Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 eText - Primary Source

Primary Source

Veteran William Oskay, Jr., attending Pennsylvania State College under the G.I. Bill, studies in the company of his wife and young daughter. © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Veteran William Oskay, Jr., attending Pennsylvania State College under the G.I. Bill, studies in the company of his wife and young daughter. © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.
Soldiers and their dates dance and celebrate at Camp Patrick Henry on August 11, 1945, after the end of WWII. The soldiers just arrived home from Europe. © THE MARINERS' MUSEUM/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Soldiers and their dates dance and celebrate at Camp Patrick Henry on August 11, 1945, after the end of WWII. The soldiers just arrived home from Europe. © THE MARINERS' MUSEUM/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage © THE MARINERS' MUSEUM/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Law

By: U.S. Congress

Date: June 22, 1944

Source: Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944. U.S. Public Law 346. 78th Cong. 2d sess., June 22, 1944. Available online at http://www.nara.gov:80/cgi-bin/starfinder/20769; website home page: http://www.nara.gov (accessed February 11, 2003).

Introduction

While the war was still raging, American policy makers were trying to figure out what to do about the eventual prospect of sixteen million returning veterans. The possibility of another economic depression was alarming. As early as 1942, it was obvious that a plan would be needed to reintegrate the veterans into the civilian economy without causing massive unemployment. The National Resources Planning Board, a White House agency, studied postwar manpower needs and in June 1943 recommended a series of programs for education and training.

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, provided a solution to this problem and at the same time compensated the veterans for their service during the war. Not only would it provide tuition, fees, books, and a monthly subsistence payment for veterans in school, it would also provide them with the chance to set up their own businesses, buy their own homes, and receive other financial aid.

The American Legion designed the main features of the G.I. Bill and, after a nationwide campaign, it passed into law in a mere six months. The bill was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (served 1933–1945) on June 22, 1944.

However, there were many educators who had serious misgivings about the legislation and worried about its effects on higher education. Some felt it was too expensive and would encourage laziness among the veterans, while others feared the veterans would lower standards at colleges and universities. Despite these fears, the G.I. Bill has achieved wide recognition as one of the most important acts of Congress.

Significance

The G.I. Bill provided one free year of higher education for each ninety days of service and one additional month of paid education for each month of service up to forty-eight months. In 1947, the program's peak year, veterans accounted for 49 percent of U.S. college enrollments. Slightly more than half of the eligible veterans participated, with an average length of time of support of nineteen months. Out of approximately 15.4 million veterans, 7.8 million were trained, including 2.2 million in college, 3.5 million in other schools, 1.4 million in on-the-job training, and 690,000 in farm training. The Veterans Administration paid the schools up to a maximum of $500 a year per student for tuition, books, fees, and other training costs. It also paid the single veteran a subsistence

Semimonthly Center October November December January February March April May June July August September Total
Berkeley, Calif. 3 6 3 3 6 3 5 1 3 3 36
Buffalo, N. Y. 4 21 20 5 10 16 16 8 7 8 11 7 133
Cambridge, Mass. 14 39 49 40 41 98 139 235 201 134 83 15 1,088
Chicago, Ill. 10 6 9 6 7 6 5 5 7 9 16 86
Los Angeles, Calif. 1 4 3 2 2 4 2 3 2 23
New York, N. Y. 128 234 286 112 185 195 236 309 151 117 134 56 2,143
Philadelphia, Pa. 115 135 88 116 144 126 112 117 89 57 91 55 1,245
Pittsburgh, Pa. 6 12 8 4 14 8 7 7 18 13 18 2 117
Washington, D. C. 7 10 16 6 18 12 21 25 18 8 9 9 159
Total 288 467 479 295 427 466 540 713 495 349 367 144 5,030
SOURCE: Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Director, 1947. Princeton, NJ: College Entrance Examination Board, 1947, p. 111.

allowance of up to $50 a month, which was increased to $65 a month in 1946 and to $75 a month in 1948. Veterans with dependents could receive a higher allowance. The total cost of the World War II education program was $14.5 billion.

In the late 1930s, about 160,000 U.S. citizens graduated from college each year. By 1950, that number had increased to 500,000. The increased number of students brought in by the G.I. Bill greatly contributed to the post-war expansion of higher education in the United States, particularly in community colleges. Through its educational benefits, the G.I. Bill also created a significant opportunity for socioeconomic mobility for the working class. Those veterans who were better educated received better-paying jobs, and this resulted in more taxes for the government, whose initial investment could be considered more than repaid. Although the program ended on July 25, 1956, education benefits continue to be a part of the incentive to enter military service.

Primary Source: Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, or the G.I. Bill, providing free higher education for servicemen, increased the number of college students and contributed to the postwar expansion of higher education in the United States.

Seventy-eighth Congress of
the United States of America
At the Second Session

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 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. 302. (a) The Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Treasury are authorized and directed to establish, from time to time, boards of review composed of five commissioned officers, two of whom shall be selected from the Medical Corps of the Army or Navy, or from the Public Health Service, as the case may be. It shall be the duty of any such board to review, at the request of any officer retired or released to inactive service, without pay, for physical disability pursuant to the decision of a retiring board, the findings and decision of such retiring board. Such review shall be based upon all available service records relating to the officer requesting such review, and such other evidence as may be presented by such officer. Witnesses shall be permitted to present testimony either in person or by affidavit and the officer requesting review shall be allowed to appear before such board of review in person or by counsel. In carrying out its duties under this section such board of review shall have the same powers as exercised by, or vested in, the retiring board whose findings and decision are being reviewed. The proceedings and decision of each such board of review affirming or reversing the decision of the retiring board shall be transmitted to the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the Secretary of the Treasury, as the case may be, and shall be laid by him before the President for his approval or disapproval and orders in the case.

(b) No request for review under this section shall be valid unless filed within fifteen years after the date of retirement for disability or after the effective date of this Act, whichever is the later.

Title II Chapter IV—Education of Veterans

Sec. 400. (a) Subsection (f) of section 1, title I, Public Law Numbered 2, Seventy-third Congress, added by the Act of March 24, 1943 (Public Law Numbered 16, Seventy-eighth Congress), is hereby amended to read as follows:

(f) Any person who served in the active military or naval forces on or after September 16, 1940, and prior to the termination of hostilities in the present war, shall be entitled to vocational rehabilitation.

The agency disbursing such adjusted compensation shall first pay the unpaid balance and accrued interest due on such loan to the holder of the evidence of such indebtedness to the extent that the amount of adjusted compensation which may be payable will permit.

Further Resources

BOOKS

Bound, John. Going to War and Going to College: Did World War II and the G.I. Bill Increase Educational Attainment for Returning Veterans? Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1999.

Goldberg, Vicki. Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography. New York: Harper and Row, 1986.

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

Olson, Keith W. The G.I. Bill, the Veterans, and the Colleges. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.

WEBSITES

"G.I. Bill Act of June 2, 1944." Higher Education Resource Hub. Available online at http://www.higher-ed.org/resources/GI_bill.htm; website home page: http://www.higher-ed.org (accessed March 3, 2003).

"The G.I. Bill of Rights (1944)." North Carolina State University. Available online at ; website home page http://www.ncsu.edu (accessed March 3, 2003).

"Remembering the G.I. Bulge: An Exhibit Honoring the Students Who Attended S.U. Under the G.I. Bill." Syracuse University. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.syr.edu (accessed March 3, 2003).

AUDIO AND VISUAL MEDIA

The G.I. Bill: The Law That Changed America. PBS Home Video. Videocassette, 1997.