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AGO 1960 No. 152 - October 14, 1960
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

VETERANS - ELIGIBILITY FOR RELIEF UNDER CHAPTER 73.08 RCW.

(1) Relief provided veterans under chapter 73.08 RCW is restricted to honorably discharged veterans.  (2) Honorably discharged veterans include those who have received either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions.  (3) Veterans of all wars, campaigns or insurrections prior to the second World War must have received a campaign badge to be eligible for relief under the act.  Veterans who served between December 11, 1941, and April 28, 1952, are not required to have a campaign badge in order to be eligible for relief.  A veteran serving in the Korean campaign after April 28, 1952 must have received a campaign badge in order to be eligible for relief.  (1) Veterans entitled to relief under chapter 73.08 RCW must have been residents of the state for 12 months prior to entering the service or 12 months prior to application or receipt of relief.  (5) The fact that a veteran is entitled to relief under a federal act does not determine eligibility under the Washington act.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                October 14, 1960

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County City Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                         Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 152

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested an opinion of this office on the questions which we have paraphrased as follows:

            1.  Is the relief provided by chapter 73.08 of RCW restricted to honorably discharged veterans?

            2.  What types of discharges are included in the term "honorably discharged"?

            3.  Must a veteran have received a "campaign badge" to be eligible for relief under this act?

            4.  Must the veteran have been a resident of the state of Washington for twelve months prior to applying for relief under Title 73.08 RCW?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            5.  Is the fact that a veteran is entitled to relief under a federal act significant in determining eligibility under the Washington act?

            We answer question 1 in the affirmative and questions 2, 3 and 4 as set forth in the analysis below.  We answer question 5 in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The pertinent Washington statutes applicable to an analysis of your questions are found in chapter 73.08 RCW.

            RCW 73.08.010 reads in part as follows:

            "For the relief of indigent and suffering Union soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the Civil War, in the war of Mexico or any of the Indian wars in the United States, the Spanish-American war and the 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 county 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, . . . [[;]]Provided, Said soldier, sailor or marine, or the families of those deceased are and have been residents of the state for at least twelve months, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 73.08.080 reads as follows:

            "The boards of county commissioners of the several counties in this state shall levy, in addition to the taxes now levied by law, a tax not less than one twentieth of one mill, and not greater than one and  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] one fifth mills, upon the taxable property of their respective counties, to be levied and collected as now prescribed by law for the assessment and collection of taxes, for the purpose of creating a fund for the relief of honorably discharged soldiers,  sailors and marines who served in the Civil War, in the war of Mexico or in any of the Indian wars, or the Spanish-American war or the 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 any members of the armed forces of the United States in the existing war between the United States and Germany and her allies or the existing war between the United States and Japan and her allies, and the indigent wives, husbands, widows, widowers and minor children of such indigent or deceased soldiers, sailors and marines, to be disbursed for such relief by such board of county commissioners."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            1. Your initial question points up the fact that RCW 73.08.010 does not require that a veteran applying for relief have been honorably discharged.  It is obvious, however, that RCW 73.08.010 and 73.08.080 contemplate a single fund to provide the relief mentioned in both.  It is well established that statutes pari materia must be construed with reference to each other.  Rummens v. Evans, 168 Wash. 527, 13 P. (2d) 26 (1932).  It is equally well established that courts will not construe different provisions of a statute so as to create a conflict where any other course is reasonably available.  See Rosenoff v. Cross, 95 Wash. 525, 164 Pac. 236 (1917).

            The latest reenactment of all of chapter 73.08 RCW was chapter 144, Laws of 1945.  That chapter contained all of the current RCW 73.08.010 and 73.08.080 except that portion of RCW 73.08.010 setting forth the veteran's organizations entitled to draw from the fund.  Chapter 180, Laws of 1947, amended RCW 73.08.010 only by enlarging the number of veteran's organizations mentioned therein.  Therefore, it is our opinion, from a reading of the whole of chapter 144, Laws of 1945 that the legislature intended to restrict the benefits contemplated by the act to honorably discharged veterans.

