VETERANS ‑- BONUS ‑- PAYMENT OF VIETNAM VETERANS' BONUSES
Meaning of "active federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States," as used in RCW 73.34.020 with regard to eligibility for Vietnam veterans' bonuses; effect of governor's proclamation of August 7, 1973, declaring the period specified in RCW 73.34.020 to have ended on March 28, 1973.
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November 13, 1973
Honorable Robert S. O'Brien
Olympia, Washington 98504
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 105
Attention: !ttMr. William N. Weaver
Director, Vietnam Veterans'
By recent letter you have asked for our opinion on several questions relating to the payment of Vietnam veterans' bonuses under the provisions of chapter 154, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess. (chapter 73.34 RCW). We paraphrase your questions as follows:
(1) What is the meaning of the phrase "active federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States," as used in RCW 73.34.020?
(2) In view of Governor Evans' proclamation issued on August 7, 1973, wherein, acting pursuant to RCW 73.34.020, he declared the period specified in that statute to have ended on March 28, 1973, will a person be entitled to a Vietnam's veterans' bonus solely on the basis of "active federal service" rendered between March 28, 1973, and August 7, 1973?
We answer question (1) in the manner set forth in our analysis; question (2) is answered in the negative.
RCW 73.34.020, codifying § 2, chapter 154, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess., provides, in material part, as follows:
"(1) There shall be paid to each person who has been on active federal service as a [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States between a period commencing August 5, 1964, and ending on such date as shall thereafter be determined by presidential proclamation or concurrent resolution of the congress terminating the conflict involving United States forces battling in South Viet Nam, or in the case of a reduction in hostilities, on a date determined by proclamation of the governor, and who for a period of one year immediately prior to the date of his entry into such service, was a bona fide citizen or resident of the state of Washington, and received the Viet Nam Service Medal, the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars for service between said dates: Provided, however, That persons otherwise eligible who have been continuously in said armed services for a period of five years or more immediately prior to August 5, 1964, shall not be eligible to receive compensation under the terms of this chapter: Provided further, That persons who have already received extra compensation or other benefits based upon claimed resdence at the time of entry into such active service from any other state or territory shall not be entitled to compensation under this chapter: And provided further, That no person shall be eligible to receive compensation under this chapter having prior thereto applied for and received compensation hereunder.
". . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
Your first question has to do with the meaning to be given to the above underscored phrase. Research discloses that this language is in all respects identical to that appearing in § 2, chapter 292, Laws of 1955 (RCW 73.33.020), which, dealing with the veterans of the earlier Korean conflict, provided for the payment of bonus
". . . to each person who was on active federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States between the 27th day of June, 1950, and the 26th day of July, 1953, and who for a period of one year immediately prior to the [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] date of his entry into such active service, was a bona fide citizen or resident of the state of Washington, for service between said dates, . . ."1/
Moreover, the question which you have now asked with respect to RCW 73.34.020, supra, was specifically considered, in the context of this earlier veterans' bonus statute, in AGO 55-57 No. 224 [[to John K. Yearout, State Representative on March 16, 1956]], copy enclosed. As you will note from a review of this earlier opinion the request to which we were there responding asked us to:
"Define the meaning of 'Federal Service' in respect to the Korean Veterans' Bonus Law, Chapter 292, Session Laws of 1955."
After analyzing both the state statute and various federal laws governing veterans' benefits, we responded to this request by saying:
"We believe that persons otherwise qualified under the statute who were on full-time active duty for which they received Federal compensation for the requisite number of days during the period specified by the statute are eligible for a veterans' bonus. This would include those in the army, navy, marine corps, coast guard and their respective reserve components as set forth in the Federal act."
Although certain of the federal statutes which were relied upon in this 1956 opinion have since been repealed, it is our judgment that the foregoing conclusion remains valid ‑ particularly in the light of the statutory definitions of "active duty" and "active service" that are now contained in 10 USC § 101 (22) and (24).
"Active duty" is defined in subsection (22) of this federal statute to mean:
". . . full-time duty in the active military service of the United States. It includes duty on the active list, full-time training [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] duty, annual training duty, and attendance, while in the active military service, at a school designated as a service school by law or by the Secretary of the military department concerned."
"Active service" is then defined in subsection (24) to mean
". . . service on active duty."
Also to be noted in connection with the foregoing is the definition of "armed forces" which, as defined by 10 USC § 101(4), means:
". . . the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard."
Because the current Vietnam veterans' bonus statute does not require a given number of days of service in order to qualify for a bonus ‑ unlike RCW 73.33.020, supra ‑ it is entirely possible that an individual may qualify for a bonus under this 1972 act on the basis of a rather short period of "active federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States," as above defined. However, in order to so qualify this service will have to have included a sufficient period of time in Vietnam to entitle the individual in question to receive the Vietnam Service Medal.
Your second question makes reference to Governor Evans' proclamation of August 7, 1973, the full text of which reads as follows:
"WHEREAS, RCW 73.34.120 provides that claims for compensation under the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Act (ch. 154, Laws of 1972, and Chapter 73.34 RCW) shall not be accepted after twelve o'clock noon one year after the termination date of the Vietnam conflict; and
"WHEREAS, RCW 73.34.020 (1) provides that any one of three specific occurrences may establish the termination date of the Vietnam conflict for purposes of bonus eligibility, such occurrences being: (1) proclamation by the President of the United States; (2) concurrent resolution of the Congress of the United States; or (3) proclamation by the Governor of the State of Washington; and
[[Orig. Op. Page 5]]
"WHEREAS, neither the President nor the Congress have so acted, by proclamation or concurrent resolution respectively, to establish a termination date for purposes of RCW 73.34.020 (1); and
"WHEREAS, the cease fire agreement and truce agreed to and entered by the United States established March 28, 1973, as the date of final withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Daniel J. Evans, Governor of the State of Washington, do hereby proclaim that for purposes of Chapter 73.34 RCW, the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Act, the termination date of conflict in Vietnam is and was the 28th day of March of the year 1973."
Your question has to do with a person whose only period of "active federal service" occurred between March 28, 1973, the terminal date specified in the governor's proclamation, and August 7, 1973, when the proclamation itself was issued. You ask whether this period of service is sufficient to qualify such a person, assuming that he has received a Vietnam Service Medal, for a veteran's bonus under RCW 73.34.020, supra. Based upon the specific language of this statute, we believe that this question must be answered in the negative.
Repeated for ease of reference RCW 73.34.020 provides, in material part, as follows:
(1) There shall be paid to each person who has been on active federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States between a period commencing August 5, 1964, and ending . . . in the case of a reduction in hostilities, on a date determined by proclamation of the governor, . . ."
Thus, it is not the date of issuance of the governor's proclamation that is relevant but rather it is the date "determined by" that proclamation which serves as the terminal [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] date of the period during which a person must have been on "active federal service" in order to qualify for a veteran's bonus.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/Unlike RCW 73.34.020, supra, this earlier veterans' bonus law then went on to require a certain number of days of service during this period in order to qualify for a given amount of veterans' bonus money.