OAKLAND, July 26, 2023 – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a bipartisan coalition of 24 attorneys general in submitting a letter to Congress in support of H.R. 1255, the Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023. Authored by Congressmen Seth Moulton (D-MA) and James Clyburn (D-SC), the federal legislation would extend eligibility for certain housing and educational benefits to Black World War II veterans and their families. The original GI Bill signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 — known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act — was race neutral, but its implementation was marred by racism.
“Exactly 75 years ago, President Harry S. Truman mandated the desegregation of our Armed Forces. Today, we cannot lose sight of a harsh reality: Black World War II veterans and their families were systematically denied the GI benefits they had rightfully earned,” said Attorney General Bonta. “H.R. 1255 would fix that terrible injustice, and I join my fellow attorneys general in urging Congress to pass it. We must continue to make progress toward a more perfect union.”
The original GI Bill provided a range of benefits to World War II veterans, including low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business or farm, and funds to pursue a college education. However, these benefits were regularly denied to Black World War II veterans and their families solely because of the color of their skin. For example, institutions adopted the Federal Housing Administration’s racial exclusion programs, known as redlining, which excluded Black World War II veterans from accessing the housing loan guaranty program. The consequences of such acts have had longstanding impacts: according to a report from the Consumer Federation of America, homeownership between white Americans and Black Americans stand at 74.50% and 44.10%, respectively, as of 2020.
If passed, the Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023 — named after two Black World War II veterans who experienced life-altering injustices — would among other things:
- Extend access to the VA Loan Guaranty Program to surviving spouses and certain direct descendants of Black World War II veterans.
- Extend access to the Post-911 GI Bill educational assistance benefits to surviving spouses and certain direct descendants of Black World War II veterans.
- Establish a panel of experts to make recommendations on addressing inequitable access to benefits for female and minority members of the Armed Forces.
In sending today’s letter, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
A copy of the letter is available here.