How does the French society treat veterans

Veteran and war victim care and welfare state development in Australia, Germany, Austria and the USA


From a comparative perspective, this article examines the effects of war victims' provisions on the structure and development dynamics of the welfare states in the USA, Australia, Austria and Germany. Military personnel and veterans are among those groups that were caught up in state social policy at a comparatively early stage. The totalization of warfare led to a huge need for socio-political compensation, especially after the two world wars. Almost everywhere, however, the old security systems were overloaded with coping with the social consequences of the war in view of the horrific numbers of victims and had to be replaced by new systems. The focus of the article is on the effects of the war victims' welfare programs created in the course of the two world wars on the development of civil social policy. The comparison shows that provision for war victims has shaped the civil welfare state in many ways. In addition to innovative aspects, braking and structural effects can also be demonstrated. Decisive for this are different war experiences and the level of development of the civil welfare state ante bellum.


This article examines from a comparative perspective the effects of provision for war victims on the structure and development dynamic of the welfare state in the USA, Australia, Austria and Germany. Military personnel and veterans were among those groups covered comparatively early by public social policy. The totality of warfare, especially after the two World Wars, led to a tremendous need for sociopolitical compensation. Almost everywhere, however, the old security systems, faced with the disastrously high number of casualties, were overloaded in coping with the social consequences of war, and had to be replaced by new systems. The focus of this article is the effects that these provision schemes for war victims, which were created during the two World Wars, had on subsequent welfare state development. The comparison shows that provision for war victims has shaped the public welfare state in multiple ways. Apart from policy innovations, hindering and structural effects have been demonstrated. However, much depends on the various experiences of war and on the stage of development of the public welfare state before the Wars.


Almost everywhere, members of the military and civil servants are among the first occupational groups to be covered by state social policy. However, the spread of general conscription and the massive advances in weapons technology in the second half of the 19th century heralded the age of industrialized mass war, so that the existing and mostly professional military-tailored supply systems were completely overwhelmed by the outbreak of war and, in view of the horrific casualty figures, with new and extremely costly programs and inclusion measures had to be replaced. While the genesis and design of the provisions for war victims has been well processed for many countries (including Pironti 2015, pp. 38–67, 101–186, 275–388; see Pawlowsky and Wendelin 2015; Skocpol 1992, pp. 102–152), the The question of whether and how the war victims' welfare programs created in the age of industrialized mass war influenced the development and structure of the (civil) welfare state, largely excluded from comparative welfare state research.

This article aims to investigate this question from a comparative perspective by examining the short-term and long-term policy feedback effects of war victims' benefits for civil social policy, which resulted from the costs and the design of these programs with regard to eligibility conditions, recipients and policy instruments. With Germany, Austria, Australia and the USA, the selection of cases is concentrated on four states that were involved in both world wars, but were affected in very different ways.

A short theoretical part is followed by four country chapters, in which the structure of the provisions for war victims is presented first, before the short-term and long-term consequences for state social policy are examined. The last section brings the case studies together and discusses the effects of war victims' provisions on the development and structure of the welfare state from a comparative perspective. We show that the provisions for war victims have had a lasting, but ambivalent, impact on civil social policy. On the one hand, the provision of military war victims had long-term significant innovation and structural effects for state social policy, on the other hand, the enormous costs of war victims have increased social spending and, at least in the short term, slowed down “civil” social policy.

Theoretical considerations and case selection

Due to the enormously high number of victims of modern mass war, all belligerent states were forced to provide at least basic supplies for the military and civilian victims after the war. In addition, after the demobilization of the armies of millions, the returning veterans had to be reintegrated into society and the labor market. We argue that the care programs and integration measures, which are often created under enormous time pressure, have left deep marks on social policy, although the design of these programs in terms of type of service, degree of inclusion and generosity as well as their effects on the development of the welfare state vary depending on two contextual factors.

