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Correcting history: Black veterans were denied GI Bill Benefits after World War II

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Following World War II, the GI bill helped comprise America’s middle class, but the economic opportunity was wrongly denied to many Black veterans. 

The GI Bill provided immediate financial rewards for practically all World War II veterans, thereby avoiding the highly disputed postponed life insurance policy payout for World War I veterans that had caused political turmoil in the 1920s and 1930s.

Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business or farm, one year of unemployment compensation, and dedicated payments of tuition and living expenses to attend high school, college, or vocational schools. These benefits were supposed to be available to all veterans who had been on active duty during the war years for at least 90 days and had not been dishonorably discharged.

African Americans were instantly denied college tuition and access to mortgages. Missing out on the post world economic boom while white wealth grew, the black economy wealth barely kept up. “Thousands and thousands of Black veterans were denied their general benefits,” Dartmouth historian Matthew Delmont said.

“Veterans had to go to their local veterans’ administration offices. These were staffed almost exclusively by White officials and this is a particular problem in the South,” Delmont said.

In an interview with CBS news, Congressman Seth Moulton, a former marine who went to Harvard on today’s G.I. Bill states that he wants to make up for all that lost opportunity for these veterans. “Direct descendants of these Black World War II veterans would be eligible for VA housing loans and their grandkids would be eligible for education benefits,” Moulton said.

This revised bill could not only be detrimental to millions of veterans but their families.