Journals of Congress, Monday, August 26, 1776

First National Pension Act

On Monday, August 26, 1776, the continental congress resolved to provide half pay to officers and enlisted men who had been disabled to the extent that they could no longer serve in the army or navy, nor earn their livelihood. This pay was to continue for as long as the soldier, marine or seaman was disabled, or for life if no recovery was made. As such it was the first national pension act.

Whereas, in the course of the present war, some commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the army and navy, as also private soldiers, marines, and seamen, may lose a limb, or be otherwise so disabled as to prevent their serving in the army or navy, or getting their livelihood, and may stand in need of relief:

Resolved, That every commissioned officer, non-commissioned officer, and private soldier, who shall lose a limb in any engagement, or be so disabled in the service of the United States of America as to render him incapable afterwards of getting a livelihood, shall receive, during his life, or the continuance of such disability, the one half of his monthly pay from and after the time that his pay as an officer or soldier ceases; to be paid by the committee as hereinafter mentioned:

That every commander of any ship of war or armed vessel, commissioned officer, warrant officer, marine or seaman, belonging to the United States of America, who shall lose a limb in any engagement in which no prize shall be taken, or be therein otherwise so disabled as to be rendered incapable of getting a livelihood, shall receive, during his life, or the continuance of such disability, the one half of his monthly pay, from and after the time that his pay as an officer or marine or seaman ceases; to be paid as hereafter mentioned. But, in case a prize shall be taken at the time of such a loss of limb or other disability shall happen, then such sum as he may receive out of the net profits of such prize, before a dividend is made of the same, agreeable to former orders of Congress, shall be considered as part of his half pay, and computed accordingly:

That every commissioned officer, non-commissioned officer, and private soldier, in the army, and every commander, commissioned officer, warrant officer, marine, or seaman of any of the ships of war, or armed vessels belonging to the United States of America, who shall be wounded in any engagement, so as to be rendered incapable of serving in the army, or navy, though not totally disabled from getting a livelihood, shall receive such monthly sum towards his subsistence as shall be judged adequate by the assembly or other representative body of the state where he belongs or resides, upon application to them for that purpose, provided the same doth not exceed his half pay.

Provided, that no commission officer, officer, non-commissioned officer, and private soldier, in the army, commander, commission officer, warrant officer, marine or seaman of any of the ships of war, or armed vessels, belonging to the United States of America, who shall be wounded or disabled as aforesaid, shall be entitled to his half pay or other allowance, unless he produce to the committee or officer appointed to receive the same, in the state where he resides or belongs, or to the assembly or legislative body of such state, a certificate from the commanding officer, who was in the same engagement in which he was so wounded, or, in the case of his death, from some other officer of the same corps, and the surgeon that attended him, or a certificate from the commander of the ship of war or armed vessel engaged in the action, in which any officer, marine, or seaman, received his wound, and from the surgeon who attended him, of the name of the person so wounded, his office, rank, department, regiment, company, ship of war, or armed vessel, to which he belonged, his office or rank therein, the nature of his wound, and in what action or engagement he received it.

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