Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

April 16, 1888

To the Senate:

I return herewith without approval Senate bill No. 549, entitled "An act granting a pension to Hannah R. Langdon."

The husband of the beneficiary named in this bill entered the military service of the United States as assistant surgeon in a Vermont regiment on the 7th day of October, 1862, and less than six months thereafter tendered his resignation, based upon a surgeon's certificate of disability on account of chronic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and diarrhea.

On the 12th day of June, 1880, more than seventeen years after his discharge, he filed a claim for pension, alleging chronic diarrhea and resulting piles. He was allowed a pension in January, 1881, and died of consumption on the 24th day of September, in the same year.

Prior to the allowance of his claim for pension he wrote to the Bureau of pensions a full history of his disability as resulting from chronic diarrhea and piles, and in that letter he made the following statement:

I have had no other disease, except last September (1880) I had pleurisy and congestion of my left lung.

From other sources the Bureau derived the information that the deceased had suffered an attack of pleuro-pneumonia on his left side, and that his recovery had been partial.

In December, 1880, he was examined by two members of the board of surgeons at Burlington, Vt., of which board he was also a member, and the following facts were certified:

For the past fifteen years claimant has practiced his profession in this city, and has up to within a year or a year and a half of this date shown a vigor and power of endurance quite equal to the labor imposed upon him by the popular demand for his services. About a year ago he evinced symptoms of breaking down, cough, emaciation, and debility.

These results--" breaking down, cough, emaciation, and debility"-are the natural effects of such an attack as the deceased himself reported, though not made by him any ground of a claim for pension, and it seems quite clear that his death in September, 1881, must be chargeable to the same cause.

His widow, the beneficiary named in this bill, filed her claim for pension December 5, 1881, based upon the ground that her husband's death from consumption was due to the chronic diarrhea for which he was pensioned. Upon such application the testimony of Dr. H. H. Atwater was filed, to the effect that about 1879 he began to treat the deceased regularly for pleuro-pneumonia, followed by abscesses and degeneration of lung tissue, which finally resulted in death, and that these diseased conditions were complicated with digestive affections, such as diarrhea, dyspepsia, and indigestion. Another affidavit of Dr. Atwater, made in 1886, will be found in the report upon this bill made by the House Committee on invalid Pensions.

The claimant's application for a pension was rejected by the Pension Bureau on the ground that the cause of her husband's death was not shown to have been connected in any degree with the disease on account of which he was pensioned or with his military service.

I am entirely satisfied that this determination was correct.

I am constrained to disapprove the bill under consideration, because it is thus far our settled and avowed policy to grant pensions only to widows whose husbands have died from causes related to military service, and because the proposed legislation would, in my opinion, result in a discrimination in favor of this claimant unfair and unjust toward thousands of poor widows who are equally entitled to our sympathy and benevolence.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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