The GI Bill Turns 75
June 19, 2019

Since ACE’s founding in 1918, the Council has played a key role in responding to the educational needs of military members and veterans, including by working closely with the federal government on two GI Bills—the original implemented after World War II and an updated version in the aftermath of 9/11. 

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a commission—which included ACE President George F. Zook—to help America’s World War II veterans return to civilian life. ACE helped draft and lobbied for the passage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly called the GI Bill. President Roosevelt signed the bill into law on June 22, 1944, saying, “[This bill] gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down.”

The bill awarded military veterans broad and generous economic rights in three key areas: educational support, unemployment benefits, and loan guarantees. The education benefits included annual tuition payments of up to $500 for one to four years, depending on age and length of service, plus a monthly stipend for living expenses.

Notably, the benefits were awarded to individuals rather than institutions, so veterans could apply them to the college, university, or vocational, technical, or apprentice training of their choice. Fifty-one percent of all veterans, or roughly 8 million people, accessed the GI Bill’s educational provisions, with about one-fourth pursuing college degrees and the remainder pursuing vocational training.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been commemorating the 75th anniversary by asking recipients to submit videos telling their GI Bill stories by June 22. Accepted videos are being published on the GI Bill website and YouTube.