            2. When the legislature last re enacted [[reenacted]]chapter 73.08 RCW, three types of discharges were in current use.  These three types and the reasons they were issued are as follows:

            Honorable Discharge; for service honest and faithful.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Discharge Without Specification; for reasons other than those specified for honorable or dishonorable.

            Dishonorable Discharge; as a result of a general court martial.

            As you will note, the legislature, in its wisdom and discretion, did not limit the benefits of the act to veterans who had received an Honorable Discharge.  The statute uses the phrase "honorably discharged."  Since words in a statute must be given their generally accepted meaning absent anything in the statute to the contrary, Cochran v. Nelson, 26 Wn. (2d) 82, 173 P. (2d) 769 (1946), we turn to Websters New International Dictionary (1923) where "honorably" is defined as: "In an honorable manner; in a manner showing, or consistent with, honor."

            In examining the above reasons for discharges given prior to October 8, 1948, we note that a dishonorable discharge was given only as a result of a general court martial while an honorable discharge was given for service, honest and faithful.  All other reasons for discharge fall under Discharge Without Specification.  It seems clear that an honorable discharge would be received by those whose service was satisfactory, no outstanding merit or service being required.  A discharge without specification was generally given veterans whose service was not honest and faithful but who were not guilty of crimes or conduct serious enough to invoke the jurisdiction of a general court martial.

            We are therefore of the opinion that veterans discharged before October 8, 1948, must have received an Honorable Discharge to be eligible for relief under the act.

            In regulations passed under authority of the Selective Service Act of 1948, the types of discharges were expanded to the following:

            Honorable Discharge

            General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions

            Undesirable Discharge

            Bad Conduct Discharge

            Dishonorable Discharge

            In determining whether a veteran receiving one of these discharges has been "honorably discharged" we direct your attention to 32 C.F.R. 275, § 44.3 (1955) et seq. where regulations of October 8, 1948 are reprinted.

            We call your attention to the fact that a veteran must have a service record of excellent to receive an Honorable Discharge or satisfactory to receive a  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] General Discharge and that General Discharges are issued only under honorable conditions.  We also call your attention to the fact that Undesirable Bad Conduct, and Dishonorable Discharges are issued under conditions other than honorable.  It is therefore our opinion that veterans receiving Honorable or General Discharges are within the class of veterans mentioned in RCW 73.08.080 as "honorably discharged."  We reach this conclusion by a consideration of the regulations definition of "excellent service" required for an Honorable Discharge, as found in 32 C.F.R. 275, § 44.3 (b) which reads as follows:

            "(b) In determining excellent service the following criteria will be used:

            "(1) Army and Air Force all character ratings as a soldier of at least 'very good' and all efficiency ratings of a soldier as 'excellent.'

            "(2) Navy minimum final average of 2.75 in proficiency and 3.25 in conduct.

            "(3) Marine Corps minimum final average of 3.44 in proficiency and 4.0 in conduct.

            "(4) Coast Guard same as Navy."

            Section 44.4 provides for a general discharge for those servicemen who had a satisfactory service record but who were not "sufficiently deserving to receive an Honorable Discharge."  General Discharges are given for the same reason as Honorable Discharges and for the additional reasons of unsuitability and inaptitude, but men discharged for these reasons must have performed satisfactory service to be eligible for the General Discharge.  Here also the discharge is under honorable conditions.  See 32 C.F.R. 277, § 44.13 and § 44.14.  It would therefore seem that to limit the benefits of the act to veterans who had received an Honorable Discharge would exclude many servicemen who had served their country honorably but whose service fell, in either deportment or proficiency, below the standards set by the regulations.

            On January 14, 1959, the Secretary of Defense issued new regulations covering discharge which eliminated the above standards but continued the classifications of Honorable Discharge and General Discharge.  Under these new regulations, as found in 24 F.R. 1704 (1959), it is now possible for veterans to receive an Honorable Discharge for the reasons of unsuitability of inaptitude.  The general distinction of meritorious service as a requirement for an Honorable Discharge, and satisfactory service for a General Discharge has been retained but the federal regulations provide each service is to issue its own regulations establishing standards for the determination of meritorious service.  By A.R. 635 200 issued April 8, 1959, the Army, for example, it would appear, has reduced the requirements for an Honorable Discharge.  Under these regulations conduct must be "good" and efficiency "at least fair."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            A General Discharge continues to be given for service satisfactory but not sufficiently meritorious to entitle the serviceman to an Honorable Discharge. The General Discharge continues to be given under honorable conditions.

