New Bill Would Extend GI Bill® Benefits to Descendants of Black WWII Veterans

Rep. James E. Clyburn said the legislation is necessary because Black veterans were not given equal access to GI Bill benefits after the war.

November 11, 2021 · Updated on November 11, 2021

New Bill Would Extend GI Bill® Benefits to Descendants of Black WWII Veterans
Higher Ed Policy

  • The announcement of the bill by congressional Democrats comes on Veterans Day.
  • It would extend GI Bill benefits to descendants and surviving spouses of Black World War II veterans.
  • Under current law, Black WWII veterans must have been alive when the GI Bill was enacted to qualify.

This Veterans Day, congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would attempt to right a decades-old wrong experienced by Black American veterans and their families.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., today announced the Sgt. Isaac Woodard Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2021. The proposed legislation would extend Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the descendants and surviving spouses of Black veterans who fought in World War II.

These benefits can be used to help pay for a college education, start a business, and secure housing through the Veterans Affairs loan guarantee program.

The legislation is necessary because WWII veterans would have had to still be alive when the GI Bill was signed into law in June 1944 in order for their descendants to qualify, Clyburn said in a statement.

Furthermore, Black veterans who did qualify for GI Bill benefits often faced barriers to accessing them due to discriminatory state, federal, and local policies. As a result, approximately 19% of white World War II veterans earned a college degree as a result of the GI Bill compared to only 6% of Black veterans, Clyburn said.

More than 1.2 million Black Americans served in uniform during WWII, according to the National WWII Museum. During the war, Black leaders launched the "Double V" campaign, which called for victory in both the war and U.S. racism. However, when Black veterans returned home, Jim Crow laws continued to segregate these veterans for the next two decades, including in the education system.

"We all know the GI Bill lifted up a generation of WWII veterans and built the American century. … But most Americans don't know that many Black veterans were left out: denied benefits, denied homes, denied the generational wealth that comes from going to college," Moulton said in a statement. "We can never fully repay those American heroes. But we can fix this going forward for their families."

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia is slated to introduce the bill in the Senate.

If enacted, the GI Bill Restoration Act would also establish a panel to study inequities in the distribution of benefits to female and minority members of the Armed Forces.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/.


Feature Image: David Turnley / Contributor / Corbis Historical / Getty Images