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62D CONGRESS, | HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. S 1st Session.}
REPORT No. 160.
SERVICE PENSIONS FOR CERTAIN DEFINED SOLDIERS
OF THE CIVIL WAR.
August 19, 1911.-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of
the Union and ordered to be printed.
Mr. SHERWOOD, from the Committee on Invalid Pensions, submitted
[To accompany H. R. 1.]
The Committee on Invalid Pensions, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 1) to create a service pension for certain defined soldiers of the Civil War, having fully considered the same, report thereon with the recommendation that said bill do pass.
The committee beg leave to submit to the House the considerations which induced the committee to recommend the passage of the bill, which indorsement in committee was adopted with only one negative vote.
House bill 1, the approved bill of the Invalid Pensions Committee, is on the basis of the dollar-a-day pension bill first introduced by the chairman of this committee early in December, 1907. The bill was also reintroduced in December, 1909, and was pending in the Invalid Pensions Committee up to March 4, 1911, at the end of the Sixty-first Congress.
First. This bill does not repeal or modify any existing pension laws.
Second. It in no way modifies, restricts, or in any way changes the laws or rules governing the payment of present pensions to the inmates of national soldiers' homes.
Third. It does not in any manner whatever attempt to make any change in the State laws or rules regulating the payment of pensions to the inmates of State homes. The Federal Government has no jurisdiction or power to regulate soldiers' homes established by the States. The only provision in the bill referring to State homes is a section which provides that the General Government shall not contribute to the State on account of any soldier inmate who secures, under this act, an increase of pension to $25 or $30 per month. As nearly all of the States where the 30 State soldiers' homes are located bar soldiers from admission whose present pension is $17 per month or over, this provision on the bill bars out no present inmate of a State soldiers' home.
The provisions touching State and National soldiers' homes were suggested to the chairman by a number of Congressmen who have made a study and investigation of both National and State soldiers' nomes. There are now about 25,000 soldiers in the 10 National homes and nearly 20,000 soldiers in the 30 State soldiers' homes.
The chairman of this committee has during the past four years received petitions and letters from some 7,000 inmates of National and State homes, in which the petitioners state they will abandon these homes and go home to their families and friends of their early manhood if paid å pension of $1 per day. It is costing the Government now $219.70 per year for every soldier in a national home, and all these soldiers are paid pensions besides. If only 10,000 of the 25,000 soldiers in national homes avail themselves of the $25 and $30 per month pension and go home, it will be seen that this saves over $2,190,000 per year, or that much more money to distribute among the needy veterans.
Again, the Government is now paying pensions to all the inmates of the 30 State homes, and, besides that, is paying the States which are maintaining the homes $100 per year for each inmate. This means $2,000,000 which should go to needy soldiers' pensions. If only one-third of the inmates of the State homes avail themselves of the benefits of House bill 1, this means a saving to the Government of over $666,000 per year; and it also means a very large saving to every State now maintaining a soldiers' home at probably over $200 per capita.
And there is another consideration. Every old soldier, if paid $1 per day, will be enabled to enjoy his few remaining years on earth with more comfort and satisfaction among his family and friends than in a soldiers' home, where he is isolated from all family influences and the society of his kindred.
The provision that a soldier with a net income of $1,000 or over should draw no additional pension under this act was offered as an amendment to the so-called Sulloway bill, when it was considered in the House January 10, 1911, by Mr. Weeks, of Massachusetts. The committee adopted Mr. Weeks's amendment on the theory that all the money to be appropriated for this bill should go to soldiers in distress and want.
There is still another valuable provision in House bill 1 that is wanting in any of the numerous age-pension bills. House bill i provides a maximum pension of $30 per month for all who were either wounded or disabled in the service, even if they did not serve 90 days. A brigade of Sherman's army on the Atlanta campaign, known as Gen. Hovey's brigade, came to that army fresh from the mustering officers. Their first charge was at Resača, Ga., May 15, 1864, and they were in the charge on Kenesaw Mountain and all the battles up to Atlanta. Over one-fourth were wounded or disabled and mustered out before they had served 90 days. Not one of these veterans can get a dollar of pension under any of the age-pension bills, because they did not serve 90 days. The emergency men who in the terrible crisis which confronted the Union arms in the decisive Battle of Gettysburg can not get a dollar of pension under the 90-day age-pension bills, and there are thousands of worthy and needy and deserving soldiers who did valuable emergency service and were disabled in that service, who will be paid pensions by House bill 1, who are barred out by all the so-called age-pension bills.
