Minnesota Soldiers' Bonus Program Statutory History 1919-1924
View of the Minnesota State Capitol Building, St. Paul, from the West. Published by the Acmegraph Company circa 1910. GGA Image ID # 1870fe0569
On September 19, 1919, lhe Minnesota State Legislature approved an act for relief and assistance for Minnesota soldiers who had served in World War I [Laws Spec Sess 1919 c49]. These payments, known as bonuses, were S15 for each month (or fraction thereof) that the individual soldier was in service.
As defined in the enabling law and amended in 1921 [Laws 1921 c471], soldier was defined as any officer, soldier, sailor, marine, nurse, student nurse, or dietitian who had served in the United States military or naval forces or those of any nation associated with the United States in the war, and who was a resident of the state at the time he/she was commissioned, enlisted, inducted, appointed or mustered into the military or naval service subsequent to April 6, 1917.
Service had to have commenced by November 11, 1918. The soldier had to have received an honorable or ordinary discharge or continued to serve under honorable conditions.
The definition was written to specifically exclude anyone who sought to avoid service because of conscientious objections to the war with Germany or alienage, or who had been found guilty of fraud or violation or evasion of the Selective Service Act or the regulations of the War Department.
The amended act of 1921 specifically defined many other circumstances under which an individual may not have been eligible for a bonus.
The bonus laws provided for a minimum bonus of $50 and stated that an individual's bonus payment would be reduced by a reimbursement for tuition as authorized under law [Laws 1919 c338].
The original act also authorized a surviving widow, if still single, to receive her husband's bonus.
The amended 1921 law expanded survivorship to include children under 18, if no widow survived, or widowed mother, if no widowed spouse or children survived.
If the soldier died after discharge but before receiving a bonus, survivorship extended first to the widow, then to any children under 18, then to the mother, if living, and finally to the father.
A Soldiers' Bonus Board, consisting of the state auditor, state treasurer, and adjutant general, was created to oversee the operation of this program, to employ staff to carry out its functions, and to approve or disapprove claims.
Application forms provided by the adjutant general were completed by the individual applicant and returned to either the adjutant general's office or the clerk of district court in the county of current residence or residence at the time of induction.
The board defined procedures and added interpretations to what constituted eligible sendee. When a claim had been approved, a voucher was prepared and transmitted to the state auditor; the state auditor issued a warrant for the amount approved and forwarded it to the state treasurer who issued payment.
The bonus board expired in 1922 but was recreated in April 1923 [Laws 1923 c311] to function through September 1924. It was formally abolished in 1925 [Laws 1925 c426]. Approximately 120,000 claims were filed with the bonus board, of which about 110,000 were paid.
Claims rejected by the bonus board could be reviewed by the Soldiers' Bonus Board of Review, created by the Legislature in 1921 [Laws 1921 c471, subd4a].
Appointed by the governor, this review board operated between July 1, 1921 and March 1, 1922. After the review board's expiration, the bonus board created its own Department of Review which existed until June 1922. A total of 1,822 cases were reviewed by these bodies.
"Statutory History of the World War I Bonus Program," in Minnesota Treasurer's Office, World War I Bonus Fund Warrant Record, 1919-1924