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AG Nessel Joins Bi-Partisan Call on Congress to Pass GI Bill Restoration Act, Grant Benefits to Black World War II Veterans and Their Families
July 27, 2023
LANSING – On the 75th Anniversary of the desegregation of the U.S. Military, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joins a bi-partisan, multi-state call on Congress to support H.R. 1255 – the Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr., and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023. The federal legislation, named in honor of two Black World War II veterans, extends eligibility for housing loans and educational assistance administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to Black World War II veterans, their surviving spouses, and certain direct descendants if the veteran was previously denied benefits on the basis of race.
In the letter, co-led by Massachusetts AG Andrea Joy Campbell, Illinois AG Kwame Raul, and New Hampshire AG John Formella, the 24 attorneys general assert that the legislation, through expanding access to homeownership and education, would help rectify past wrongs and fuel continued economic growth in communities across the country. “Our decision to uplift this legislation on this date is intentional,” the letter contends. “This marks the 75th anniversary of President Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981, on July 26, 1948, which mandated the desegregation of the U.S. military. This anniversary represents a powerful moment for us to honor and reaffirm our commitment to supporting and expanding economic opportunity for all of America’s veterans.”
“All veterans should have access to the benefits they earned through their service regardless of race, yet many were denied,” Nessel said. “The GI Bill Restoration Act would honor the sacrifices made by our Black service members and their families. This bill represents a meaningful step toward repairing the historic injustices Black veterans experienced in housing and education by extending their denied benefits to their families.”
Although the legislative text of the GI Bill was race-neutral, the administration of benefits was discriminatory, and Black World War II veterans were often denied opportunities. Institutions adopted the Federal Housing Administration’s racial exclusion programs, known as redlining, which excluded Black veterans from accessing the housing loan guaranty program. Black veterans were also denied access to educational benefits at certain universities on the basis of their race and were instead directed to vocational schools and chronically under-resourced historically Black colleges and universities.
Introduced by Congressmen Seth Moulton (MA-06) and James E. Clyburn (SC-06), the Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr., and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023, extends access to VA home loans and the Post-9/11 GI Bill education assistance benefits to Black World War II veterans, and to their surviving spouses and certain direct descendants, who were denied benefits in the original bill.
The Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr., and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023 would:
- Extend access to the VA Loan Guaranty Program to the surviving spouse and certain direct descendants of Black World War II veterans who are alive at the time of the bill’s enactment, if they can certify that the veteran was denied a specific benefit on the basis of race;
- Extend access to the Post-9/11 GI Bill educational assistance benefits to the surviving spouse and certain direct descendants of Black World War II veterans alive at the time of the bill’s enactment, if they can certify that the veteran was denied a specific benefit on the basis of race;
- Require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report outlining the number of individuals who received educational and housing benefits as a result of this bill; and
- Establish a Blue-Ribbon Panel of independent experts to study inequities in the distribution of benefits and assistance administered to female and minority members of the Armed Forces and provide recommendations to Congress and the President on additional assistance to repair those inequities.
The bill is named in honor of two Black World War II veterans. Sgt. Woodard, while in uniform, was beaten and blinded by South Carolina police, who dragged him from a bus in 1946. Sgt. Maddox was accepted by Harvard University but denied financial assistance from his local Veterans Affairs office because the agency wanted to “avoid setting a precedent.”
The letter was co-led by Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and joined by a bi-partisan coalition of the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.