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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Returning Home

Reintegrating soldiers into American life greatly concerned government policymakers. In addition to the War Risk Insurance Act of 1917, which established disability pensions for AEF soldiers, Congress approved the Vocational Rehabilitation Act (VRA) in 1918. The VRA sought to retrain wounded returning soldiers for new roles, particularly if they were unable to return to their previous vocations due to disability. The implementation of this controversial legislation was met with resistance. The agency responsible for delivering training to disabled veterans largely failed in its mission. Numerous veterans argued that they were being forced into vocations while being denied access to academic courses that might serve as a bridge to more lucrative professional careers. The ongoing activism of World War I veterans would lay the groundwork for the modern disability movement. By 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, veterans organized a mass protest in Washington, D.C., over compensation promised to them as a result of their activism. Referred to as the "Bonus March," veterans demanded immediate payment of bonds that were not scheduled for conversion until 1945.