Richard Nixon photo

Statement on Benefits for Vietnam Veterans.

June 05, 1969

AMERICANS have long known that those who defended the great values of our Nation in wartime are of great value to the Nation when the war is over. It is traditional that the American veteran has been helped by his Nation so that he can create his own "peace story," a story of prosperity, independence, and dignity.

Initially, this help took the form of health and old age benefits. With the enactment of the GI bill in the Second World War--a bill, in effect, reenacted for Korean veterans in 1952 and for Vietnam veterans in 1966--a major transformation took place. The education and training of the veterans became a matter of the most immediate concern.

Veterans benefit programs have therefore become more than a recognition for services performed in the past; they have become an investment in the future of the veteran and of his country.

The time has come for a careful reevaluation of this investment. Just as there is a difference between the kinds of battles fought in Normandy in 1944 and in South Vietnam in 1969, so there is also a difference in the kinds of problems faced by the returning veterans of these battles. Therefore, we must be certain our programs are tailored to meet the needs of today's veterans.

We are proud of the existing programs that now are available to our veterans. What we must do is to seek and find ways in which the efforts of the Veterans Administration and the Federal Government in general can be improved and made available to the largest possible number of Vietnam veterans.

I am, therefore, appointing today the President's Committee on the Vietnam Veteran. This Committee will be chaired by the Administrator of the Veterans Administration and will consist of the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission.

The staff of the Committee will be drawn from the respective Departments, the Executive Office of the President, the Veterans Administration, and the Office of Economic Opportunity. The Committee will consult with representatives from business, labor groups, veterans organizations, and veterans themselves.

I have directed the Committee to report to me on the present stage of benefits for returning veterans and recommendations on how these provisions can be improved or redirected.

In connection with the formation of this Committee, I have directed the Bureau of the Budget to undertake a general study of returning veterans with emphasis upon those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am convinced that this study will be of service to the Committee in its efforts to determine what assistance such veterans are getting and what further assistance they may need.

I expect that the Committee will provide answers to three major questions: I. How can we help more veterans to benefit from existing programs?

2. How can we design programs to help those veterans who need help the most-the undereducated, ill-trained, hitherto unemployed or underemployed?

3. How can we improve the overall program of veterans benefits so that it meets the specific challenges of our society and the needs of the veterans?

It is our hope that there will come a day when the benefits of peace will convince men and nations of the folly of war; until then, we must make certain that the benefits we offer reflect our pride in our veterans and our gratitude for their sacrifices.

Note: "The President's Committee on the Vietnam Veteran Interim Report" and its letter of transmittal, dated October 21, 1969, are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1450).

Also on October 21, the White House Press Office released the text of a news briefing by the Administrator of Veterans Affairs Donald E. Johnson concerning the report.

The President's statement was released at San Clemente, Calif.

Richard Nixon, Statement on Benefits for Vietnam Veterans. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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