The committee carefully considered all the conditions in which the old soldiers of to-day are environed and have inserted a disability section in the dollar-a-day service bill. A majority of the committee believe that any pension bill which provides a pension of $36 per month for a soldier who served only 90 days and is 75 years old, and allows a 3-year veteran, who served all through the war, to draw only $15 per month, because he went to the war when a mere boy, is neither charity, justice, nor patriotism. Here is another very valuable consideration: Last year the Government paid out over $700,000 for medical boards and special examiners. Under House bill 1 nearly all these boards can be abolished without detriment to the service, as under House bill 1 there will be no occasion for a medical examination, as every soldier will be paid on his service, with the exception of only one section of the bill.
We also paid out last year over $300,000 for special pension examiners, making in all considerably over $1,000,000, nearly all of which can be saved and the money paid direct to the soldiers, because there will be no necessity whatever for examining boards, as the exact status of every soldier is fixed by this law; it is fixed on his service and can not be either raised or reduced by the action of any medical board or special pension examiners. This is an important feature, as a million dollars now spent on useless boards can be paid direct to the old soldiers.
Another economic feature of House bill 1 is worthy of very serious consideration. Pensions paid on service will enable the Pension Bureau to very largely reduce the office force, while pensions based on age and not on merit are not fixed and are constantly increasing, and will demand a large force of pension officials and clerks to handle and adjust the changes in pension rates, with the increasing age of the pensioners.
This committee is daily in receipt of a large number of letters from the veterans of the Civil War as to the respective merits of the two systems of pensions-one based on service with no age provision,
and one based solely on age, with no actual service conditions. Over 7,000 letters from representative soldiers have been received up to date. The following letter is a fair average opinion:
CHICAGO, August 11, 1911. Hon. Isaac R. SHERWOOD,
Chairman Invalid Pensions Committee. DEAR SIR: Copy of the Congressional Record, containing your speech of July 29, is received and highly appreciated. I have been to some pains to ascertain the feeling in our post (U. S. Grant, No. 28) as to the merits of your bill as compared with all of the others. "I find that out of some 300 active members--all there are in the post282 are in favor of the Sherwood bill. Forty-six of this number would not be benefited on account of having income of over $1,000 per annum outside of present pension received. Having been sergeant major of the post for several years, and much of the time acting adjutant, I am fairly well acquainted, personally, with all of the active members of the post, hence have obtained a fair expression from them. Yours, in F., 6., and L.,
BYRON F. Davis,
One of the strongest Grand Army of the Republic posts in Ohio is the Old Guard Post, of Dayton. The adjutant of that post is both a representative soldier and a representative citizen. In a letter to the committee, under date of August 11, 1911, he writes in the same vein as the above. All letters received by the committee during the last 10 days commend House bill 1 as the best possible solution of the pending pension question. As a prominent veteran writes:
The question is not which is the most liberal bill, but which is the best bill and which has the best prospects of becoming a law.
This view is very lucidly and forcibly voiced by that one-armed veteran, Gen. John E. Gilman, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, in a letter to the chairman of the committee:
I agree with you, and Gen. Burdett will agree with you, that it is absurd to put through a pension bill in the House that will call for such a large appropriation that it will not pass the Senate. By doing that we are scattering our influence and are preventing the passage of a moderate bill which would have some show to become a las.
I have no control of the National Tribune. If I had, the views expressed in your Jetter would be spread in its columns rather than the present unreasonable demands for an impossible pension bill. I shall ask Gen. Burdett, chairman of the national pension committee, to consult with you, and I know you will receive him in the proper spirit.
The argument is made, with some plausible basis, that all comrades of the war should share alike 45 years after the war. Hence the short-term soldiers and the long-service veterans should all be pensioned at the same rate. If we concede this argument, how does the Sulloway bill or any other age-pension bill work out this equality of beneficence? Let us see:
Here is Samuel Barnhart, Company C, Forty-sixth Ohio, who enlisted in 1862, when 16 years old, for three years, and served in 20 battles. Mustered out June 4, 1865.
