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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of Ethel Hudson Morrison.

August 07, 1953

I AM WITHHOLDING approval from S. 754, "For the relief of Ethel Hudson Morrison."

This measure was enacted to overcome, for the benefit of the claimant, the provisions of the general law governing entitlement to the remaining proceeds of a National Service Life Insurance policy which matured in July 1943. It does this by resorting to legislative directive requiring the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs to assume, in the administration of the National Service Life Insurance Act of 1940, as amended, that the claimant "stood in loco parentis" to the insured and that she was the "designated sole contingent beneficiary" of his insurance policy.

The facts in this case are not disputed. The policy of the deceased designated his mother as principal beneficiary and the claimant, Ethel Hudson Morrison and William McKee Morrison, Jr., aunt and cousin, respectively, as contingent beneficiaries. The mother died in 1948. The aunt alone seeks to recover the remaining unpaid installments under the policy.

Prior to August 1, 1946, the law governing National Service Life Insurance policies did not permit either an aunt or a cousin to be named as a beneficiary. The law did recognize, as proper beneficiaries persons who, under certain circumstances, stood in loco parentis to the insured. Mrs. Morrison attempted, unsuccessfully, to establish such a relationship. The original application was administratively denied, and the affirming decision of the Board of Veterans' Appeals was not appealed to the courts, as was the claimant's right.

I consider this measure unacceptable for a number of reasons:

First, it is desirable, generally, in accordance with the right granted by the National Service Life Insurance Act of 1940, as amended, that disagreements with rulings of the Veterans' Administration be reviewed by the courts, thus exhausting all the remedies provided by the terms of general legislation.

Second, the directives of the bill, in providing for this claimant alone, seemingly defeat the intent of the insured that the cousin also should share. I find nothing in the record of the case to justify or explain setting aside the wishes of the insured in this respect.

Third, the National Service Life Insurance trust fund would become obligated for the liability were the bill approved. In view of the contract rights of existing policyholders, I share the doubt of the Veterans' Administration as to the legality of the proposed action.

Fourth, this legislative overruling of the decision of the Board of Veterans' Appeals seems to be based only on the less dominant considerations of the in loco parentis proceedings. Nowhere in the legislative history is any reason advanced for dismissing the considerations which the administrative decision found dominant and controlling. Even though Mrs. Morrison did care for the insured after his father's death, the fact remains that he was at no time actually living apart from his mother.

Far more fundamental is the objection I have heretofore expressed to setting aside the principles and rules of administration prescribed in the general laws governing veterans' benefit programs. Uniformity and equality of treatment to all who are similarly situated must be the rule if the Federal programs for veterans and their beneficiaries are to be operated successfully. Otherwise, inequity is added to inequity, as is fully revealed by statistics reported by the Veterans' Administration. More than 3,200 claims of designated beneficiaries for the proceeds of National Service Life Insurance have been denied because they were not within the permitted classes of beneficiaries. There may be cases in which the circumstances are unique and justify waiver of the law. In my judgment, this is not such a case.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of Ethel Hudson Morrison. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231899

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