United States GAO General Accounting Offhze Washington, D.C. 20548 Health, Education and Human Services Division B-277760 August 18, 1997 The Honorable Lane Evans Ranking Minority Member Committee on Veterans’Affairs House of Representatives Subject: Veterans’ Benefits: World War II Merchant Mariners Potentiallv Eligible Dear Mr. Evans: Currently, 86,600mariners who served on the high seasbetween December 7, 1941,and August 16, 1946,(VJ Day) are considered“veterans” for purposes.of programs and benefits administeredby the Department of VeteransAffairs (VA). The Merchant Mariners FairnessAct of 1997,H.R. 1126,proposes to allow all merchant mariners who servedon the high seasat any time during the period recognized by the Department as World War II, namely from December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946,and meet certain other criteria to be considered eligible for veterans’ benefits.’ In 1992,the Coast Guard estimatedthat 60,000new applications and amended Certificates of Discharge would have to be processedif eligibility were extended to these mariners.2 The Coast Guard further estianatedthat 3,000 of ‘In addition to serving on the high seas,a mariner must have been licensed or otherwise documented by the United States,as well as served on a U.S. flag vessel that was under contract to, chartered by, or owned by the United States and serving the armed forces. 2Statementof Captain John T. McGowanbefore the Subcommittee on Compensation,Pension, and Insurance,House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in response to the Merchant Mariners FairnessAct of 1991,H.R. 44. This earlier bill contained a comparableprovision extending eligibility to this target GAOIHEHS-97-196R World War II Merchant Mariners R-277760 those 60,000merchant mariners would qualify for veteran status. Five years later, however, when the CongressionalBudget Office (CBO) projected the cost impact of the Merchant Mariners FairnessAct of 1997,the Coast Guard estimatedthat 60,000additional former merchant mariners would qurrlify for veterans’ benefits. Becauseof these differing estimates,you asked us to estimate (1) the number of mariners who servedduring the entire period of World War II and (2) the number of potential beneficiariesof this legislation if veteran status were extended to former mariners who served from August 16, 1946,through December31, 1946. As discussedwith your office, CBO will use our estimates and standardmortality tables to derive the number of surviving former mariners and estimate the number of these who will apply for veteran status? To addressthese questions,we talked to officials in the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine as well as staff working in the National Archives to obtain information on record keeping practices and administrative procedures of the agenciesduring the period in question. We sampled9,400archived files at the Federal Records Center in Suitland, Maryland, of merchant mariners who were issued Merchant Mariners’ . Documents (MMD) from 1937on.4 We could not, however, identify IYom these files former mariners who might be deceased. Nor could we readily determine if all seamenin our samplewho received MMDs actuaRyserved in the merchant marine or, if they served,whether they were on vesselson the high seasrather than on inland waterways. group of former merchant mariners. 3Accordingto the Coast Guard, some surviving spouses,children, and grandchildren of deceasedmerchant mariners would probably apply in the mariner’s name for Certificates of Dischargefrom Active Duty. The certificates would then be presentedto VA to determine what benefits the survivors are entitled to. For this reason,the Coast Guard believes that the use of mortality tables probably underestimatesthe number of people who would apply for veteran status. 4Peoplewho obtained MMDs in 1937(the first tie these documents, also known as “Z” numbers, were issued) may have served at the start of World War II. GAOIHEHS-97-196RWorld War II Merchant Mariners 2 B-277760 On the basis of our sample,we estimate that 340,200merchant mariners were issued MMDs between January 1, 1937,and December31, 1946.6We further estimate that of that number 102,400were issued MMDs between August 16, 1946,and December 31, 1946,and might be eligible for consideration if veteran status were extended to the target group.’ Coast Guard officials reviewed a draft of this correspondence,and their comments have been incorporated where appropriate. As agreed with your office, we will make copies of this letter available to other interested parties. Should you or your staff have any questions,please call Cynthia Fagnoni, Acting Associate Director, at (202) 612-7101or me. Connie D. Wilson, Sibyl Tilson, John Erstein, and WayneDow also contributed to this correspondence. Sincerely yours, Stephen P. Backhus, Director Veterans’ Affairs and Military Health Care Issues (106766) 6At the 96-percent confidence level, we estimate that 940,200former merchant mariners (plus or minus 67,880)were issued MMDs between these dates. The Coast Guard estimatesthat 260,000mariners actually served in the Merchant Marine during World War II through August 16, 1946. ‘At the 96percent confidence level, we estimate that 102,400former merchant mariners (plus or minus 4,460) were issued MMDs between these dates. 3 GAO/HEHS-97-196RWorld War II Merchant Mariners Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and Mastercard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders by mail: U.S. General Accounting Office P.O. Box 37050 Washington, DC 20013 or visit: Room 1100 700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW) U.S. General Accounting Office Washington, DC Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000 or by using fax number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537. Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and testimony. To receive facsimile copies of the daily list or any list from the past 30 days, please call (202) 512-6000 using a touchtone phone. A recorded menu will provide information on how to obtain these lists. For information on how to access GAO reports on the INTERNET, send an e-mail message with “info” in the body to: infoQwww.gao.gov or visit GAO’s World Wide Web Home Page at: httpz//www.gao.gov United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548-0001 Official Business Penalty for Private Use $300 Address Correction Requested -, :...
Veterans' Benefits: World War II Merchant Mariners Potentially Eligible
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-08-18.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)