Here is another soldier, David Gillespie, One hundred and seventyseventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who enlisted for 100 days in August, 1864, at the age of 28 years.
Barnhart is now 65 years old, and under the proposed age-pension bill would draw a pension of $20 per month, while the 100-day soldier who saw no service, was never at the front, and is now 75 years old, would draw $36 per month. The inevitable result of the age-pension system is as follows:
Samuel Barnhart, three years' service, 20 battles, gets $20 per month.
David Gillespie, service 90 days, in home camp, gets $36 per month.
Paying a three-year veteran of 20 battles $20 per month and a 100-day man, of no battles, $36 per month is outrageous inequality and injustice and can not be defended.
Comrade John W. Lanley, of St. Louis, Mo., voices the veteran soldiers' opinion on the age-pension system in a tetter to the committee dated July 16, 1911, as follows:
The man who enlisted in 1861 and served three years and endured all the hardships of camp life gets less under the McElroy-Anderson bill than the man who stayed at home until the last year of the war and then went out under the 100-day call and served in a home camp 90 days, and drew a big State and county bounty. He gets double the pension under this age-pension system of McElroy's, because he was 30 or 35 years old when he enlisted. In other words, the boys who did the fighting at the front get $15 per month and the stay-at-home gets $25 and $36.
The above are not exceptional cases. It is estimated that at least 33 per cent of the soldiers who would become beneficiaries of an exclusively age pension law would be short-term soldiers.
This committee is in receipt of hundreds of letters from representative soldiers, giving individual cases in their respective localities, like the above.
House bill 1, approved by the Invalid Pensions Committee, makes liberal and ample provisions for the short-term soldiers. It pensions a soldier who served 90 days at $15 per month; six months, at $20 per month; the nine months' soldier gets $25, and the soldier who served one year or over receives $30 per month.
The chairman of the committee asked the Pension Bureau for the estimated cost of House bill 1; but owing to the section which excludes soldiers with a net income per year of $1,000 or over from the benefits of the act, the Pension Bureau refused to make an estimate on the aggregate cost of the bill. This refusal was based on the ground that the bureau has no data upon which to make such estimate. After a poll of some 20 Grand Army of the Republic posts the estimate runs from 20 to 30 per cent. It must be remembered that only a trifle over 40 per cent of the surviving soldiers of the Civil War are now members of the Grand Army association. Almost 60 per cent belong to other fraternal soldier orders, or are not members of any soldier societies.
Your committee has, however, obtained official figures and estimates from the Pension Bureau which enables us to make an approximate estimate of the cost of House bill 1.
The number of soldiers of the Civil War on the pension roll on the 1st of July, 1911, was 529,884. The aggregate amount of pension paid to Civil War soldiers during the year was $101,425,534. The average rate for such pensioner was therefore $191.41 under all the general and private pensions.
The number of deaths during the year ending July 1, 1911, was 35,243, or an average of almost 3,000 a month. The number of soldiers who will be available for pensions on the 1st day of January, 1912, is estimated to be about 509,000. Of this number over 63,000 are now drawing pensions of $25 per month and $30 per month and over. Hence in estimating the increased cost for pensions (should House bill i be enacted) we must deduct 63,000 from the entire number of pensioners, leaving the number of soldiers available for the increase on January 1, 1912, 446,000.
House bill 1 provides four classes-$15 per month, $20 per month, $25 per month, and $30 per month-rated on the length of service. The average rate is therefore $22.50 per month, or $270 per year. The average rate per man during the year ending July 1, 1911, was (official) $191.41. The increase under House bill 1 would therefore be $78.59. Apply this increase to 446,000 soldiers and the amount is, in round numbers, a little over $34,000,000. The Pension Bureau estimate on the cost of the disability section (section 2) of House bill 1 will add a trifle over $3,000,000, making the aggregate not far from $37,000,000. Deduct 22 per cent from this aggregate (this is a very conservative estimate) and the aggregate amount is $28,858,000. The Pension Bureau states that only 200,000 cases can be handled the first year; hence 200,000 cases, with an increase of $78.59 per applicant, would take from the Treasury the first year the sum of