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Remarks on Signing a Bill Providing Better Survivor Benefits for Dependents of Military Retirees

September 21, 1972

I wanted to say to you gentlemen that on occasions of bill signings, we usually have a statement made briefly by the President. I noted the great number who are here for this bill signing. It allows me to make a point that many times we sign bills that have an enormous effect on groups of people, but very few people in the Nation are aware of it, very few people, really, would seem to care.

This happens to be one of those bills that would go unnoticed, except for the fact that there are Members of the House and Members of the Senate, who have felt strongly for many, many years that an inequity ought to be corrected. The bill came to my desk. When I saw it, I suggested that we invite down Members of the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, who had supported this legislation.

In order that the Nation will know that a government can be responsive to an inequity, an inequity involving men and women who have served in our Armed Forces and their survivors, I thought the Secretary of Defense could take a few minutes to explain the details of the bill, and then I will sign it. Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY LAIRD. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

This bill is a very significant bill. It is significant in the lives of the families of 900,000 military people who have already retired. They have an opportunity to qualify for the survivors benefits under the terms of this bill.

In addition to that, it affects the families and the lives of the men and women of the military service that are currently serving in our Armed Forces. They have an opportunity to be treated as other civilian workers in Government have been treated, as members of the Foreign Service have been treated, for many years.

For 25 years, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have been considering legislation along this line. It was through the efforts of the House and the Senate committees, and the bipartisan support on the floor of the House and the Senate, that this legislation is a reality today. I would like to express the appreciation not only of our Commander in Chief but of those of us in the Defense Department who are working for an all-volunteer force for our Army, our Air Force, our Navy, and our Marine Corps, that these military men are involved in a very real sense in a different way, because of their separation from their families during their careers in military service. And this means a great deal to them because it is the support of their families that makes it possible for them to do the kind of job that is so necessary in the defense of freedom in the world and in making possible our efforts and our objective of peace throughout the world.

And so on behalf of all of us in the Department of Defense, I would like to express to all of you from the Congress our appreciation for making this opportunity available not only to the 900,000 that have already retired from military service but to all those men and women that are currently taking part in the defense of our country and serving in the Armed Forces.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, I would only add to that by saying that we have taken action on the pay front with regard to military personnel. We are now taking action on the survivors front for benefits that should be provided for those who serve in our Armed Forces.

But most important of all, we have to remember that what the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces really need more than anything else is respect. Whatever we pay them, whatever survivor benefits we provide, certainly should be equivalent to what they could do in civilian life, but the respect must come from all of the American people for those who serve in our Armed Forces. The fact that so many of you have come down from the House and the Senate today not only indicates your interest in this legislation, but it indicates that on a bipartisan front we respect the men and women who serve America all over the world, in war and peace.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. He spoke without referring to notes.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 10670) is Public Law 92-425 (86 Stat. 706).

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing a Bill Providing Better Survivor Benefits for Dependents of Military Retirees Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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