Service Pensions for War Veterans
Service Pensions for World War veterans remain a leading issue before the 81st Congress notwithstanding the decision of the House, Mar. 24, to return the Rankin (D., Miss.) pension bill to its Veterans' Affairs Committee. The Rankin bill proposed pensions of $90 a month for veterans of World War I and World War II at age 65. It was recommitted by a vote of 208 to 207. If the bill had been confined to World War I veterans, it would almost certainly have commanded majority support in the House.
Recommittal of the first Rankin pension bill was followed by introduction of a second Rankin bill which would grant pensions of $72 a month to veterans of World War I who are 65 years of age and who stand in need of financial assistance. Hearings on this bill were completed Apr. 28 and a vote will shortly be taken by the Veterans' Affairs Committee on reporting it to the House. Its cost over the next 50 years is estimated by the Veterans' Administration at $46 billion.
Veterans of World War I now number about 3½ million. Their average age is 56 years, so that most of them would be eligible for service pensions within a decade if such pensions are authorized at age 65. The average age of the 15 million veterans of World War II is about 30 years. These veterans would have to wait 35 years, on the average, to receive the service pensions proposed in the first Rankin bill.
A bonus bill for veterans of World War I, first passed by the House in 1920, was finally enacted in 1924. At the outset of the long debate it was argued that the bonus payments, originally scheduled for 1945, would be accepted by the veterans as a substitute for service pensions.