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Petition from the Disabled Americans of the Veterans of the World War, ca. 1932

Under the terms of the Bonus Act, payments more than $50 were awarded to World War I veterans as certificates payable in 20 years. During the Great Depression, disabled veterans, desperate for economic relief, sent this petition to Congress asking for full and immediate cash payment of these larger bonuses, known as “adjusted compensation certificates.” Congress eventually authorized early payments in 1936.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Petition from the Disabled Americans of the Veterans of the World War - Image 1 Petition from the Disabled Americans of the Veterans of the World War - Image 2

The Soldiers Bonus Act

After World War I, veterans’ organizations lobbied Congress for extra pay to compensate returned soldiers for differences between military pay and the higher civilian pay during wartime. In 1924 Congress approved the World War Adjusted Compensation Act, known as the Bonus Act, to provide World War I veterans with bonuses. The legislation and the subsequent “Bonus March” on the Capitol in 1932 highlighted the Great Depression’s economic impact on veterans, and the act helped lay the foundation for the G.I. Bill of Rights in 1944.

I deem it is not necessary for me to tell of the splendid service of our soldiers in the World War. They did splendid work, displayed wonderful courage, and made great sacrifices. They won the admiration and applause of the civilized world. . . . I believe the World War veterans are fairly and justly entitled to the adjusted compensation given in the bill.

Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas, Speech to the U.S. Senate, April 19, 1924