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Attorney General Lopez joins bipartisan call on Congress to pass GI Bill Restoration Act

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Attorney General Anne Lopez joined a bipartisan, multistate 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 a letter released this week, 24 attorneys general asserted the legislation, through expanding access to homeownership and education, would help rectify past wrongs and fuel continued economic growth in communities across the country.

“The Sgt. Isaac Woodard Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023 recognizes the discrimination Black veterans often faced when they sought the same educational and housing benefits afforded to others,” said First Deputy Attorney General Matt Dvonch, who is currently serving as Acting Attorney General while Attorney General Lopez is out of state. “The bill is an important step toward addressing this historic injustice.”

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Although the legislative text of the G.I. 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 Veterans Affairs home loans and the Post-911 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-911 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 report outlining the number of individuals who received the educational and housing benefits as a result of this bill;   
  • 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.   
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The bill is named in honor of two Black World War II veterans. Sgt. Woodard was beaten and blinded in uniform 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 bipartisan coalition of the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, in addition to Hawaiʻi.

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