Pension in United States

Pension Definition

A stated and certain allowance granted by the government to an individual, or those who represent him, for valuable services performed by him for the country. It is sometimes loosely used in the sense of annuity. In Spanish Law. Rent; a rent, White, New Recop. bk. 2, c. 2, § 3.

Pension in 1889

The following information about Pension is from the Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States by the Best American and European Writers:

“In justice to Mr. Ford it should be added, that he draws a distinction between pensions granted to civil servants of the government and those granted to military and naval servants, and this distinction is manifestly a just one to make. While the dangers of corruption attending the liberal use of civil pensions are many, and in fact might be said to be inseparable from the system, there exist strong reasons for granting allowances for military and naval service when there exist also the proper safeguards against abuse. If there be any principle recognized and established in this country it is that pensions must be confined to those who were separated by the nature of their service from the great mass of the community, and who devoted themselves exclusively to military duties; who laid aside the character of a citizen, and became a soldier; who, in abandoning the pursuits, extinguished also the habits, of private life.

But, in bestowing military pensions, it should be recognized that provision should be made only for those who, being unable to support themselves, are necessarily thrown upon public or private charity. “It would not, I think,” wrote Attorney General Rush in 1815, “be going too far to say that in every case where an officer or private loses his health while in service, to such a degree as to be disabled from performing his duty any more, he is contemplated, prima facie, as an object of this charitable relief from the legislature.” And more recently the expediency of military and naval pensions was defended in congress as follows: “The service which the soldier renders may be voluntary, but it is not a service which he may give or withhold at pleasure, but one which, if not offered, may be compelled by the strong arm of the government. The recognition by the state of the distinguished military services of its citizens in its support and defense in the form of a pension, though sometimes granted as a charity, or as an act of grace, is generally given in fulfillment of some promise made by the government, or inducement held out to the soldier either at the time or after his enlistment.

It is not given to every man who performs military service, however distinguished and meritorious that service may be, but to those only who receive wounds or contract disease while in the line of duty. The purpose and design of the government is to make the soldier good, as far as money can do it, for the injuries he received, or in other words, to make up to him as much as he could have earned at his trade or vocation if he had not been wounded or had not contracted the disease. Under this rule—and in my judgment it is both just and magnanimous—no man is entitled to a pension for military service except those who have received disabling wounds or injuries during the war, and the widows, minor children and dependent relatives of those who were killed or who have since died from the effects of such service. This is the humane policy recognized and acted upon by every civilized country on the globe. It has been truly said that every pensioner is, in one sense, a burden upon his fellow-citizens, either directly or indirectly; and no reason can exist for imposing such a burden on behalf of men who did only their plain, simple duty as citizens, and received no material injury in its performance.

A disabled soldier is not a pauper for taking a pension. A well man would be nothing else if he were to accept one. For this reason I do not deem it right or expedient to select out any particular class of soldiers, or men who rendered any particular service, or suffered any peculiar hardships and privations, and pension them, regardless of whether they can show any pensionable disability or not. Under the lenient rules adopted by the present commissioner of pensions, every soldier who was wounded or contracted disease while on active duty in the field, or during confinement in rebel prisons, can, if not already pensioned, apply for and receive one now under the general law. It is impossible for congress to grade and adjust pensions to the different degrees of suffering and hardship endured in the service. All that we can do is to grant them in cases where the evidence shows there is a pensionable disability: but it we should go beyond this rule we should be simply pensioning a large number of men, who, while they endured great suffering and privations, received no material injury, and are now able to earn their living. In this connection I desire also to say that I would not create a civil pension list by granting pensions to men who are injured in the civil service of the government. They go into that service voluntarily, and can not be compelled to enter it against their will, and can leave when they please.

When they assume the duties they take all the risks, and are paid for doing so. I believe pensions should only be granted to men who have been injured in the military or naval service of the country; and, without stopping here to elaborate the point, I will simply say that in my judgment we are not called upon in granting pensions to break down the barriers set up by our fathers between the military and civil service, and launch out into a sea which I fear would prove shoreless and bottomless.” Nor is it any condemnation of such pensions to point out the great frauds that have arisen under various systems.

That is the fault of the laws. “The state has in time of war a fundamental right to the money, the services, and, if need be, the life of every citizen, without other compensation than the security and protection it affords him at all times. The pension laws are not passed to secure to the maimed survivor of the war, or to the helpless dependents on those who lost their lives in the struggle, a right existent independently and in the nature of things, but as a voluntary and fitting assumption of care over those who, in the service of the nation, have lost the ability to care for themselves. It is doubly demoralizing and doubly shameful that beneficent laws like these should be made the cover of fraud and robbery—it not only despoils the public treasury and unjustly burdens the shoulders of the tax-paying masses, but it delays and often fatally prejudices the cause of really deserving applicants.”

Plain-English Law

Pension as defined by Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law (p. 437-455):

A retirement fund for employees paid for or contributed to by an employer as part of a package of compensation for the employees’ work.

Pension in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

Link Description
Pension Pension in the World Legal Encyclopedia.
Pension Pension in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
Pension Pension in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia.
Pension Pension in the UK Legal Encyclopedia.
Pension Pension in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

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Finding the law: Pension in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to pension, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines pension topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.



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