The men who joined the military as teenagers came home after the war as adults. Many had been places and seen things beyond what they ever could have imagined. The nation wanted to thank them for their service. One way Congress decided to do that became known as the G.I. Bill of Rights.
The official title was the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act” and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it in 1944, even before the war ended.
The law gave the following benefits to U.S. soldiers coming home from World War II:
- education and training opportunities
- loan guarantees for a home, farm, or business
- job-finding assistance
- unemployment pay of $20 per week for up to 52 weeks if the veteran couldn’t find a job
- priority for building materials for Veterans Administration Hospitals.
For most, the educational opportunities were the most important part of the law. WWII veterans were entitled to one year of full-time training plus time equal to their military service, up to 48 months. The Veterans Administration paid the university, trade school, or employer up to $500 per year for tuition, books, fees and other training costs. Veterans also received a small living allowance while they were in school.
Thousands of veterans used the GI Bill to go to school. Veterans made up 49 percent of U.S. college enrollment in 1947. Nationally, 7.8 million veterans trained at colleges, trade schools and in business and agriculture training programs. Later, the law was changed, in 1952, to help veterans of the Korean War and, in 1966, veterans of the Vietnam War. Although the program ended in 1989, there are similar government programs to help today’s military personnel pay for educational expenses and buy a home.
Don Geery (left) used the GI Bill to learn how to install rural electric lines. He worked for the Consumer’s Public Power District for over 38 years. “It was a tremendous education,” he says. “Not only that, but the first house I told you about that we built, the interest rate was 2½ percent through he GI Bill.”
Jim Chanault (right) profited from the GI Bill in other ways. After the war, he was an instructor for a flight school in York, Nebraska. Veterans who had always wanted to learn to fly paid for their lessons with Jim through the GI Bill.