When did the GI Bill Start?
When did the GI Bill start? Believe it or not, the GI Bill we know today is the product of a long and winding history, starting with the very first version of the program known as the GI Bill of Rights, signed into law on June 22, 1944.
The Very First GI BIll
The original GI Bill, also known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, offered World War II veterans money for college, but it also offered unemployment insurance, money for a home, and other perks not found in successive versions.
- When introduced, the legislation was unanimously passed through both the House and Senate.
- The GI Bill was signed into law in the wake of the Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day.
- According to the National Archives, “Within the following seven years, approximately eight million veterans received educational benefits.”
Well over 2 million people used the GI Bill to go to college back then, and three million got “school training,” while another 3 million-plus used the GI Bill to get on-the-job training.
Related: How Much GI Bill Do I Have Left?
The Original GI Bill had an Expiration Date
Believe it or not, the original GI Bill actually wasn’t intended to operate in perpetuity the way today’s Post-9/11 GI Bill does. The original GI Bill expired in 1956, providing more than 14 billion in 1956 dollars to World War Two vets.
But the Korean War brought the GI Bill back, and subsequent legislation called the Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 expanded access to all who served. But the start of what we now know as the GI Bill wouldn’t come until the 1980s.
The Start of the Modern GI Bill
What we think of today as the “modern” GI Bill has its origin story in the mid-80s. VA.gov reports former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery “revamped the GI Bill, which has been known as the ‘Montgomery GI Bill’ ever since.”
- The Montgomery GI Bill was designed as an opt-in program. Basic trainees were offered the option to pay $100 monthly toward the GI Bill for one year, with the government providing a much larger contribution in exchange.
- Under this version of the program, an honorable discharge and a high school GED were program requirements.
- The Montgomery GI Bill operated until 2008, when a new version of the benefit was signed into law–the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Post 9-/11 GI BIll
The Post-9/11 GI Bill program began In 2008. VA.gov announced the new GI Bill “gives Veterans with active duty service on, or after, Sept. 11 2001, enhanced educational benefits that cover more educational expenses, provide a living allowance, money for books and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children.”
Transferring education benefits to a qualifying family member is a major improvement for the GI Bill. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill rules, those who had previously signed up for the Montgomery GI Bill were offered a one-time ability to switch to the new benefit; the decision to keep the old GI Bill or accept the new one is irreversible.
Related: Can I Top up the GI Bill?
The Forever GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill has experienced more reforms along the way than the original version did. None of those changes were more significant (in the overall history of the benefit) than the introduction of new GI Bill legislation called the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017.
Named after the author of the original GI Bill, it was signed into law by the President in August 2017.
It may be the largest single expansion of veterans’ benefits in recent history. Commonly known as the “Forever GI Bill,” this law extends the GI Bill to all Purple Heart recipients regardless of time served, creates more benefits for spouses and dependents, and formally ends a 15-year time limit for using the GI Bill for those discharged on or after January 1, 2013.
Related: The Post 9-/11 GI Bill Guide
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.