What Is the GI Bill?

The GI Bill, also known as the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by Congress and signed into law by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide various benefits to World War II veterans. Today, the GI Bill refers to any U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs education benefit, such as education grants and stipends, earned by active-duty service members, veterans, and their families. 

Key Takeaways

  • The GI Bill was a federal effort to provide financial and social benefits to World War II veterans after they returned home.
  • There have been several iterations of the bill since its inception, and today it provides education benefits to active service members and honorably discharged veterans.
  • These benefits have been extended to vocational and technical training programs.
  • Other military benefits, such as the Yellow Ribbon Program, are available for what the GI Bill does not cover.

Understanding the GI Bill

Although the GI Bill was purposed for WWII veterans, benefits are currently available to honorably discharged veterans and their dependents, under certain circumstances. Many types of training are covered under GI Bill benefits. College programs include associate, bachelor, and advanced degrees. Vocational and technical training, including non-college degree programs, also are covered. On-the-job training and apprenticeships, as well as licensing and certification reimbursement, are included. Flight training, correspondence training, work-study programs, tuition, and tutorial assistance also are covered. Survivors and Dependents Assistance provides education and job training for spouses and children of veterans.

The Yellow Ribbon Program can pay tuition costs not covered in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Tuition Assistance Top-Up provides additional assistance with education costs. The $600 Buy-Up Program provides more money for monthly GI Bill payments. Tutorial Assistance will help pay for a tutor for those using VA educational benefits.

History of the GI Bill

The GI Bill in its original form, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was designed to provide benefits, including small business loans, mortgages, and education grants, to veterans following WWII; however, it has since been updated. The GI Bill is considered one of the most significant pieces of 20th-century legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. Much of the impetus for the bill’s passage stemmed from the experience of veterans after WWI when returning service members were not aided in re-entering civilian life and the workforce. The lack of support and the advent of the Great Depression led to public protests, including the Bonus Army marchers in 1932. The GI Bill increased the number of college-educated Americans following the war, as many veterans who would have rejoined the workforce instead opted for degrees. In 1947, considered the peak of the GI Bill's use, roughly 49% of college admissions were for veterans.

The original GI Bill ended in 1956, at which point more than half of veterans had opted to receive technical training or attend college. The G.I. Bill has been updated several times since 1944, including the Montgomery GI Bill of 1984, the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill of 2008, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program. The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) provides benefits for veterans who served at least two years on active duty. The Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) covers benefits for members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard or Air National Guard. The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps pay for school or job training for those who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001.