"...the members of the armed forces have been
compelled to make greater economic sacrifice and every other kind of
sacrifice than the rest of us, and they are entitled to definite action to
help take care of their special problems."
Message to Congress on the Return of Service Personnel
to Civilian Life
November 23 , 1943
All of us
are concentrating now on the one primary objective of winning this war. But
even as we devote our energy and resources to that purpose, we cannot
neglect to plan for things to come after victory is won.
problem of reconverting wartime America to a peacetime basis is one for
which we are now laying plans to be submitted to the Congress for action.
As I said last July:
returning soldier and sailor and marine are a part of the problem of
demobilizing the rest of the millions of Americans who have been working
and living in a war economy since 1941. . . . But the members of the armed
forces have been compelled to make greater economic sacrifice and every
other kind of sacrifice than the rest of us, and they are entitled to
definite action to help take care of their special problems."
time I outlined what seemed to me to be a minimum of action to which the
members of our armed forces are entitled over and above that taken for
service men and women want, more than anything else, is the assurance of
satisfactory employment upon their return to civil life. The first task
after the war is to provide employment for them and for our demobilized war
skeptics who said that our wartime production goals would never be
attained. There will also be skeptics who will question our ability to make
the necessary plans to meet the problems of unemployment and want after the
war. But, I am confident that if industry and labor and Government tackle
the problems of economic readjustment after the war with the same unity of
purpose and with the same ingenuity, resourcefulness, and boldness that
they have employed to such advantage in wartime production, they can solve
not lower our sights to prewar levels. The goal after the war should be the
maximum utilization of our human and material resources. This is the way to
rout the forces of insecurity and unemployment at home, as completely as we
shall have defeated the forces of tyranny and oppression on the fields of
however, certain measures which merit the immediate attention of the
Congress to round out the program already commenced for the special
protection of the members of the armed forces.
Congress has already enacted a generous program of benefits for service men
and for the widows and dependents of those killed in action.
the National Service Life Insurance Act, life insurance at low premium
rates is now available to members of the armed forces in amounts not less
than $1,000 and not more than $10,000 per person. A total of nearly
$90,000,000,000 of insurance has already been applied for.
addition, provision has been made, under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Relief
Act, for the guarantee by the Government of the payment of premiums on
commercial policies held by members of the armed forces while in service.
Premiums on insurance totaling $135,582,000 have been guaranteed, as a
result of 56,276 applications by service men for such relief.
Congress has also enacted legislation making provision for the
hospitalization and medical care of all veterans of the present war, and
for the vocational rehabilitation and training of those suffering from
disability incurred in, or aggravated by, military service, when such
disability results in a vocational handicap preventing reemployment.
Similar provision has been made for the rehabilitation of disabled persons
in civil life, who, with proper training, can be equipped to play a useful
part in the war effort at home. Men who are rejected for military service
because of physical or mental defects, or who are discharged from the armed
forces because of a disability existing at the time of induction, are thus
eligible for such rehabilitation services and training as may be necessary
and feasible in order to fit them for useful and gainful employment.
recent legislation, our present service men and women have been assured the
same pension benefits for death or disability incurred in the line of duty
while in active military service as are provided for the veterans of prior
wars. The pension rates for the family of those killed in this war were
recently increased by the Congress.
Veterans Administration will, from time to time, request the consideration
by the Congress of various amendments of existing laws which will
facilitate administration, and which will correct any defects in our
present statutory scheme which experience may disclose. I am confident that
the Congress, in line with the historic policy of this Government toward
its ill, injured, and disabled service men and women, will provide generous
appropriations to the Veterans Administration with which to carry out these
Numerous other measures have been adopted for the protection of our service
men such as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act suspending the
enforcement of certain obligations against members of the armed forces, the
creation of reemployment rights under the Selective Service Act, and the
provision for emergency maternity care to the wives and infants of enlisted
believe that we must go much further.
make provision now to help our returning service men and women bridge the
gap from war to peace activity. When the war is over, our men and women in
the armed forces will be eager to rejoin their families, get a job, or
continue their education, and to pick up the threads of their former lives.
They will return at a time when industry will be in the throes of
reconversion. Our plans for demobilization of soldiers and sailors must be
consistent with our plans for the reconversion of industry and for the
creation of employment opportunities for both service men and war workers.
Already the armed forces have returned many thousands of service men and
women to civil life. The following further steps seem desirable now:
help service men and women tide over the difficult period of readjustment
from military to civilian life, mustering out pay will be needed. It will
relieve them of anxiety while they seek private employment or make their
personal plans for the future. I therefore recommend to the Congress that
it enact legislation and provide funds for the payment of a uniform,
reasonable mustering-out pay to all members of the armed forces upon their
honorable discharge or transfer to inactive duty. This pay should not be in
a lump sum but on a monthly installment basis.
must anticipate, however, that some members of the armed forces may not be
able to obtain employment within a reasonable time after their return to
civil life. For them, unemployment allowances should be provided until they
can reasonably be absorbed by private industry.
the armed services are not now adequately covered by existing unemployment
insurance laws of the States. It is estimated that approximately one-half
of them will have no unemployment insurance protection at all when they
leave military service. Benefits payable to those who are covered by State
law 'are unequal, and will vary greatly among the States because of the
wide differences in the provisions of the State laws. The protection in
many cases will be inadequate. It is plainly a Federal responsibility to
provide for the payment of adequate and equitable allowances to those
service men and women who are unable to find employment after their
reasons, I recommend to the Congress that a uniform system of allowances
for unemployed service men and women be established.
that there should be a fixed and uniform rate of benefit for a fixed period
of time for all members of the armed forces who, after leaving the service,
are unable to find suitable work. In order to qualify for an unemployment
allowance each person should 'be obliged to register with the United States
Employment Service, and, following the usual practice in unemployment
insurance, must be willing to accept available and suitable employment, or
to engage in a training course to prepare him for such employment. The
protection under this system should be continued for an adequate length of
time following the period for which mustering-out payment is made.
present, persons serving in the merchant marine are not insured under State
unemployment insurance laws, primarily because the very nature of their
employment carries them beyond the confines of any particular State. I
believe that the most effective way of protecting maritime workers against
postwar unemployment is to enact without delay a Federal maritime
unemployment insurance act. There has been in effect since 1938 a railroad
unemployment insurance act, and a similar act for maritime workers is long
overdue. Marine workers are, however, insured under the existing Federal
old-age and survivors' insurance law.
Members of the armed forces are not receiving credit under the Federal
old-age and survivors' insurance law for their period of military service.
Credit under the law can be obtained only while a person is engaged in
certain specific types of employment. Service in the armed forces is not
included in these types. Since the size of the insurance benefits depends
upon the total number of years in which credits are obtained, the exclusion
of military service will operate to decrease the old-age retirement
benefits which will eventually be payable to service men and women.
Furthermore, a large number of persons whose dependents were protected by
the survivors' insurance benefits at the time they entered the armed forces
are losing entirely those insurance rights while they are in service.
therefore recommend that the Congress enact legislation to make it possible
for members of the armed forces to obtain credit under the Federal old-age
and survivors' insurance law during their period of military service. The
burden of this extension of old-age and survivors' insurance to members of
the armed forces should be carried by the Federal Government, and the
Federal contributions should be uniform for all members of the armed forces
irrespective of their rank.
already communicated with the Congress requesting the enactment of
legislation to provide educational and training opportunities for the
members of the armed forces who desire to pursue their studies after their
Congress will agree, I am sure, that, this time, we must have plans and
legislation ready for our returning veterans instead of waiting until the
last moment. It will give notice to our armed forces that the people back
home do not propose to let them down.