U.S. Still Paying a Civil War Pension

The Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, but the U.S. government is still paying a veteran’s pension from that conflict.

“One beneficiary from the Civil War [is] still alive and receiving benefits,” Randy Noller of the Department of Veterans Affairs confirms.

Irene Triplett – the 86-year-old daughter of a Civil War veteran – collects $73.13 each month from her father’s military pension. The identity of Triplett was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2014.

 

“VA has an obligation to take care of our nation’s veterans no matter how long. It is an honor to serve and care for those who served our country,” Noller explained in an email to U.S. News.

As the United States continues fighting the lengthiest war in its history – the campaign in Afghanistan – it is worth considering how long the consequences of U.S. military action reverberate.

The U.S. government pays out veterans’ benefits to spouses and dependents of former soldiers. A subsection of Title 38 of the United States Code spells out the rules and regulations for their allocation, including for the Civil War, even though that now only applies to one person in the country, Triplett.

“Whenever there is no surviving spouse entitled to pension,” as there is not in Triplett’s case, “the Secretary shall pay to the children of each Civil War veteran who met the service requirements of section 1532 of this title a pension at the monthly rate of $73.13 for one child… A veteran met the service requirements of this section if such veteran served for 90 days or more in the active military or naval service during the Civil War,” the code notes.

 

“The promises of President Abraham Lincoln are being delivered, 150 years later, by President Barack Obama,” then-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a speech in 2013. “And the same will be true 100 years from now—the promises of this president will be delivered by a future president, as yet unborn.”

Triplett’s father was Mose Triplett, born in 1846. He joined the Confederate army in 1862, but later deserted and signed up with the Union. His first wife died and they did not have any children. He later married Elida Hall who was at least 50 years younger. They had five children, three of whom did not survive infancy. But Irene, and her younger brother Everette did. Mose Triplett was 83 when Irene was born, nearly 87 when her brother Everette came along.

Mose Triplett died a few days after returning from the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938. His wife and daughter went to go live in public housing, and his son ran away. Elida Triplett died in 1967. Everette Triplett died in 1996.

Irene Triplett did not have a happy childhood, she recalled to The Wall Street Journal in a 2014 interview.

“I didn’t care for neither one of them, to tell you the truth about it,” she said referring to her parents. She noted she was often abused. “I wanted to get away from both of them. I wanted to get me a house and crawl in it all by myself,” she said.

When media members reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for updated information on Triplett, a spokesman indicated the family did not wish to be contacted.

 

May-December romances are not unheard of in 2016, but in the case of Mose Triplett and his second wife, based on past comments from Irene, and facts about American life at the time, there may have been very little romance in the union.

“[There was] not much economic opportunity during this period,” so many men would leave the area, Dan Pierce, a history professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, who specializes in the American South, explained in an email exchange with U.S. News. “Parents in this type of situation would encourage daughters, who perhaps cost more to feed than they provided to the economic well being of the farm, to marry (anyone) and relieve them of the expense.”

While Triplett has outlived all the spouses of Civil War veterans, it is not by as long a period as one might think. The last Confederate widow, Maudie Hopkins died on Aug. 1, 2008, at age 93. The last Union widow, Gertrude Janeway, died Jan. 17, 2003, also at age 93. The last Civil War veterans themselves, both Union and Confederate, died in the 1950s. Both men were more than 100 years old.

Since the Civil War’s conclusion in 1865, the U.S. has been involved in numerous conflicts around the globe. The Spanish-American War was fought in 1898, yet there are 46 surviving children, and 42 surviving spouses, collecting benefits from the VA. The last veteran of the U.S.-Spain conflict over Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, died in 1992 – Nathan E. Cook, aged 106.

Some 1,590 surviving children and 1,236 surviving spouses of World War I veterans still collect benefits, as of May 2016. American involvement in the Great War occurred from 1917-18, after the war started in 1914 among European parties. The last surviving American World War I veteran was Frank Buckles, who died Feb. 27, 2011, at the age of 110.

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