[T]hroughout the 1870s and into the 1880s, the NHDVS developed as a place where
disabled veterans were afforded living quarters, basic medical care, wage-earning work, and entertainment. Their attention to the well-being of the disabled veterans reinforced the consistent theme sounded by the Board of Managers during the developmental stages of the institution and throughout its existence: unlike institutions for the blind, the insane, or the poor, the NHDVS sheltered a special class of people who were there by merit of their military service. This was an institution based not upon a moral obligation to care for the helpless but on the provision of services to people who had earned the right to be provided for by their country.
During the 1871-1883 period, expansion of membership requirements increased the
numbers of veterans entering the NHDVS. Initially, applicants needed to prove that they had been honorably discharged and that their disability was related to their service in the Union Army. In 1871, Congress expanded the opportunity for admission to the NHDVS to veteran volunteer soldiers and sailors of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, as long as they had not served in the Confederate army and they could prove their disability was service-related.…
The Board of Managers attributed at least part of the surge in
admissions in the late 1870s and early 1880s to a financial depression
that began with the Panic of l873 and hoped that the demand would
subside as the impact of that crisis eased. However, a major policy
change—one supported by the Board itself—led to a dramatic increase in
membership and facilities. In the early 1880s, the Board of Managers
recommended that all disabled veterans—not only those who could prove
service-related injuries—be considered for membership in the National
HOW TO BECOME A MEMBER
April 30, 1867, Milwaukee Sentinel
The Board of Managers of the national Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers give notice that they are now prepared to receive beneficiaries into either branch near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Augusta, Maine or at the central asylum near Columbus Ohio. Volunteer soldiers are admitted upon application by letter to either of the managers, whereupon a blank application will be sent to the applicant, and if duly qualified, transportation will be furnished him.
The requirements are:
First, an honorable discharge from the volunteer service.
Second, disability by wounds received or sickness contracted in the line of duty. If the applicant is unable top travel or for other sufficient cause, relief will be furnished under direction of the manager to whom the application is made. Overseers of all almshouses and charitable hospitals having disabled soldiers subsisting upon private beneficence are respectfully urged to report such cases to either of the managers; as it is not fit that meritorious disable soldiers of the nation should have to be supported by private or public subscriptions.
Soldiers are especially informed that the asylums are neither hospitals or almshouses but homes, where subsistence, care, education, religious instructions and employment are provided for disabled soldiers by the Congress of the United States, to be paid from the forfeitures and fines of deserters of the army. The provision is not a charity, it is a contribution by bounty jumpers and bad soldiers, to the brave and deserving, and is their right. Soldiers having a wife, child or parent dependent upon them are not required to give up their pensions upon coming to the asylum. Other soldiers are required to assign their pensions to the asylum special cases only, to be determined by the board.
Suitable compensation will be given for profitable labor in the asylum. Good behavior will insure the kindest treatment. Wives and children will not be cared for at the asylum until after the soldier has shown, by his ability to aid himself and then in part by his labor and steadiness, that in taking his family in charge, he will not increase his expenses to the asylum above the cost other helpless benefactors, in which cases, provision will hereafter be made.
"Reliving Their Battles," 1889 Souvenir Book,
Archives of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center
1895 Souvenir Book, Northwestern Branch, NHDVS
Any honorably discharged disabled Soldier of Sailor of the United States – whether in the late war or the Mexican war – who is unable to earn a living by labor, can gain admission to the Home by making an application to either of the managers, and by stipulating and agreeing to abide by all the rules and regulations made by the Board of Managers, or by their order; to perform all duties required of them, and to obey all the lawful orders of the officers of the Home.
A soldier or a sailor must forward with his application for admission his discharge paper (and when he is a pensioner his pension certificate) before his application will be considered, which papers will be carefully kept at the Home, to be returned to him when he is discharged. If original discharge does not exist, a copy certificate by the war of navy department of the adjutant-general of the state must be sent. A blank will be sent to the soldier or sailor after complying with the above, and if on receipt of said blank, properly filled out, the applicant is found duly qualified, transportation will be furnished him free of charge, or he can apply by letter or in person to the Home nearest his residence, or any member of the Board of Managers.
Company M, 1919 Souvenir Book,
Archives of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center
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