The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
ELIGIBILITY: MILITARY SERVICE, RESIDENCE, AND FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY

MILITARY SERVICE

IN SHARP CONTRAST with the growing severity of legal restrictions against aliens, Communists, and other allegedly subversive elements has been the increasing liberality of the preferential treatment accorded by Congress to veterans and certain members of veterans' families. That Congress has not gone even farther is not due to any want of suggestions on the subject or to any lack of pressure. For, ever since the WPA was first launched, various attempts have been made to have veterans declared eligible for employment without respect to their economic need.

No less striking than the new types of preference granted to veterans from year to year has been the steady inclusion of new groups within the circle of those to whom special consideration was given. Veteran preference, voted by Congress in 1937, for example, applied only to needy veterans of World War I and of the Spanish-American War. The next year preference was also given to veterans of any campaign or expedition in which the United States has been engaged (as determined on the basis of the laws administered by the Veterans' Administration).1 In 1940 applicability of veteran preference was materially broadened by congressional action extending it to unmarried widows of veterans and to the wives of unemployable veterans.2

Despite this gradual widening of the circles, Congress in 1940 narrowed somewhat the group to whom preferences had previously been applied: discharged draft enrollees (other than those

____________________
1
Expeditions and campaigns falling within this category included the Spanish- American War, Philippine Insurrection, Boxer Rebellion, Cuban Pacification, Nicaraguan Campaign, Vera Cruz Expedition, Punitive Expedition into Mexico, and World War I. Preference was limited in 1938, however, to veterans who were American citizens.
2
These extensions of veteran preference, it was estimated, would make it applicable to some 20,000 wives, 100,000 widows, and half a million veterans of whom as many as 300,000 might be expected to want WPA employment. Veteran groups were not satisfied with giving preferential treatment only to wives of unemployable veterans, and asked that it be extended to wives of unemployed veterans.

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