            In our opinion so long as the General Discharge is given under honorable conditions, a veteran receiving either an Honorable or a General Discharge is entitled to the benefits of chapter 73.08 RCW.  See AGO 49-51-88 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Clallam County on July 14, 1949]], a copy of which is enclosed, where we held that a serviceman who received an undesirable discharge was not entitled to the benefits of this act since the discharge was not under honorable conditions.

            3. RCW 73.08.010 and 73.08.080 also require service in certain wars or other insurrections or expeditions as a prerequisite for relief under the act.  The wording of this portion of the statute is a result of several amendments by which veterans of later wars are entitled to relief originally provided by the laws of 1888.  As the statute now reads, a campaign badge is required for all veterans except those of the second world war.  See AGO 29-30 p. 545 [[1929-30 OAG 545 to Prosecuting Attorney, Pacific County on February 20, 1930]], a copy of veterans except those of the second world war.  See AGO 29-30 p. 545, a copy of which is enclosed, where we held that a campaign badge was a prerequisite to relief under the act, and that a veteran who had served in the army of occupation after the first world war and who had not received a campaign badge, was not entitled to relief under the act.

            The provision of the statute which provides relief for veterans of the second world war is not modified by the requirement of a campaign badge.  The provision also specifies that relief should be provided for veterans of "the existing war. . . ."  We held in AGO 49-51 No. 370 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County on October 19, 1950]], a copy of which is enclosed, that the term "existing war" should be interpreted in its technical sense; and that until peace treaties are signed and ratified by the Senate or until peace is formally proclaimed by Congress, the war still exists.  See Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Co., 251 U.S. 146, 64 L.Ed. 194, 40 S.Ct. 106 (1919).  See also AGO 47-48 p. 104 [[1947-48 OAG 104d to Veterans' Rehabilitation Council on June 14, 1948]]and AGO 53-55 No. 192 [[to Employment Security on January 18, 1954]], copies of which are enclosed, where we applied this test.

            The war with Germany ended by House Joint Resolution No. 289 which was approved by the President on October 19, 1951.  The war with Japan ended by Presidential Proclamation No. 2974 issued after the Japanese peace treaty of September 8, 1951 had been approved by the United States Senate.  Since war was officially declared on December 11, 1941, we are of the opinion that all veterans who served between that date and April 28, 1952, are entitled to relief under the act.  As to veterans of all other wars, campaigns or insurrections, a campaign badge is required.  In your letter you asked whether a veteran who had served during the Korean conflict, but who had not received a campaign badge was eligible for relief under this act.  As is pointed out above, if he served prior to April 28, 1952, he would be eligible.  If such a veteran had not served prior to that time he must have received a campaign badge to be eligible for relief under the act.  See AGO 55-57 No. 72 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, King County on May 10, 1955]], a copy of which is be eligible for relief under the act.  See AGO 55-57 No. 72, a copy of which is enclosed, where we held that a campaign badge received for service in the Korean conflict entitled an honorably discharged veteran to relief under chapter 73.08 RCW.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            Campaign badges or service medals as they are now called, are authorized to be issued by regulations found in 32 C.F.R. 330, § 578.26 (1955).  The following sections under that general chapter establish the requirements for each of the service medals.  As we read RCW 73.08.010 and 73.08.080, relief is provided for veterans who served in certain wars there enumerated and also for veterans who served ". . . in any otherforeign 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, . . ." (Emphasis added).  Because of the limitation or requirement that other wars, insurrections or expeditions must have been foreign in nature we must consider the requirements for service for each of the campaign badges authorized by the federal government so as to exclude those which were not issued for service in one of the enumerated wars or a foreign war, insurrection or expedition.  You will note that the regulations authorizing The Good Conduct Medal, The American Defense Service Medal, The Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and The National Defense Service Medal, do not require foreign service nor were they issued for service in one of the enumerated wars.  We are therefore of the opinion that these service medals are not within the class of campaign badges mentioned in chapter 73.08 RCW.

