G.I. Bill of Rights

  • Share
  • Read Later

To the time-honored list of things which U.S. politicians may be counted upon to denounce relentlessly—the housefly, the common cold, the man-eating shark—Washington's Senator Homer Bone in 1937 added cancer. When he introduced a bill for a National Cancer Institute, it bore the sponsoring signatures of 94 Senators. (The other two hastened to add theirs before the bill came to a vote.) Last fortnight Missouri's Bennett Champ Clark hit on something which politicians almost as unanimously favor. He introduced a veterans' benefits bill, jointly sponsored by 80 other Senators. Last week, amid plaints by the remaining 15 Senators that they had not had a chance to sign it in advance, the Senate passed the bill unanimously. The House is expected to follow suit this week.

The bill came from the American Legion. It was nicknamed the "G.I. Bill of Rights," as it combined in a single measure most of the proposals for helping veterans that have been made in Congress, except mustering-out pay (already voted) and the inevitable bonus. (A pending bill, backed by five other veterans' organizations, would give each World War II veteran a bonus of up to $4,500.) Prime provisions:

¶ Schooling for at least one year, and up to four; in elementary, business, high or higher schools; with allowances of $500 a year for tuition, plus $50 a month for subsistence and an extra $25 for one or more dependents.

¶ Loans up to $1,000 for buying homes, farms, farm equipment or business properties, with no interest the first year, and only 3% thereafter.

¶ Special job-finding services. ¶ Unemployment benefits up to 52 weeks at $15 a week, plus an extra $5 for one dependent, $8 for two, $10 for three.

¶ $500,000,000 for new veterans' hospitals.

The Veterans' Administration, which would manage these benefits, would now become a primary war agency, with priorities second only to those of the War and Navy Departments in obtaining personnel, equipment and supplies.

Chairman Walter F. George of the Senate Finance Committee guesstimated the bill's cost at $3,500,000,000. But the economy-minded Senator and his Committee were not aghast at this sum. While the bill is "admittedly more extensive and generous" than any in history, said they, "we view it as true economy, the best money that can be spent for the future welfare of the nation. The men and women who compose our armed forces . . . not only now hold the destiny of this Republic firmly in their hands, they will so hold it for a generation to come."