Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval a Bill for Retirement of Emergency Officers of the World War
To the Senate:
Herewith is returned, without approval, S. 777, a bill making eligible for retirement, under certain conditions, officers and former officers of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps of the United States, other than officers of the Regular Army, Navy, or Marine Corps, who incurred physical disability in line of duty while in the service of the United States during the World War.
This bill provides, among other things, that those who served as emergency officers of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps during the World War and who during such service had incurred physical disability in line of duty, and who have been, or may hereafter, within one year, be rated in accordance with law at not less than 30 per cent, permanent disability resulting directly from such war service, shall be placed upon an emergency officers' retired list, and shall receive retired pay at the rate of 75 per cent, of the pay to which they were entitled at the time of their discharge from their commissioned service, except pay under the act of May 18, 1920.
What this bill proposes is to compensate a limited number of emergency officers not according to their disability but according to the rank which they held in the World War. It breaches the fundamental principles of our Government to compensate service, not rank. The policy which this bill proposes for the compensation of a limited number of disabled emergency officers is wrong. Aside from this, the bill discriminates against emergency officers of less than 30 per cent, disability and all disabled enlisted men of the World War in favor of a limited number of disabled officers.
The most sacred duty of our citizenry is to enroll in the defense of their country in time of need. It is the proud record of our Nation that the sacredness of this duty has been recognized by all of the people at all times. When the emergency of the World War confronted us one of our great needs was an expansion of our regular military and naval services. Proper organization required that the expansion for the emergency be in commissioned officers and enlisted men. Both the commissioned officer and the enlisted man who entered the service for this emergency were serving in the same duty—the defense of their country. In this there was and could be no distinction between the two. There was no distinction as to the duration of their service.
We recognized no distinction in framing our laws for the care and benefit of those who were disabled. Under them both officer and enlisted man are treated alike. Their dependents are treated alike. We willingly and gladly recognized the merit of service, but we carefully guarded against the recognition of the rank or grade held during that service.
This nation has pledged itself to care for the disabled of our World War veterans and their dependents. That pledge has and will be kept. No soldiers in history have been so bounteously cared for as we have cared for our veterans of the World War. If further aid is needed, it should be bestowed not by changing the policy of our Government, as it is proposed in this bill, but by continuing that policy so that it will continue to apply alike to all disabled veterans of the World War.
In the perpetuation of our present policy the Nation will be secure. Full justice will be accorded alike to our veterans of the World War and to the other taxpayers of the country. This bill would practically double the cost of the compensation of the 3,297 emergency officers who are now 30 per cent, or more disabled. Their present compensation amounts to $2,874,000 per annum, while the cost under this bill would be $5,204,000. This gives some idea of the immediate cost of the policy which this bill proposes. Once adopted, that policy will open the door to a flood of expenditures that will likely surpass anything of the kind that we have yet experienced. It will at once be apparent that it is a gross discrimination against the enlisted men. It will be difficult to make any answer to their demand for like treatment. If such a request were granted the cost would be so great as to make it practically impossible to provide our country with national defense.
THE WHITE HOUSE, May 22, 1928.
Calvin Coolidge, Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval a Bill for Retirement of Emergency Officers of the World War Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/328765