|Pension Act of January 25, 1879
U. S. Statutes
Arrears Law was approved thanks mainly to the efforts of the claims agents, who tried to make the process of pension application more attractive
to veterans and widows. With the approval of this law, pensions were granted from either the date of death or of discharge from service,
and not from the date of filing of the pension application.
When passed into law, the 1879 Arrears Act provided that veterans could receive lump sum pension back payments that should have been
granted as a result of their military service during the Civil War. The 1879 Act provided pension arrears to future applicants who could establish
disability claims, regardless of the date when presenting the claim. The immediate effect of the Arrears Act was threefold: first, the Act increased
the number of veterans applying for and
receiving disability-based pensions; second, the influx of new claims associated with the Arrears Act galvanized the interests of this new political
constituency that was recognized quickly by the Republican and Democratic parties; and third, the Act ignited a political debate in the press on
purported abuses of the system and the illegitimacy of large numbers of disability claims.
Role of the GAR
Among veterans associations, The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) played a vital role
in gaining more benefits for Civil War soldiers. The passage of the Arrears Act brought with it more applications for membership in veteran
organizations and these organizations simultaneously showed more interest in the legislation.6 The GAR was crucial to the passage of largest
liberalization of the pension system, the 1890 Act. After 1881, the GAR regularly sent representatives to speak during congressional sessions,
turning pensions into an important political issue. In response to this activity,
all of the major political parties included Civil War pension proposals in their party platforms. By the time of the Disability Act of 1890, the GAR
had become very strong, comprising 427,891 members.