1789 At most, only 3,000 Revolutionary War veterans ever drew any pension. Later, grants of public land were made to those who served to the end of the war.
In 1789, with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first Congress assumed the burden of paying veterans benefits. The first federal pension legislation was passed in 1789. It continued the pension law passed by the Continental Congress. 1812 The first national effort to provide medical care for disabled veterans in the United States was the Naval Home, established in Philadelphia in 1812. This was followed by two facilities in Washington, D.C. — the Soldiers’ Home in 1853 and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in 1855.
1833 The new Bureau of Pensions was administered from 1833 to 1840 as part of the Department of War, and from 1840 to 1849 as the Office of Pensions under the Navy Secretary. The office then was assigned to the new Department of the Interior, and renamed the Bureau of Pensions. In 1858 Congress authorized half-pay pensions to veterans’ widows and to their orphan children until they reached the age of 16.
1862 The General Pension Act of 1862 provided disability payments based on rank and degree of disability, and liberalized benefits for widows, children and dependent relatives. The law covered military service in time of peace as well as during the Civil War. The act included, for the first time, compensation for diseases such as tuberculosis incurred while in service. Union veterans also were assigned a special priority in the Homestead Act of 1862, which provided Western land at $1.25 an acre. The year 1862 also marked the establishment of the National Cemetery System, to provide burial for the many Union dead of the Civil War.