those who contribute the maximum ($600) will receive $5,400 in additional funds, but not until after leaving active duty. The additional contribution must be made while still on 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

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 that serves eligible active duty servicemembers and veterans with service-connected disabilities. This program promotes the development of suitable, gainful employment by providing vocational and personal adjustment counseling, training assistance, a monthly subsistence allowance during active training, and employment assistance after training. Independent living services may also be provided to advance vocational potential for eventual job seekers, or to enhance the independence of eligible participants who are presently unable to work.

In order to receive an evaluation for Chapter 31 vocational rehabilitation and/or independent living services, those qualifying as a "servicemember" must have a memorandum service-connected disability rating of 20% or greater and apply for vocational rehabilitation services. Those qualifying as "veterans" must have received, or eventually receive, an honorable or other-than-dishonorable discharge, have a VA service-connected disability rating of 10% or more, and apply for services. Law provides for a 12-year basic period of eligibility in which services may be used, which begins on the latter of separation from active military duty or the date the veteran was first notified of a service-connected disability rating. In general, participants have 48 months of program entitlement to complete an individual vocational rehabilitation plan. Participants deemed to have a "serious employment handicap" will generally be granted exemption from the 12-year eligibility period and may receive additional months of entitlement as necessary to complete approved plans.

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 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 33 (Post-9/11 G.I. Bill)

Congress, in the summer of 2008, approved an expansion of benefits beyond the current GI Bill program for military veterans serving since September 11, 2001, originally proposed by Senator James Webb. Beginning in August 2009, recipients will be eligible for greatly expanded benefits, or the full cost of any public college in their state. The new bill also provides a housing allowance and $1,000 a year stipend for books, among other benefits.

The VA announced in September 2008 that it would manage the new benefit itself instead of hiring an outside contractor after protests by from veteran's organizations and the American Federation of Government Employees. Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake stated that although it was "unfortunate that we will not have the technical expertise from the private sector," the VA "can and will deliver the benefits program on time."

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 theSelected 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.

MGIB Comparison Chart

Type Active Duty Chapter 30 Active Duty Chapter 30 Top-up Vocational Rehabilitation Chapter 31 VEAP Chapter 32 DEA Chapter 35 Selected Reserve Chapter 1606 Selected Reserve Chapter 1607 Additional Benefits Tuition Assistance Additional Benefits Student Loan Repayment Program
Info Link [8883]
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


Further reading

  • 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).

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