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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of the Estate of Mary Beaton Denninger.

August 26, 1954

I HAVE WITHHELD my approval from S. 3064, 83d Congress, "An Act for the relief of the estate of Mary Beaton Denninger, deceased."

The bill would authorize and direct the Secretary of the Treasury to pay to the estate of Mrs. Denninger the sum of $780.36 in full settlement of all claims of the estate against the United States for payment of certain installments of an indemnity under the Servicemen's Indemnity Act of 1951.

Robert William Denninger died in service on November 20, 1952. The proceeds of a policy of United States Government life insurance, $2,443.27, were paid on behalf of Mary Beaton Denninger, the designated beneficiary. However, in order to determine whether she was also entitled as a widow to an indemnity of $7,000 under the Servicemen's Indemnity Act of 1951, for which no beneficiary had been designated, it was necessary to obtain evidence of the interlocutory judgment of divorce which the serviceman had obtained from her effective March 12, 1952, as well as evidence pertaining to the dissolution of one of her prior marriages. Upon receipt of evidence establishing her eligibility, settlement was authorized on her behalf and, without knowledge that she had died two days previously, a check for $780.36 representing 12 accrued installments of indemnity was mailed to a Veterans' Administration agency on October 27, 1953, for delivery to the payee. Because of the death the check was returned and canceled.

The law prohibited payment to Mrs. Denninger's estate, and thereafter the Veterans' Administration made settlement of the indemnity in favor of the serviceman's parents, the next entitled beneficiaries. This settlement included the installments totaling $780.36 which had accrued during the lifetime of Mrs. Denninger. The bill proposes that, in addition, the Government pay $780.36 to Mrs. Denninger's estate.

Favorable action by the Committees which considered the bill appears to have been based upon the view that the installments which accrued prior to Mrs. Denninger's death became her property and, accordingly, should be paid to her estate. The specific language of the law dearly expresses a contrary intention on the part of the Congress. I cannot agree either that the mandatory provision of the law should be abrogated in this case to the exclusion of other similar cases, or that the Government should be subjected to double payment of those installments of indemnity which accrued during Mrs. Denninger's lifetime. To do so would obviously be discriminatory and precedential.

As I have previously stated, if the law is to be changed it should be changed for all. Uniformity and equality of treatment under general law applicable equally to all must be the steadfast rule if the Federal programs for veterans and their dependents are to be operated successfully. Heeding the special plea of individual cases would obviously destroy the effectiveness of these programs.

For the foregoing reasons, I am unable to justify approval of S. 3064.


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

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of the Estate of Mary Beaton Denninger. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232651

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