There are both transcripts and images of the original pension records within this collection. These records detail pension payments between 1907 and 1933, which means that some of the veterans whose pensions are being paid out in these records died prior to 1907.
Details include how much money was paid out to the veterans or their dependents and how often those payments occurred. Starting in 1923, there was a major change in the pension program when they moved from quarterly to monthly payments. Payments were then recorded on new monthly payment cards.
While the amount of available information will vary from card to card, most records will include the following information:
Name of veteran
Branch of service
Date of payments
Date of death – or perhaps the date a widow remarried
Name and address of dependents
War fought in
Law(s) under which pensioned
Class of pension/certificate
Rate of pension
Effective date of pension
Date of certificate
Any fees paid
Name of the pension agency or group transferred from (if applicable)
Date the Bureau was notified (of death)
As many widow/dependent names were not transcribed, it is best to search by the veteran’s name. Your veteran may pull up as listed on an Army Widow card, for example, meaning that the pension was being paid out to his widow and you would be able to see the widow’s name on the actual image of the card.
Cards are arranged alphabetically by surname. There are often multiple cards associated with a soldier or their dependent. Make sure to use the previous and next buttons in the image viewer to see all the cards associated with your ancestor.
Pension cards were occasionally amended. For example, the form type may have been altered to better reflect who the recipient of the pension was. Such alterations can be viewed on the pension card images.
There are four main card templates: army invalids, navy invalids, army widow, and navy widow. The distinctions between the invalid and widow cards are minor: the widow’s name would replace the veteran’s, and on the widow’s card, the veteran’s name would be listed under disability.
This collection is compiled of records detailing payments from the US Veteran’s Administration (VA) to those receiving veterans’ pensions. The majority of those who were receiving pensions were either wounded veterans or their dependents. The aim of these records, collected by the government, was to keep track of all such payments.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) hold these cards as publication number M850.
To request veterans’ pension files from NARA, use the information provided in these pension cards. A fee is associated with ordering copies of such files. NARA has a copy service, but it is limited and could take up to a year to receive records. It may be advisable to hire a professional researcher to ensure that all the papers pertaining to your ancestor are copied.
Since the American Revolution, Congress has been involved in offering pensions for disabled soldiers. Such pensions were originally offered as incentives for men to enlist during the American Revolution. At that time, the medical care would be provided by individual states. In 1811, the federal government approved the first medical facility specifically dedicated to veterans.
In the 1800s, the government expanded pensions to include veterans’ widows and dependents. The VA was established in 1930 and prior to that, the records were held and processed by three agencies: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. These three bodies were later absorbed within the VA.