“During World War II, the U.S. faced a domestic nursing shortage when many American nurses went overseas to assist with the war. The members of the Cadet Nurse Corps answered our country’s call and signed up to meet the needs of hospitals nationwide and abroad. Despite their sacrifice, the 180,000 women who served in the Corps are not recognized as veterans.
Today, as we remember Pearl Harbor, let us also remember our mothers and grandmothers who saw America’s desperate need for nurses and filled it. Thousands of nurse cadets still live, and they and the families of those no longer with us deserve the honor and recognition of veteran status.
To send a message asking your member of Congress to cosponsor the United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act (H.R. 1718), simply click the “Take Action” link or visit AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist page.”
Now, some of you may be wondering, why are women who served during WWII being denied veterans’ benefits? Well, because the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps was not linked with any of the U.S. military service branches. Here’s more information from a digital exhibit at Rochester General Hospital:
he United States Cadet Nurse Corps was a program established by the Federal government in 1943. Its primary purpose was to ensure that the United States had enough nurses to care for the needs of its citizens on both the home and war fronts. The results of the Cadet Nurse Corps included a dramatic rise in the number of nursing students, a greater public recognition of nurses, and changes in the manner in which nurses were educated and trained.
When the United States entered World War II and defense production had begun, it became clear that there was a dramatic shortage of nurses in the country. Nursing registries were established and an inventory was conducted in 1941. While there were double the nurses available than at the time of World War I, the impending war and defense industry buildup raised many questions regarding the effect of the war effort on both the military and civilian communities. These questions became more pressing as more and more doctors and nurses joined the war effort.
A bill was introduced by Congresswoman Frances P. Bolton (R-Ohio) on March 29, 1943, calling for the establishment of a government program to provide grants to schools of nursing to facilitate the training of nurses to serve in the armed forces, government and civilian hospitals, health agencies, and in war related industries. The Bolton Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and became law on July 1, 1943.
The Division of Nurse Education was established in the United States Public Health Service to supervise the Cadet Nurse Corps and was answerable to US Surgeon General Thomas Parran. Surgeon General Parran appointed Lucille Petry, RN as the head of the Corps.”
In short, nurses in the Cadet Nurse Corps served in the U.S. Public Health Service. Therefore, unlike nurses who served in the Army or Navy, these women have been denied veterans’ benefits, although they served tours of duty in foreign theaters of war and encountered the same dangers as military nurses. The same thing happened to Women Air Service Pilots who risked their lives flying military airplanes to war zones (38 of them died in action) but were not “official” members of the military and therefore ineligible for pensions and the G.I. Bill. Then of course the “hidden army” of women war workers didn’t receive any compensation for their service either.
The Cadet Nurse Corps has been fighting for veterans’ benefits for decades. The Department of Defense turned down their first request in 1979, and denied subsequent requests in the 1990s. In an interview for the New York Timesin 2000, Marjorie Patak complained bitterly about how the nurses’ sacrifices were ignored, excluded from history books, and even turned down for a postage stamp in 1997 after sending hundreds of letters to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee in Washington.
”They said we didn’t have historical significance,” Mrs. Patak said. ”I was so angry. My grandson told me they even have Bugs Bunny on stamps.”
So, tell your members of Congress that these women’s service WAS significant and deserve the same benefits as men who served. Remember the women!