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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of Mrs. Rosaline Spagnola.

September 01, 1954

I HAVE WITHHELD my approval from H.R. 2881, a bill "For the relief of Mrs. Rosaline Spagnola."

This enrolled enactment would pay to Mrs. Rosaline Spagnola the sum of $675.50 as additional compensation on account of the accidental death of her son in 1947 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

As a member of the Armed Forces, the beneficiary's son had been convicted of housebreaking by a court-martial, sentenced to five years' confinement, and given a suspended dishonorable discharge. While confined in a post stockade he was shot and killed during an abortive jailbreak. It was subsequently determined that the decedent was not involved in the attempted escape in any way, and his death was declared to have occurred in line of duty. On the basis of this determination the beneficiary was paid the usual six months' death gratuity.

Earlier in his military career the beneficiary's son had taken out a $10,000 national service life insurance policy, designating his mother as beneficiary, and paying the premiums on his policy by allotments from his pay. However, since he had forfeited all pay and allowances while in confinement his allotment became ineffective, causing the policy to lapse for lack of premium payment. When the beneficiary made application after her son's death for regular monthly payments under the policy, the Veterans' Administration made such payments to her over a period of several years in an aggregate amount of $4,324.50 before discovering that the policy had not actually been in effect at the time of the son's death. Under discretionary authority which it possesses, the Veterans' Administration waived recovery of the amount thus erroneously paid to the beneficiary on the grounds that she had received it in good faith and to require repayment would work an undue hardship on her. In this connection, it may be noted that the award proposed by the present measure is based on the difference between the aggregate amount of the erroneous insurance payments and $5,000, the sum deemed by the Congress to be a reasonable total payment in the light of the circumstances of the case.

It appears that, even if she were dependent upon her son for support, which she was not, the beneficiary is ineligible for survivorship benefits under laws administered by the Veterans' Administration, because such benefits are denied in cases in which the serviceman died while in confinement, regardless of whether or not his death was incurred in line of duty.

The only question presented by this case is whether its special facts warrant the additional relief which the bill would afford the beneficiary. It might be argued that such relief is warranted not only because the beneficiary, apart from the issue of dependency, is ineligible for benefits under laws administered by the Veterans' Administration even though her son died in line of duty but also because neither she nor her son was ever specifically notified by the Veterans' Administration that this insurance had lapsed. Even if such arguments were valid, and I do not consider that they are, I still believe that there would be no justification for the award proposed here. I believe that any equities which might have existed in favor of the beneficiary were more than satisfied when the Veterans' Administration waived recovery of the insurance payments erroneously made to her.


Note: This memorandum was released at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colo.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of Mrs. Rosaline Spagnola. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231787

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