Veto of Legislation To Confer Certain Benefits on Civilian Employees of the Quartermaster Corps.
To the House of Representatives:
I am returning without approval House bill 6997 entitled,
"An Act to confer to certain persons who served in the Quartermaster Corps or under the jurisdiction of the Quartermaster General during the war with Spain, the Philippine insurrection, or the China relief expedition the benefits of hospitalization and the privileges of the Soldiers' Homes."
This bill proposes to open the doors of the hospitals and homes under the jurisdiction of the Veterans' Administration, which have been constructed from funds authorized by the Congress for the care and treatment of disabled ex-members of the military and naval forces of the United States, to a group of civilians employed by the Quartermaster Corps during the war with Spain, the Philippine insurrection and the China relief expedition. It is thus a departure from the policy of the Government with respect to the extension of such privileges.
It would commit the Government to a policy which, if once embarked upon, could not justifiably be restricted to this selected group of civilians who served during the three periods of hostility mentioned. In every war, the Government is obliged to avail itself of the assistance of many who are not a part of the enlisted, enrolled or commissioned personnel of the Army and Navy, but who perform their duties under contracts providing, we must assume, for their proper compensation, inasmuch as they are entirely voluntary and terminable at the will of the employee. Their services under such contracts, no matter how effective or valiant, have never been regarded as giving them the same claim upon the bounty of the Government as those who entered the military or naval service and were subject to military law and to the rigors and hazards of war, until the restoration of peace or disability or death released them. The Committee on Pensions, House of Representatives, was probably impressed by this thought when they amended the bill originally to eliminate the provision for a pension for this group.
I do not think we may lose sight of the fact that during the World War, there were thousands of civilians engaged in occupations necessary to the carrying on of the combat forces, who might argue as consistently as this group that they are entitled to consideration and hospitalization at the hands of the Federal Government. We quickly recall the arduous service performed by the many civilians who served with the troops overseas during the World War, to say nothing of those who served in cantonments and ports of embarkation and debarkation in the United States. Some were in the employ of the Government and others were not but they worked in a common cause and it would be hard to draw the line between them.
I am advised by the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs that it has not been possible to estimate the number who would become eligible for admission to hospitals and homes should this bill be approved but that the Secretary of the Interior has furnished figures indicating that there were approximately 14,000 who had such service as would bring them within the provisions of this bill, approximately 7,000 of whom are now living.
From the legislative history, I note that no consideration was given to this bill by the Committee on World War Veterans' Legislation, House of Representatives, the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the Committee on Military Affairs of either House. These committees, under the rules, handle all legislation providing for the construction of additional hospital and domiciliary facilities for beneficiaries under the laws administered by the Veterans' Administration. They now have before them for action several bills which propose to authorize millions of dollars for additional construction for ex-service men who are already within the purview of the provisions of law relating to hospital and domiciliary care, but for whom facilities are not available. I am informed that there are now on the waiting list 2,440 veterans who are in immediate need of hospitalization and 7,417 who are in need of treatment but whose necessities may be characterized as less urgent. Certainly this bill should not be approved before the number of persons who might be eligible under it has been considered in relation to the present hospital construction program.
For these reasons, I do not feel that I can approve this legislation.
The White House,
February 23, 1931.
Note: The House of Representatives referred the veto message to the Committee on Pensions on February 23, 1931.
Herbert Hoover, Veto of Legislation To Confer Certain Benefits on Civilian Employees of the Quartermaster Corps. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207342