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AGO 1950 No. 370 - October 19, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

VETERANS' RELIEF ACT OF 1947 ‑- APPLICABILITY TO MEMBERS OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES SERVING IN THE KOREAN WAR, AND THEIR FAMILIES

United States service personnel who have served or are serving in the Korean campaign and/or their families are entitled to aid or assistance under the provisions of the Veterans' Relief Act, chapter 180, Laws of 1947 (10737 Rem. Supp. 1947).

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                                                                October 19, 1950

Honorable Patrick M. Steele
Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 370

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter of October 3, 1950, wherein you have quoted from section 1, chapter 180, Laws of 1947 (the veterans' relief act) and wherein you request our opinion

            "* * * as to whether United States service personnel who have served or are serving in the Korean campaign and/or their families are entitled to aid or assistance under the provisions of the quoted act."

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            United States service personnel who have served or are serving in the Korean campaign, and/or their families, are entitled to such assistance.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The pertinent portion of section 1, chapter 180, Laws of 1947 (§ 10737 Rem. Supp. 1947) reads as follows:

             Orig. Op. Page 2

            "For the relief of indigent and suffering Union soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the Civil War, in the war of Mexico or in any of the Indian wars in the United States, the Spanish-American war and Philippine insurrection, soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the United States Army, Navy, or Marine Corps between April 6, 1917, and the date upon which peace is finally concluded with the German government and its allies, or soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the Army, Navy or Marine Corps of the United States in any other foreign war, insurrection, or expedition, which service shall be governed by the issuance of a campaign badge by the government of the United States of America,or for any members of the armed forces of the United States in the existing war between the United States and Japan and her allies, or the existing war between the United States and Germany and her allies, and their families or the families of those deceased, who need assistance in any city, town or precinct in this state, the Board of Commissioners of the county in which said city, town or precinct is situated shall provide such sum or sums of money as may be necessary, * * *".  (Emphasis supplied)

            It is our opinion that the personnel of the United States armed forces serving in Korea, and their families, are entitled to aid and assistance by virtue of the language above quoted which we have underlined.  This conclusion is in accord with our ruling contained in an opinion dated June 14, 1948, addressed to The Honorable John L. Slavenburg, Director, Veterans' Rehabilitation Council, pursuant to that officer's request for our opinion "* * * as to the termination date of the wars between the United States and Germany and Japan in order to determine the date after which persons entering the armed forces would no longer be eligible for benefits under chapter 67, Laws of 1888, as last amended by section 1, chapter 180, Laws of 1947 (10737 Rem. Supp. 1947, P.P.C. 932-29)."  In that opinion, after quoting the portion of the statute in question which we have underlined above, we noted that

             Orig. Op. Page 3

            "The legislature has set as an effective date one which will be determined only by the United States Government."

            We then set forth the manner in which wars may be terminated, noted that by Presidential proclamation number 2714 of December 31, 1946, President Truman had proclaimed a cessation of hostilities, admonished that a cessation of hostilities does not mean the termination of war, and concluded with the following:

            "It will be seen, then, that the wars between the United States and Germany and Japan still exist, and will continue until a termination is formally proclaimed by Congress or until the respective peace treaties are ratified."

            There having been to this date, no such Congressional proclamation or peace treaty as would terminate the wars in question, we feel that the reasoning expressed in that opinion is strictly applicable to, and is decisive of the present inquiry.

            In reaching this conclusion, we have not been unmindful of an apparent divergence of opinion among the various jurisdictions upon the proposition whether the termination of a state of war constitutes a political question, as above stated, or a judicial one.  See in this regard,State ex rel. Peter v. Listman, 157, Wash. 229, 288 P. 913;Hoover v. Sandifur, 25 Wn. (2d) 791, 171 P. (2d) 1009, 168 A.L.R. 170; andNew York Life Insurance Co. v. Durham, 166 F. (2d) 874.  Even though it be taken to be a judicial question we feel that there are valid reasons for ruling that the above quoted phrase of the statute, "in the existing war", should be construed in its technical sense, as was done in the opinion of June 14, 1948, supra, rather than in its popular sense, as was the phrase contained in the Seattle Charter, viz., "who have served in time of war" construed by our Supreme Court in theListman case, supra.  Firstly, it is to be noted that the language in question, to-wit: The underlined portion of the statute first above quoted, was first added to the original 1888 enactment by the 1945 legislature (§ 1, ch. 144, Laws of 1945).  That language was carried over unchanged, into section 1, chapter 18, Laws of 1947, which was passed by the house, February 19, 1947, passed by the senate  Orig. Op. Page 4 March 7, 1947, and approved by the governor March 18, 1947, all of which was, of course, subsequent to the aforementioned Presidential proclamation of December 31, 1946, relative to the cessation of hostilities.  Secondly, by ruling that the language should be construed in its technical sense, we impute to the legislature an intention to treat members of the armed forces in World War II in a manner consistent with the treatment accorded to members of the armed forces in World War I, for a prior phrase of the same statute makes relief available to "soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the United States Army, Navy or Marine Corps between April 6, 1917, and the date upon which peace is finally concluded with the German Government and its allies * * * ."

            We are, therefore, of the opinion that armed force personnel serving in Korea, and their families, are entitled to receive such aid and assistance as is provided for by chapter 180, Laws of 1947.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

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