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History of Veterans Benefits

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Time Frame: 1950

Historically, the nation has tried to provide for its returning soldiers. Following World War Two, veterans benefits were based on the thousands of returning to their hometowns and changing the nation to a peacetime economy.
The Iowa Journal
© Iowa Public Television

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Transcript

Roosevelt: The blunt fact is that every single person in the United States is going to be affected by this program.

Narrator: During World War II, President Roosevelt asked all Americans to tighten their belt for the war effort. But even then, he was planning ahead for the end of that war. In 1944 he signed legislation called the GI Bill of Rights. He said the returning personnel must not be demobilized to a place on the bread line or on a corner selling apples.

The GI Bill established benefits for America's returning war veterans, assuring they would receive the health care they needed and also providing burial benefits for those who didn't survive. But more than that, this bill aimed to make veterans' transitions back into society easier. There were provisions for education, home ownership, business loans, and unemployment, life, and disability insurance, and pensions for low- income soldiers.

Because the bill provided these benefits to so many people and because many of them prior to the war had no money for higher education or home ownership, the bill created a new wealth in America. Some say it jumpstarted America's middle class.

Announcer: Yes, soon you'll have that long-awaited refrigerator in the kitchen, along with a new stove.

Narrator: It was responsible for an education boom, followed by the building of the suburbs. Many businesses also got their start this way.

A government study in the 1980s claimed that every dollar spent on the GI Bill's benefits grew into $5 to $12 of tax revenue.

On the medical front, this bill also built a network of VA hospitals, plus nursing homes, outpatient clinics, home-care programs, and Vet Centers.

The original GI Bill expired in 1956. Scaled-back versions were offered to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Today's veterans are covered by the Montgomery GI Bill.

Remarkably, this bill offers incentives in all the same areas the old bill covered, plus a few more, family benefits, federal tax shelters, and legal protection.

The main difference is in the amount that's covered. Like most health insurance programs, the benefits are figured using formulas. Veterans will see the level of their benefits dependent on where and when they were injured. The more disabling their injuries, the larger percentage of their bills will be covered.

These Federal benefits are administered by different organizations in regionalized offices. To take advantage of all of them, an Iowa veteran would deal with offices in Des Moines; St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; and Rock Island, Illinois, to name a few.

To complicate things further, the State of Iowa has its own benefits, run by the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs. These benefits include more incentives for education and home ownership. They expand benefits for injured vets and war orphans.

There are commissions in each Iowa county where indigent veterans can get help with food and clothing. And a new State veterans cemetery is being built to offer free burial for veterans. Returning soldiers can receive honorary high school diplomas, and some veterans will even qualify for lifetime hunting and fishing licenses from the Iowa DNR.

So there are many potential benefits for returning veterans, but there's no centralized office to help them through the maze. This job has been adopted by volunteers at service organizations like the VFW, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AmVets, and American Legion.

 


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