US is still paying Civil War benefits

If you're wondering what Iraq will ultimately cost, look at continuing payouts to veterans and families from wars long ago.

By Jason Notte Mar 20, 2013 7:22AM
Image: Military Man ( Stockbyte/SuperStock)The U.S. is 10 years removed from the start of the Iraq War, and its citizens still want to know what the final price tag on that conflict and ongoing operations in Afghanistan will be.

Maybe the government will let them know once it finally settles accounts -- from the Civil War.

The Associated Press took on a seemingly simple assignment: find out just how much America's wars have cost and what that will mean for Iraq and Afghanistan spending. It discovered that the U.S. is still paying restitution for conflicts that began in the 19th century. Lawmakers are not only unsurprised by this but insist that's how it should be.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says her father's disability payments from World War II helped feed her family and served as a reminder that the country needs to think about such costs before entering any such conflict.

That view has received some resistance from the other side of the aisle, however. Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson -- who co-chaired President Barack Obama's deficit committee in 2010 -- says lawmakers looking to tamp down federal debt shouldn't consider survivor benefits off-limits. He insists that recipients should receive such payments based solely on need and that "without question, I would affluence-test all of those people."

Perhaps he would start with two elderly children of Civil War veterans in North Carolina and Tennessee. Though born in the 1920s and 1930s, the two recipients in question were fathered by Civil War veterans in their 70s and 80s (not an uncommon occurrence, especially in the veterans community). Those the two offspring still receive $876 a year in benefits. Such survivor payouts usually end by the time children turn 18, but those born with disabilities rendering them incapable of caring for themselves are covered for life.

Such is the case with 10 surviving children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War. They're still awarded a combined $50,000 a year for their parents' service.

But that doesn't even come close to the compensation the U.S. pays out to Vietnam veterans, their families and families of those killed in action. That alone tops $22 billion a year, is greater than the FBI's annual budget and is nearly three times what the government pays in compensation to veterans and surviving families from World War I ($20 million), World War II ($5 billion) and the Korean War ($2.8 billion) each year.

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Mar 20, 2013 9:11AM
War is hell. Maybe we should tell the rest of the world to go to hell and mind our own business.
Mar 20, 2013 11:17AM
Be in congress for two years and get life time medical and retirement. Sacrifice your body and life what is it worth? All payments need to be depend on need. SSI, Medical, supplemental income. For those that are promised in the military should get the best payments. They trusted our government and should not be let down. I am not in the military I am proud of those that are/were. Do not let them down.
Mar 20, 2013 10:32AM
The Civil War pensions is such a minute issue compared to a $350,000 cost of haircuts for millionaires by the Congressional barbershop. At least the disabled dependent payout recipients will not last forever.
Mar 20, 2013 8:44AM
This country sent them to risk their lives and die. These benefits should be off-limits for any kind of reductions.
Mar 20, 2013 1:44PM
What these kids go through in just a year on the front lines is worth more that any amount of "public service" that we get from Washington politicians, yet its those politicians who get the best of everything (pension, medical, etc) while the vets are most often left of their own.
Stop having wars then, you can't change the pay rules after service
Mar 20, 2013 10:01AM
Who really gets these benefits? My grandmother never got compensated for her son that lost his life in the Vietnam war, and my grandfather never did (ever) get compensated for his duties in WW2, my grandmother had a child that has never got war benefits for her father even after he has passed away, and My Aunt Ethel never got compensated for her Duties in the war and when she died they refused to give her an Military funeral, so really who is receiving all these benefits???? Our family never did
Mar 20, 2013 1:32PM
Well, at least we've gotten the Revolutionary War paid for, right? That's something!
Mar 20, 2013 2:13PM
And yet --- if you serve in Congress for one term, you get benefits and your salary for the rest of your life.  Hmmm...Really.  Jason Notte, I think maybe instead of slamming the DoD budget, why don't you put your butt on the front line instead of sitting behind a desk writting about what is wrong with the budget.  I dare you to walk a year in an enlisted personnel's shoes and tell me that they make too much. Go to a military clinic with a veteran and see if you are going to complain again.  Now ask yourself, where is the extra fluff and stuff.  As the famous phrase says, if you can't stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them.
Mar 20, 2013 10:06AM
service is a commitment-to protect this country-the relatives of those killed-disabled-mentally affected deserve to be awarded compensation for sacrificing a "normal life" so that the rest of can do exactly that. before congress attempts to alter these benefits-let's take a look at some benefits its members about the kettle callin the pan black
Mar 20, 2013 11:32AM

OK -what is this nit-wit talking about?

Common social security would provide benefits to disabled children all their lives too, and they didn't need to have served their country honorably to earn it!


There's no doubt the dollars are a lot, war is costly, BUT REALLY Mr. NOTTE, you would continue to doal out billions to people who riot in Compton and Watts, give them cell phones even, yet DENY taking care of the disabled prodigy of our country's war veterans?


What the hell is wrong with you dude?

Mar 20, 2013 1:35PM
This is absurd. One thing that gave me piece of mind while serving in the USAF was that if anything should happen my kids and wife would be taken care of.
Mar 20, 2013 12:08PM
why not give them the money we support the crack habits of inner city woman and others so they can have a litter of kids
Mar 20, 2013 12:37PM
Hmm well history shows that wars were fought to gain land , resources , and financial gain for the victors the only exception is the U.S. we fight other countries wars then when we kick their butts we spend billions or trillions of our citizens hard earned money to rebuild the losers ( both sides as if they were not weak losers we wouldn't have to fight their battles) and put them in a better position than they were before the conflict started.  I think if we need to go kick butt we should enjoy the spoils of war that tradition dictates and leave the loser with the black eye and busted leg they deserve so they learn the lesson and not reap the rewards whether they win or lose.
Mar 20, 2013 9:46AM
Charge the Guilty Country for all costs incurred by U.S.Taxpayers to right the wrong they did to us.
Mar 20, 2013 12:46PM
 I would affluence-test all people getting any type of government assistance.
Mar 20, 2013 1:43PM


...Simpson seems to want to cut everyone but himself, and carter and bush one

and clinton and bush two and........simpson has been drawing off the gov for a hundred years.......or so


what does it cost us for obama to go golfing all the time....hundreds of thousands...and us with an 16.7 trillion deficit...or what about gsa...?  or tsa or ice or...and the litney goes on and on.....!.

Mar 20, 2013 9:13AM
I'm a vet not to sound cold... this economy will tank 16 trillion national, private and business debt we can't pay then 200 trillion in unfunded liabilities and there is no value to the dollar. Only as long as foreign buy US bucks (bonds) but the hand writings on the wall. Within a few years this will collapse. So the end of pay outs.
Mar 20, 2013 12:08PM
So, given the horrendous long term costs of the Second Iraq War, we could detain, try and sentence the war criminals responsible for instigating it and just call it even then...
Mar 20, 2013 2:41PM
...what we ought to do is take away the benefits for retired members of Congress and use that to help military vets.

...this would surely weed out those potential congressional candidates who are only in it for the money
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