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The States and The Soldier Bonus - 1920

There has, of course, been much discussion of the bonus and other plans for the reward of millions of young men who sacrificed themselves at a critical age for the preservation of civilization; but there seems to have been little comment upon the matter other than in its relation to the federal government.

Mr. William E. Hannan, in the Times (New York) of September 5th, 1920, calls attention to projects in many States and tells us that sixteen States have already enacted substantial legislation on the subject. A cash bonus goes to approximately 1,148,297 ex-servicemen in eight States. Mr. Hannan says:

Eleven of the sixteen States encourage the returned soldier to continue his education by remitting to him all tuition fees or the grant of a scholarship of several hundred dollars a year; while three of the States plan to give relief to any soldier or his dependents who may need it.

The foregoing activities involve on the part of the States a very considerable money expenditure. In the case of the cash bonus alone, already provided by Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, the amount will total $57,100,000, and if the voters in Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island approve the cash bonus acts passed down to them by the Legislatures, the further sum of $62,500,000 will be added.1

By these eight States, therefore, a grand total of $119,600,000 in cash bonuses will be expended.

Massachusetts led in this State movement by appropriating $10 a month for men and officers on May 2, 1917, and later providing a $100 bonus in cash.

New Hampshire gives her men $100 in cash, and Wisconsin pays them $10 a month for the period in service, with a minimum of $50, while Minnesota awards $15 a month for every month or fraction thereof after April 6, 1917.

Among the other States New York gives $10 a month and stands out with $250 as a limit and the establishment of a State disability fund. to which bonuses may be assigned for the benefit of the wounded. Most of the States raise the necessary funds by issuing bonds, but New Hampshire is raising $600,000 by a special tax and $1,500,000 by bonds, while Wisconsin raised $15,000,000 by taxing 3 mills per dollar on assessed valuation and by a surtax on personal and corporation incomes.

Connecticut authorizes the purchase of Government securities totaling $2,500,000, 'Maine voters endorsed the bonus in the State election, September 13th, only the interest of which is to be used for the aid, care, and burial of ex-service men and their dependents through a State organization of the men. Wisconsin provides a fund of $500,000 for such purposes in addition to the cash bonus but limits the aid to $30 a month per person.

The educational measures are perhaps most constructive, and eleven States have smoothed the way through college and university. Iowa permits public school attendance as many months after the age of 21 as the service man spent in the federal forces before he attained majority.

Colorado has established a $200,000 fund from which the veteran may borrow $200 on his five-year note bearing interest after three years, to be used strictly for educational purposes.

Illinois awards scholarships of four years to any normal school or the State University, and Minnesota gives a $200 scholarship.

New York limits scholarships to 450 on competitive examination, worth $200 a year, half of which may be used for maintenance and limited to three years.

North Dakota gives $25 a month to each veteran to be used for home purchase or for education. Oregon provides soldier scholarships of $200 a year for four years. South Dakota gives free education in State institutions, providing $15,000 for the first year.

Utah Agricultural College is open to veterans without payment of entrance fee, while Washington gives free education in the State University.

Wisconsin seems to have adopted the most comprehensive scheme, providing $30 a month for each ex-service person in regular attendance at an educational institution, not to exceed $1080 for four years, the law expiring July 1, 1924.

Cash bonuses and educational funds are not both available, and to take advantage of the opportunities provided for education it is necessary to repay to the State any cash bonus already received.

It is permissible for the State Board of Education to send students out of the State in order to give them the special education they desire, and 262 such students attend 99 different educational institutions, while the needs of many who cannot attend are met by night schools and correspondence extension courses in the University of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has paid the educational bonus of $30 a month to 4688 persons and estimates the four-year cost at $4,063,040; while in Oregon 4085 student veterans have received $447,687.02.

Illinois granted 1315 university scholarships worth $50,214 a year, and 139 normal school scholarships. New York has granted 450 scholarships at a cost so far of $90,000.

The educational provisions, therefore, are not only more far-reaching and constructive in their benefits to the ex-service men and women and to the State itself, but they are also a smaller burden upon State finances.

Out of Massachusetts 193,415 troops went to war, and 242,000 men and dependents have so far applied for the bonus, with average payments of $50 each to 75,000 men and, women on the $10 a month basis and $18,500,000 under the $100 flat bonus.

Of Minnesota's 123,325 troops, 105,000 have applied for the cash bonus and $10,000,000 has thus far been paid out. Wisconsin has 105,000 applications from her 122,215 troops enlisted in the war, and 94,000 claims have been adjusted at a cost of $12,533,126.20; while relief measures to 838 convalescents have cost $97,654.

The policy under which these bonuses is arranged is well stated in Massachusetts (190 Mass. 611-615) in the opinion of the Justices, which says: "The power to reward distinguished public service, with a view to the promotion of loyalty and patriotism, has long been regarded as one of the attributes of organized government…”

“For many purposes and in a certain field Massachusetts is a sovereign State, maintaining an independent government. In another relation it is a member of the family of States, and a constituent force in the national organization. We are inclined to the opinion that in this relation it is so identified with the nation that it may treat the service of its citizens who serve to its credit in the armies of the United States as entitled to recognition from Massachusetts as a sovereign State. Each of us is a citizen of Massachusetts as well as a citizen of the United States. Massachusetts may honor her citizens for what they do for the National Government in those fields to which she sends them as her representatives under the Constitution and laws of the United States."

“The States and the Soldier Bonus,” in The American Review of Reviews, New York: The Review of Reviews Company, Vol. LXII, No. 4, October 1920, p. 426-427

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