            We call your attention to the language of the statute which we emphasized above:  ". . . by the issuance of a campaign badge by the government of the United States . . ." By a literal interpretation of this language we are of the opinion that in instances where a campaign badge is required it must have been issued prior to receipt of relief under this act.  We are informed that discharge papers do include a list of medals and campaign badges earned by a veteran.  In 32 C.F.R. 330, § 578.26, a provision is made for determination of eligibility and issuance of such badges after discharge, should no record of a badge appear in the papers of a veteran applying for relief.

            For your convenience we have set forth below a list of campaign badges or service medals which, in our opinion, are within the class of medals or badges mentioned in RCW 73.08.010 and 73.08.080.  You will note that several of these medals were issued for World War II service.  We do not mean by including them that they are prerequisite for relief for veterans of the second world war but authorized possession of such a badge would be conclusive proof of such service.

            1. Civil War Campaign Medal

            2. Indian Campaign Medal

            3. Spanish Campaign Medal

            4. Spanish War Service Medal

            5. Army of Cuban Occupation Medal

            6. Army of Puerto Rican Occupation Medal

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            7. Philippine Campaign Medal

            8. Philippine Congressional Medal

            9. China Campaign Medal

            10. Army of Cuban Pacification Medal

            11. Mexican Service Medal

            12. Mexican Border Service Medal

            13. World War I Victory Medal

            14. Army of Occupation of Germany Medal

            15. Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

            16. Women's Army Corps Service Medal

            17. American Campaign Medal

            18. European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal

            19. World War II Victory Medal

            20. Army of Occupation Medal

            21. Medal of Humane Action

            22. Korean Service Medal

            23. United Nations Service Medal

            24. Philippine Service Medal

            Because it would unduly lengthen this opinion we do not here set forth the requirements for each of the above medals but direct your attention to 32 C.F.R., Part 578.26 et seq.  We would also like to call your attention to the fact that several of the campaign badges are authorized long after the service for which they are awarded has been rendered.  See for example The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal which was awarded for service between November 11, 1918 and July 11, 1923, but not authorized until November 21, 1941.  It may well be that many veterans entitled to this badge were discharged prior to its authorization.  These veterans would, under our act, be required to apply for and be awarded such badge before being eligible for relief.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 9]]

            4. RCW 73.08.010 contains a proviso which reads:

            ". . .Provided, Said soldier, sailor or marine, or the families of those deceased are and have been residents of the state for at least twelve months, . . ."

            In determining whether this proviso requires a twelve months residence preceding application for relief we first note that a literal reading of the statute requires a residence at the time of receipt of the relief.  (". . . are . . . residents of the state . . .")

            While the term "resident" is sometimes interpreted to mean domicile when used in a statute, our court has pointed out that the term is elastic and that it should be interpreted in the sense in which it is used by considering the object or purpose of the statute where it is employed.  In re Mullins, 26 Wn. (2d) 419, 174 P. (2d) 790 (1946).  In our opinion the term as used in this statute does not require a technical domicile.  It does, however, require that such soldier, sailor, or marine or the families of those deceased shall " . . . have been residents of this state for twelve months . . ."  Normally a proviso must be strictly construed, Tabb v. Funk, 170 Wash. 545, 17 P. (2d) 18 (1932), but it must be construed in the light of the body of the statute it modifies, Western Machinery Exchange v. Grays Harbor Co., 190 Wash. 447, 68 P. (2d) 613 (1937).  This proviso requiring twelve months residence must be construed as it would apply to veterans or their families.  The very definition of a veteran as used in this statute connotates a possibility of an absence from the state while in military service.

            We, therefore, are of the opinion that the veterans entitled to relief under this proviso include those who entered the armed forces of the United States having been residents of the state of Washington for twelve months regardless of residency prior to application or receipt of relief and all other veterans who have, prior to application or receipt of relief, been residents of this state for twelve months.

            5. In answer to your last question it should be sufficient to point out that requirements for benefits from the Veterans' Administration are established by the federal act while the Washington act establishes its own requisites for relief.  Neither act in any way depends upon standards established by the other.  We therefore answer your last question in the negative.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

R. TED BOTTIGER
Assistant Attorney General

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