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The G.A.R. and Pensions

Many in American society were tiring of the drain on public funds, which was occasioned by the Union veteran pension program. Clearly the system was riddled with corruption, but Congress seemed incapable of denying assistance to the powerful voting bloc represented by the G.A.R. When a claimant was denied a pension through the regular procedure, an appeal could be made to a friendly Congressman, who would often introduce a special bill for the veteran. Thousands of such bills were approved by Congress – many of them blatantly fraudulent. President Grover Cleveland, unlike his predecessors, subjected these bills to close inspection and vetoed hundreds of them. This grate nailed on the federal trough enraged the G.A.R. and many in Congress. In 1887, Congress passed a Dependent Pension Bill that provided benefits for all veterans with disabilities, even if their physical problems were not war-related or developed years after the conflict. Cleveland vetoed the measure and acknowledged that it might cost him reelection in 1888. Good guess, Grover.