Sunday, August 7, 2016

Veterans Fighting Wars and 114 Sessions of Congress

Veterans were supposed to receive more than "gratefulness" from this nation even before it was a nation.
From the beginning, the English colonies in North America provided pensions for disabled veterans. The first law in the colonies on pensions, enacted in 1636 by Plymouth, provided money to those disabled in the colony’s defense against Indians.

Other colonies followed Plymouth’s example.
Members of Congress have been in charge of how veterans are treated in this country since beginning of it. So why do they forget that as they are responsible for everything they complain about?

History of the VA

Revolutionary War
In 1776 the Continental Congress sought to encourage enlistments and curtail desertions with the nation’s first pension law. It granted half pay for life in cases of loss of limb or other serious disability.
At most, only 3,000 Revolutionary War veterans ever drew any pension. Later, grants of public land were made to those who served to the end of the war.
1812 National effort to provide medical care for disabled veterans. 

Civil War
1862 Congress established National Cemetery System to provide burial for the many Union dead of the Civil War.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the nation had about 80,000 war veterans. By the end of the war in 1865, another 1.9 million veterans had been added to the rolls. This included only veterans of Union forces. Confederate soldiers received no federal veterans benefits until 1958, when Congress pardoned Confederate servicemembers and extended benefits to the single remaining survivor.
Immediately after the Civil War, the number of disabled veterans in need was so great that Congress in 1865 authorized the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The name was changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1873.
First Veterans Group
After the Civil War, veterans organized to seek increased benefits. The Grand Army of the Republic, consisting of Union veterans of the Civil War, was the largest veterans organization emerging from the war.

As part of the effort between 1865 and 1870 to rebury battlefield casualties, 70 national cemeteries were opened and 300,000 remains gathered and reburied. Of the total buried, 142,000 were unknown. In 1873 Congress authorized national cemetery burial for all honorably discharged Union veterans.
Aid and Attendance
The Consolidation Act in 1873 revised pension legislation, paying on the degree of disability rather than the service rank. The Act also began the aid and attendance program, in which a disabled veteran is paid to hire a nurse or housekeeper.
Until 1890, Civil War pensions were granted only to servicemen discharged because of illness or disability attributable to military service. The Dependent Pension Act of 1890 substantially broadened the scope of eligibility, providing pensions to veterans incapable of manual labor. Within the next three years the number of veterans on the pension roll increased from 489,000 to 996,000 and expenditures doubled. Legislation passed in the 19th century had established a general pension system that could be applied to future pension recipients. As a consequence, new pension laws did not follow the Spanish-American War in 1898 or the Philippine Insurrection, 1899 to 1901.

The first important pension law in the 20th century was the Sherwood Act of 1912, which awarded pensions to all veterans. A similar law in the 19th century had limited recipients to Revolutionary War veterans. Under the Sherwood Act, veterans of the Mexican War and Union veterans of the Civil War could receive pensions automatically at age 62, regardless of whether they were sick or disabled.

As a result, the record shows that of the 429,354 Civil War veterans on pension rolls in 1914, only 52,572 qualified on grounds of disability.

Veterans Protest 1932
As the Depression worsened, veterans began calling for immediate payment of their “bonuses,” as the certificates came to be called. In March 1932, a small group of veterans from Oregon began marching to Washington, D.C., to demand payment. Word of the march spread like wildfire and soon small bands of unemployed veterans from across the country began descending on the nation’s capital.

There is no way of knowing how many veterans joined the “Bonus Expeditionary Forces,” as the marchers were called. By the summer, some estimates put the force at between 15,000 and 40,000. They camped wherever they could. Some slept in abandoned buildings or erected tents. But many lived in makeshift shacks along the mudflats of the Anacostia River. With no sanitation facilities, living conditions quickly deteriorated in the “shanty town.”
Veterans Administration Created 1930
President Hoover, in his 1929 State of the Union message, proposed consolidating agencies administering veterans benefits. The following year Congress created the Veterans Administration by uniting three bureaus — the previously independent Veterans’ Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions and the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. President Hoover signed the executive order establishing the VA on July 21, 1930.
GI Bill of Rights Servicemen's Readjustment Act 1944


Veterans Preference Act 1944

VA Hospitals and Waiting in Line
On Feb. 1, 1946, Bradley reported that the VA was operating 97 hospitals with a total bed capacity of 82,241 patients. Hospital construction then in progress projected another 13,594 beds. Money was available for another 12,706 beds with the construction of 25 more hospitals and additions to 11 others. But because of the demobilization, the total number of veterans would jump to more than 15 million within a few months. The existing VA hospitals were soon filled to capacity, and there were waiting lists for admission at practically all hospitals. In addition, there were 26,057 nonservice-connected cases on the hospital waiting list. Until more VA hospitals could be opened, the Navy and Army both made beds available.

To handle the dramatic increase in veterans claims, VA Central Office staff was increased in two years from 16,966 to 22,008. In the same period, field staff, charged with providing medical care, education benefits, disability payments, home loans and other benefits, rose from 54,689 employees to 96,047.
Every session of Congress, from the 1st to this 114th, have managed to forget that no matter which party controlled what got done and what went wrong, to blame everyone but themselves.  They are still doing it.