June 22, 2021, marks the 77th Anniversary of the GI Bill, originally titled the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944.” The GI Bill set out the authority and responsibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide Veteran education and training benefits, as well as loan guaranty services.
Some may only associate the GI Bill with just education and training benefits, but there’s much more to it and its associated programs and benefits.
VA set a record last fiscal year by providing more than 1.2 million home loans totaling $375 billion. VA helped almost 120,000 Veterans avoid foreclosure, saving taxpayers more than $3.4 billion in mortgage servicing fees. VA also provided nearly 2,100 adaptive housing grants worth over $116 million.
VA continues to improve and expand the benefits and services that were connected to the GI Bill. This year saw several pandemic-related acts administered by VA.
The Isakson-Roe Veterans Improvement Act of 2020 is a good example of how recent changes made by Congress recognize that the GI Bill is an economic opportunity engine.
To better support education, VA is implementing a Digital GI Bill that will modernize the information technology platform supporting the GI Bill. This will allow VA to deliver direct, online, one-stop access to GI Bill benefits and information to all GI Bill students, revolutionizing how Veterans and beneficiaries can interface with VA and their benefits while allowing them to receive benefits uninterrupted and on-time.
Another goal is to improve overall outreach and usage of the GI Bill programs for special populations, such as women Veterans, military spouses, children and minority Veterans.
One change that beneficiaries may also have noticed recently is that Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) services have changed its name from the previous “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment.” The change reemphasizes our mission to encourage, promote and support transitioning service members and Veterans with service-connected disabilities to achieve maximum independence in daily living and, to the maximum extent possible, to become employable and to obtain and maintain suitable employment.
VR&E counselors work on military installations and college campuses across the nation to provide outreach and readiness services to service members and Veterans.
VR&E is also currently undertaking a modernization effort to ensure the next generation of service members and Veterans reach their employment goals. It includes tele-counseling, e-VA communications, centralized mail, a web-based orientation tool and a state-of-the-art case management system.
Since 1944, over 26 million home loans have been guaranteed by VA worth nearly $3 trillion. Since 1948, VA has made almost 45,000 housing grants totaling nearly $1.7 billion.
The GI Bill was a triumph when it was passed 77 years ago. Its impact today only grows as it continues to benefit Veterans and their beneficiaries.
Dan Kuester is a public affairs specialist for the Veterans Benefits Administration.