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Veto of Bill Amending Provisions Relating to the Retirement of Reserve Personnel.

August 09, 1949

To the House of Representatives:

I return herewith, without my approval, H.R. 5508 "An Act to amend the Army and Air Force Vitalization and Retirement Equalization Act of 1948".

The effect of this proposed legislation would be to amend sections 302 and 303 of the Army and Air Force Vitalization and Retirement Equalization Act ot 1948 (Public Law 810, 80th Congress) so as to make effective July 1, 1949, rather than June 29, 1948, those provisions of Title III requiring reserve personnel to earn credits for retirement. The bill also would amend section 306 to include within the definition of Federal Service, for the purposes of Title III, service in "the National Guard or Organized Militia prior to June 3, 1916".

The first three sections of this bill are without objection. The Congress and the members of all reserve components may be assured that I would approve a bill limited to the purposes of these sections which seek affirmatively to correct an effect of the 1948 retirement act that was not intended.

When the Act was passed, it was believed that adequate authority had been granted to the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to defer the effective date for earning retirement credits for a sufficient length of time to permit institution of programs under which active reserve personnel could qualify for retirement credits. However, a ruling issued by the Comptroller General in November of 1948 made the effective date of the Act June 29, 1948, some 6 months earlier than adequate programs for reserve training were generally available. As a result many reserves were denied the opportunity to complete a year of satisfactory federal service as defined in the law.

Section 4 of H.R. 5508 was not contained in this legislation when it was under consideration by the House Armed Services Committee. This section was added as an amendment, offered on the floor of the House of Representatives, in the belief that it would affect only six officers of the National Guard. Further study, however, indicates that this section would increase the number of persons immediately eligible for retired pay by a known number of 250, and would, by crediting additional years of non-federal service to certain personnel now on the retired list, increase the pay of 650 others. These costs would total $412,300 per year. I am advised that as many as 500 additional persons might also be made immediately eligible for retirement and that this annual cost might amount to $656,000. Thus, the unexpected cost of this section might reach a maximum annual figure of $1,068,300 for persons already of retirement age. Data are not available at this time from which an estimate can be made as to the number of other persons not yet of retirement age who, through the granting of additional years of service credit, would become eligible for retirement or an increased amount of retired pay on reaching the age of sixty years. Hence, the costs of prospective payments to this group cannot be estimated. Cost factors, however, are not the primary reasons why I am withholding my approval from the bill.

Extension of the service creditable toward reserve retirement to include non-federal service would establish an undesirable precedent. In defining the term "Federal service", the Congress excluded all service performed without Federal recognition. It seems to me that this intent is clearly indicated by categorical restriction of the types of creditable service in the National Guard or other state militia to those performed in:

"(1) the National Guard of the United States;

"(2) the National Guard while in the service of the United States;

"(3) the federally recognized National Guard prior to 1933;

"(4) a federally recognized status in the National Guard prior to 1933". Further, section 306(e) of the Act specifically excludes from "Federal service", service in the inactive National Guard or Air National Guard, or in a non-federally recognized status in the National Guard or Air National Guard.

If such service should be considered creditable for Federal retirement, it would be difficult to restrict a further broadening of the base of the 1948 retirement act. Presumably, there would then be added other costs far in excess of those contemplated at the time of its enactment.

The basic purposes of Title III of the Army and Air Force Vitalization and Retirement Equalization Act of 1948 were (1) to provide an incentive to reserve personnel to maintain a degree of military proficiency which would assure a strong and healthy reserve force in time of future emergency and (2) to recognize past service which had been performed by members of the Reserve in behalf of the Federal government without expectation of future benefit. If I were to approve H.R. 5508, I believe my action would defeat both these basic purposes.


Note: The President's message and a copy of the bill are published in House Document 296 (81st Cong., 1st sess.).

Harry S Truman, Veto of Bill Amending Provisions Relating to the Retirement of Reserve Personnel. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229832

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