Wednesday Dec 01, 2021

Tuskegee airmen Black U.S. Army Air Corps cadets stand at attention at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1942.U.S. Army Signal Corps / AP

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are reintroducing legislation that would repay the families of Black American veterans who served in World War II and were unable to take advantage of the original GI Bill.

The GI Bill Restoration Act would provide descendants of these veterans a transferable benefit that could be used to obtain housing, attend college or start a business, according to the announcement Thursday from the bill’s sponsors.

To mark Veterans Day, the bill was unveiled Thursday by House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts in the House and is expected to be introduced by Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia in the Senate. The Democratic lawmakers said that Black veterans had limited access to GI benefits in the past because most state and local veterans administrations were largely run by white officials.

The bill would extend access to Post-9/11 GI Bill educational assistance benefits to the surviving spouse and direct descendants of these veterans who were alive when the bill took effect. It would also extend access to the VA Loan Guaranty Program, which helps provide home loans to veterans and surviving spouses.

In a statement, Clyburn said that many Black World War II veterans were “treated unjustly” after they returned home and were denied a “path to the middle class.”

“It is important to acknowledge this injustice and help address the wealth gap that was exacerbated by the government’s failure to fulfill this promise to World War II veterans of color,” he said.

Warnock said in a statement, “Black service members fought valiantly in Europe and the Pacific for freedom from tyranny, with hope that their patriotism would be greeted with equality and opportunity once they returned home.”
“Racial inequity in how the immense benefits of the original GI Bill were disbursed are well-documented, and we’ve all seen how these inequities have trickled down over time, leaving Black World War II veterans and their families without what they earned through service and sacrifice,” Warnock said.

Under the legislation, the Government Accountability Office would be required to establish a panel of independent experts to assess inequities in how benefits are distributed to minority and female service members.

Moulton said Black World War II veterans were denied the generational wealth that they could have gained if they had attended college.

“We can never fully repay those American heroes,” he said. “But we can fix this going forward for their families.”

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