Theodore Roosevelt IV, chairman of The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee, spoke to attendees at The American Legion's 70th GI Bill celebration event in Washington, D.C., June 17. (Photo by Noel St. John)

Legion celebrates GI Bill's success

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Jon Bellum received his college education in the early 1990s, thanks to the GI Bill. Now, on a daily basis, he sees the impact of the modern version – the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

“One of the driving points of joining the National Guard in the late 1980s was to get the Montgomery GI Bill, which provided a substantial contribution to my tuition, provided me the opportunity to both serve but then also come out of the University of South Dakota without any debt,” said Bellum, senior vice president and provost at Colorado State University - Global Campus. “Now, working with students, our goal is to help them get their education and come out with the least amount of debt. The GI Bill has – at our institution – played an important part in all of that.”

Bellum is among the estimated 20 million American veterans who have received assistance toward education as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the original GI Bill, or the updates that have followed. The legislation – drafted by American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery – created the U.S. middle class, revolutioned higher education and dramatically increased home ownership in America.

The bill was signed into law 70 years ago June 22. To honor that landmark anniversary, The American Legion hosted a June 17 celebration gala for around 100 policymakers, veterans and others at the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

American Legion Executive Director Peter Gaytan put the law’s impact into perspective.

“That piece of legislation has been called the most important piece of domestic legislation in the history of this country,” Gaytan said. “And it’s true. It created the middle class. It gave this country a backbone to build upon, and you see that in your grandfather’s success, your father’s success … If you do what is right, you will get what you deserve.”

Not only did the GI Bill revolutionize higher education, it made home ownership possible for millions of Americans, said Theodore Roosevelt IV, chairman of The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee.

“It gave affordable home and business loans," he said. "It democratized American education. And the impact of that is just incalculable. It gave us the middle class, the world’s largest middle class. It precipitated the creation of a thriving, vibrant housing industry. And we, as a nation, have more than two-thirds of our population living in homes that they own. That’s a great achievement that The American Legion and the GI Bill can take some credit for that. “

Looking ahead, Roosevelt pointed out that upcoming demobilizations will mean 1.2 million servicemembers will be returning to civilian life. “And we better make darn sure that we are prepared to give them what they deserve for what they have done for us.”

That’s where the 9/11 GI Bill comes in, which allows veterans to transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent under certain conditions. “I think what is important is how the Legion over the years has kept it as part of every servicemembers’ ability to go to school,” Bellum said. “And now it is an important part of their children’s legacy.”

Keith Howard-Streicher, who served nearly four years in the U.S. Army, is among the recent veterans who have used the GI Bill. He used it to receive his associate’s degree and is now a few credits shy of his bachelor’s degree from American University.

“If I didn’t have the GI Bill, honestly I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Howard-Streicher, who works for Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, after serving as a White House intern. “If I didn’t have that money for school, I wouldn’t have these opportunities. I thank God for the GI Bill. It really has changed my life.”


  1. To the veterans who missed out on some of your benefits. First and foremost, thank you for your service, but I can't help thinking that you guys for whatever reason, decided not to join the American Legion after you were discharged. For measley $20 to $30 a year (currently between $40 to $45 a year), you would have access to the Service Officer of the Post who would had told you your entitlement. This article is about the efforts of the American Legion to obtain benefits for the veterans. The politicans will only listen to us if we are strong (membership). The passage of the GI Bill and the post 911 GI Bill were efforts of the Legion and you should support it.
  2. I am in the Retired Reserve after serving 25 years in the Army Reserve and National Guard (including a tour of duty in Iraq). When I went into the Retired Reserve in 2004, the Post 9/11 GI Bill was not in effect. I wanted to transfer it to my children for their college. I was told that I cannot because I am not in active status. I understand under retire reserve that I can be called back any time until I reach age 60. I have also served under state active duty orders twice since. I don't understand why I am not able to transfer my Post 9/11 GI bill.
  3. The GI Bill got me to college at Youngstown University in 1967 but there was no help in the transition. Hence I had to take the first year THREE TIMES and they hung over the first semester for years. My mother and my relatives said the military ruined my life forever. I was told that I could never advance in Civil Service Defense Logistics Agency Defense Depot San Joaquin by Clayton Phillips and HRC Fred Green who constantly brought me up on $60,000 trials over white spots on a shirt/ being a member of the California National Guard. If anything it was a disaster and I never will get anything but hate, belittlement, and denial. Now at age seventy, I can never work again.
  4. Hi, I am a army veteran. A couple yours ago I wanted to use my GI Bill to go to school. I had been working since I left the army and I have two kids. A couple of years ago I was now able to take the time to go to school. I was told that I couldn't use the GI bill because it had expired. I didn't know you had to use it within 10 years of being released. How does your education fund expires when you had it deducted from your paycheck to pay for school. I believe this is crap and now im told I can't use it for school.
  5. Same here. I retired in '96 and went straight to work again with the Feds. Commuted 2 hours in and out everyday, and spent another 10 hours daily at work. Travel was required, and I spent many days out on the road. When I got a reprieve from all the committed time, I wanted to continue my education. Found out I was beyond the 10 year mark too. My original education benefits were forever. Not sure when they changed them before my retirement, but I'm not happy with the fact they did.
  6. Dear Cmmdr.Dellinger: All I will say is thank God and hurray!!! for the G.I. Bill. Yours for God and Country Frank P Calderon
  7. The GI bill was not available when me and my husband served in the early eighties, and they would not grandfather in those who served when it was first introduced. I tried to see if I could get the military to pay for a couple of Clep exams so I could test out on a few things, nope nothing available.
  8. I bet the reason they would not let you grandfather in was because the educational portion of the GI Bill required an initial investment. They took $100 from my paychecks each month for a year. In retrospect it wasn't much but it sure hurt a lot on E1 pay.
  9. GI Bill is great. Unfortunately there was no GI Education Bill when I was in service in 1962-1964. I think the bill came out in 1965. Tried to apply for one moth without any luck. Paid my own education for an associate degree in 1962-1964.
  10. I did exactly the same thing, was in the service from 1957-1963 I paid for a AA degree over several years.
  11. Back in the 70's I began college again and was in the second semester when the VA decided to send down my records to Jacksonville, FL Since I had taken 12 hours of 090 courses for review. I didn't even know what DNA was, as I graduated High School in 1960. I was taking all 0100 courses when they decided I shouldn't have received my benefit for the first semester. I was paid for the first semester as a single male while I was married all the time. They cut off my benefit entirely telling me I should have taken half 090 and half 0100 and I had to support my pregnant wife so I went back to work. About 2 years ago I asked for a small education grant since my hearing was failing and house inspecting did not require any communication. The amount was $7,000,00. I was turned down even though they felt it was a perfect fit. The reason given, it was over the 15 years since discharge. A point of interest, I have a 30% disability because jet engines destroyed my hearing which they knew about but didn't tell me. I am sorry but I should have taken the matter to court and the lousy $7,000.00 would have been chicken feed. I am extremely pleased with the medical attention I am receiving and I am at least grateful to the VA for that but ignoring my plight makes me angry. I am licensed as a Property & Casualty insurance agent and changing to house inspecting was perfect for me. The VA really let me down!
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