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'Where Soldiers Come From' in Context

The GI Bill and Access to Federal Benefits

The original GI Bill was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. Roosevelt stated that it gave "emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down." The Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the disbursement of GI Bill money, along with all other federal benefits, to the military and military families.



The original GI Bill (also known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944) was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. Roosevelt stated that it gave "emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down."

The GI Bill ultimately provided veterans with new opportunities and resources, such as money for education and training, home loans, job-seeking assistance, unemployment relief and improved veterans' hospitals. By offering veterans incentives to go back to school, the GI Bill helped to make conversion to a peacetime economy after World War II smooth, because not as many people were fighting for jobs. In 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, by the time the original GI Bill ended in 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program.

The bill has since been revamped several times in accordance with changes in educational expenses and standards of living. In 2008, the GI Bill was reworked to give veterans with active duty service on or after September 11, 2001, enhanced educational benefits and cover more educational expenses, providing a living allowance, money for books and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children.

In the film, Dom and Bodi both take advantage of the GI Bill and successfully enroll in college classes. Cole attempts to take advantage of the GI bill to attend college, only to be tripped up by a bureaucratic error at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the disbursement of GI Bill money, along with all other federal benefits, to the military and military families. A survey of social workers, nurses and doctors working for the Department of Veterans Affairs published in October 2011 found that more than 70 percent of respondents thought the department lacked the staff and space to meet the needs of the growing number of veterans.

More than 37 percent of the 272 respondents said they cannot schedule appointments in their clinics for new patients within the 14-day standard mandated by the department, according to a copy of the survey obtained by The Washington Post.

The survey was requested by the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs after a hearing in the summer of 2011 at which veterans diagnosed with various mental health issues spoke of long waits for treatment that could potentially raise the risk of suicide. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, on average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

The department has hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals in recent years and has a staff of almost 21,000, a 47 percent increase from five years ago.

Photo caption: Dom in the abandoned building where he paints murals.  Credit: Heather Courtney
Sources:
» Buffalo News. "Much-praised G.I. Bill Began Amid Controversy." May 2, 2009.
» TIME. "A Brief History Of: The G.I. Bill." May 29, 2008.
» United States Department of Veterans Affairs
» Vogel, Steve. "VA Lacks Resources to Deal with Mental Health, Survey Finds." The Washington Post, October 3, 2011.



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