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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Jesse H. Rhodes
Christian G. Appy
America’s commitment to the reintegration of veterans via social policy is not a recent political development; since the end of World War II, federal and state government programs have been designed (and redesigned) to successfully transition former military personnel back into civilian life. Beginning with the 1944 Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (commonly known as the G.I. Bill), the federal government has taken the primary role in this reintegration initiative, investing billions of dollars into veterans’ benefit programs for education assistance, unemployment compensation, and job placement services. Even as the legislation has been renewed after military conflicts, veterans’ education benefits have remained an integral part of the American social policy landscape in the post-New Deal era, providing critical tuition assistance for service members returning to a civilian workforce. As much as we know about the positive effects on American politics and economy generated by the original G.I. Bill and its successors, what do we know about the way that the legislation has been developed, or how it fits in with the broader set of (less popular) social policies in American history?
I argue that veterans’ education benefits were supported by an unlikely political coalition (comprised of often diverging interests) that was tenuously united by the success of the 1944 G.I. Bill. As a result of this coalition’s competing social policy goals, the development of veterans’ education benefits siphoned political momentum away from broad-based education aid policies after 1944. Drawing on Congressional records, hearing transcripts, and archival data from over a dozen national libraries and private collections, I highlight the strategies of this “veterans’ benefit coalition,” as well as the ways in which the coalition worked toward expanding veterans’ benefits at the expense of programs for the entire citizenry (dovetailing with conservative interests to limit the growth of the American welfare state). The inclusion of this veterans’ benefit coalition – and its spillover effects – in the broader narrative of American welfare state development is a critical contribution to understanding America’s “laggard” welfare system in a comparative context.
Tarsi, Melinda R., "A Veteran Welfare State: Veterans' Benefits, Coalition Politics, and Social Policy Change, 1943-1973" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 249.