The legacy of The American Legion-inspired G.I. Bill is being celebrated as the Department of Veterans Affairs announced its 20-millionth VA home loan guarantee on Oct. 26.
The program of government-assured low-interest home loans for military veterans and their families was begun during the waning days of World War II with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the original G.I. Bill of Rights.
This landmark legislation, which provided millions of World War II veterans with higher education and consequently ushered in the era of America’s economic and technological preeminence, was conceived by The American Legion and drafted on hotel stationery by the Legion’s 1936-37 national commander, Harry Colmery of Kansas.
It was Colmery and 1943-44 National Commander Warren Atherton who escorted the bill through Congress, arguing passionately for veterans educational benefits, government-assured health care and what they called "readjustment allowances." Today, Colmery and Atherton are lauded as the "fathers of the G.I. Bill" and its successors.
"As the VA unlocks the 20-millionth front door for a deserving new homeowner, "we must remember that the G.I. Bill legacy belongs not only to Commanders Colmery and Atherton, but to the millions of Legionnaires, then and now, who have campaigned for the hard-earned benefits their brothers and sisters enjoy today," current National Commander James E. Koutz said. "With our colleagues at the VA, we celebrate this historically significant event."
The landmark VA home loan guarantee was awarded in Woodbridge, Va. to the surviving spouse of an Iraq War veteran who died in 2010.