December 1, 2023

Is it time for Black WWII vets to receive reparations at last?

By: Roy Douglas Malonson

 There’s been an increasing amount of conversation surrounding reparations for the Black American community and righting the economic injustices faced by Blacks caused by centuries of racism and failure from the United States government. One ambitious and long-overdue proposed legislation is the GI Bill Restoration Act.

Recently, Congressional Democrats reintroduced the GI Bill Restoration Act, a legislation that would provide descendants of Black World War II veterans the GI Bill benefits that many Black WWII veterans were denied.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts introduced the legislation in the House, and according to a news release on Clyburn’s website, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia was to introduce the legislation in Senate.

“While the original GI Bill ushered in decades of prosperity for post-war America, access to this prosperity was limited for Black World War II veterans who were denied full access to these benefits by mostly-white state and local Veterans Administrations,” the release said.

The bill would provide surviving spouses and descendants of Black WWII veterans access to the VA Loan Guarantee Program, which provides assistance for buying and building homes, and the Post-911 GI Bill educational assistance that provides financial assistance for school or job training. The legislation would also establish a Blue Ribbon Panel “to study inequities in the distribution of benefits and assistance administered to female and minority members of the Armed Forces and provide recommendations on additional assistance to repair those inequities,” according to the release.

The bill honors Black WWII veterans Sgt. Isaac Woodard Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox, and aims to supply “a transferable benefit” for Black World War II descendants and surviving spouses “to attend college, secure housing, start businesses and build generational wealth.”

In 1944, the GI Bill was established to assist “qualifying Veterans and their family members get money to cover all or some of the costs for school and training,” according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. While white veterans received these benefits and other financial assistance, Black veterans were excluded from the full benefits of the bill.

“We all know that the quickest way to build wealth is through education and homeownership. So many Black families were denied this 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,” Clyburn said in a statement.

In a statement, Moulton said that while the GI Bill is considered one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever, not everyone reaped its benefits.

“Most Americans don’t know that many Black veterans were left out: denied benefits, denied homes, denied the generational wealth that comes from going to college,” said Moulton. “We can never fully repay those American heroes. But we can fix this going forward for their families. While our generation didn’t commit this wrong, we should be committed to making it right. This legislation honors our nation’s commitment to America’s vets.”


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