On this day in 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the GI bill to provide financial aid to veterans returning from World War II. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt voiced his belief that ensuring veterans’ employability was critical to a sound postwar economy.
The GI bill, named after the slang term for soldiers whose wartime goods and services were government issued, provided funding for education, home loans, unemployment insurance, job counseling and the construction of veterans’ hospital facilities. It also greatly strengthened the authority of and scope of services provided by the Veterans Administration. Tuition for advanced education or technical training was covered up to $500 per school year, along with a monthly living allowance while the veteran was in school. GIs could also apply for guaranteed home and business loans.
In his speech at the signing of the bill, Roosevelt acknowledged the sacrifices of America’s men and women in uniform and emphasized the moral responsibility of the American people not to let their veterans down once they returned to civilian life. He and his economic advisors foresaw potential problems as the then-robust wartime economy transitioned to peacetime. He hoped that the GI bill would help prevent a situation in which the return of 2.2 million servicemen from war created massive unemployment, economic depression or social unrest. Also in his speech, Roosevelt appealed to Congress to enact some sort of future legislation that would reassure current civilian workers that their services would still be needed in a post-war economy.
Roosevelt urged that the goal after the war should be the maximum utilization of our human and material resources. After his death and the end of the Second World War, veterans of wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and U.N.-led coalition conflicts continued to benefit from an evolving GI bill.