Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Veto of Bill for the Relief of Mrs. John William Brennan

April 17, 1957

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith, without my approval, H. R. 1863, "For the relief of Mrs. John William Brennan."

The bill proposes to consider that John William Brennan, Senior, had $4,000 United States Government life insurance in effect at the time of his death on September 15, 1952, and to require the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs to pay such insurance to the veteran's widow.

The insurance protection under the veteran's United States Government life insurance policies lapsed on December 1, 1933, because of the nonpayment of premiums. On April 25, 1951, Mr. Brennan visited the Veterans' Administration Regional Office, Jackson, Mississippi, to apply for $4,000 insurance. An employee executed a portion of the insurance application but, because of the rush of business, Mr. Brennan was apparently advised to return home, have his private physician give him the necessary physical examination, and return the completed application to the Veterans' Administration. Mr. Brennan secured the examination the following morning and mailed the application.

Section 10 of the Insurance Act of 1951 provided, in part, that on and after the date of enactment (April 25, 1951 ) no United States Government life insurance could be granted unless an acceptable application accompanied by proper and valid premium remittance had been received by, or mailed to, the Veterans' Administration on or before that date. Since Mr. Brennan's application and premium remittance were not mailed on or before April 25, 1951, the Veterans' Administration advised him that the statutory requirements were not met and that that agency was precluded from issuing the insurance to him. Mr. Brennan died on September 15, 1952.

It appears from the Committee reports on the bill that the correctness of the denial of Mr. Brennan's insurance application is conceded. Favorable action by the Committees apparently was based on the belief that, as a matter of equity, the delay in filing the application should be waived since, if it had been filed one day earlier, it would have been accepted and the insurance issued.

It is clear that the Congress intended to terminate the granting of National Service Life insurance and United States Government Life insurance on the date of enactment of the Servicemen's Indemnity Act. No provision was made for a processing period for additional applications or for advance notice to policy holders or former policy holders. The date of enactment depended entirely upon when the enrolled measure was actually signed by the President. This date could not have been precisely anticipated by the Congress, the interested public, or by Veterans' Administration employees processing insurance applications. Accordingly, whatever the medical facts of the case might have been, Mr. Brennan did not rile his application in time to meet a deadline which the Congress intended to become effective without advance notice.

The Committees' assumption that the insurance would have been issued if the application therefor had been timely filed is not supported by the record. To the contrary, the medical records indicate that Mr. Brennan suffered from increased blood pressure and pulse rate of long standing, to a degree, in several instances, greater than can be considered consistent with good health and beyond the acceptable limits for insurance purposes. In this connection, it is also pertinent to note that the Veterans' Administration on two previous occasions rejected applications by Mr. Brennan for United States Government Life insurance because of high blood pressure and rapid pulse rate.

Under the circumstances, it is my opinion that this case does not warrant equitable relief or present a basis for exceptional or preferred treatment. Approval of the bill would be discriminatory and constitute a precedent which cannot be dismissed. In a Federal program as large as the United States Government Life insurance program, it is most important that the laws be administered uniformly and with special favor for none. Payment of a gratuity in the guise of insurance, as proposed by H. R. 1863, would not be in keeping with these principles.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Veto of Bill for the Relief of Mrs. John William Brennan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233232

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