On the one hand, this includes the level of development of the civil welfare state “ante bellum”. The earlier the civil welfare state was established and the further it was developed, the closer it should be linked to the provisions for war victims. As a result, not only are mutual spillover effects in the design and administration of military and civil social policy more likely, but it can also be assumed that the consequences of war were absorbed to a greater extent by the already existing “civil” social protection programs (Hypothesis 1). On the other hand, it is important whether one's own national territory was a theater of war or not. Combat operations on their own territory not only claimed many civilian casualties, but also led to a massive economic slump. If states fought exclusively overseas, on the other hand, there was neither a comparable economic crisis nor many civilian casualties, so that the war victims programs were tailored exclusively to caring for veterans and their families. In this case, the emergence of a separate “military welfare state”, separated from civil social policy, is likely, especially if civil social protection programs were underdeveloped when the war broke out (hypothesis 2).

These two hypotheses guide case selection. Our country selection includes four states that were involved in both world wars, but differ in terms of the contextual conditions outlined. With Germany and Austria we are investigating two pioneering nations of state social policy who were on the losing side in both world wars and who have experienced fighting and destruction on national territory, which, measured against the population, have claimed many civilian and military casualties. With the USA and Australia we look at two countries whose armies fought exclusively overseas in both world wars and emerged victorious. In both countries the welfare state was less developed on the eve of the First World War than in the German-speaking countries. The USA differs from Australia in that the welfare state is less developed and in that the civil war, the first industrial mass war in history, took place on its own territory. The focus of the analysis is on Germany and the United States of America. For reasons of space, we treat Austria and Australia as “shadow cases”, but they are included in the comparison in order to test our hypotheses on a broader empirical basis.

United States

The emergence and organization of war victims' provisions

The “big bang” of US social policy only occurred in the wake of the New Deal with the introduction of pension and unemployment insurance. In addition, between 1911 and 1949 all states introduced accident insurance. While the civil welfare state is considered a latecomer, the first pension law for military personnel and invalids of the War of Independence was passed as early as 1776 (Aaronson 1942, p. 10).

In 1818, the Service Pension Law laid the foundation for further veteran provision. The law gave all veterans of the Revolutionary War an old age pension, provided they had served at least nine months and could prove need. In 1832 these eligibility requirements were reduced to six months of service (Aaronson 1942, p. 11). The Bureau of Pensions was created in 1833 to manage the program and was initially subordinate to the War Ministry and later to the Ministry of the Interior. The new institution was the first authority in the world to deal exclusively with veterans' care (Weber 2017, p. 234).

The previous pension systems related to the American War of Independence and were not transferable to future conflicts. In any case, the American Civil War overshadowed all previous wars, as it was one of the first mechanical mass wars. In 1863 the northern states introduced general conscription, so that by the end of the conflict 37% of the men fit for military service (more than 2.2 million) had been called to arms. Of these, 364,000 men had died, which in percentage terms meant a higher number of victims than in both world wars (Skocpol 1992, p. 103).

The Union government recognized early on that a generous pension system was an appropriate means of recruiting new soldiers. In February 1862, therefore, the General Pensions Act was passed, which provided pensions for disabled soldiers. The amount of the pensions was initially based solely on the rank, from 1864 also on the type of damage (loss of a body part, blindness, etc.). In the following years, damage caused by diseases such as tuberculosis was also taken into account (Weber 2017, p. 235). Widows and orphans received just as generous support benefits as, for the first time, mothers or dependent siblings of the fallen victim (Skocpol 1992, p. 107). The law skyrocketed the number of recipients of soldiers' pensions from 10,700 in 1862 to 126,700 in 1866, while costs rose from $ 1 million to $ 15.5 million over the same period (Skocpol 1992, pp. 107-108). Regardless of the high costs, only just under 43% of the damaged veterans applied for benefits in the first post-war years, while only 25% of the relatives exercised their rights (Skocpol 1992, pp. 108–110). In addition, the provisions only applied to the soldiers of the Union, not to those of the Confederate (Weber 2017, p. 235)!

Only two other laws resulted in approximately 93% of (Union) veterans of the civil war receiving financial benefits: First, the Arrears of Pension Act was passed in 1879, which backdated pension payments to the date of the honorable discharge or the death of the soldier, so that applicants received their pensions retrospectively until the civil war. As a result, the applications and the costs for veteran's pensions rose again significantly (Skocpol 1992, pp. 115–118). In 1890 the Dependent Pension Act came into force, which considerably expanded the number of recipients. From then on, all veterans who had served more than 90 days and were no longer able to do physical work were entitled to a pension. It was irrelevant whether the incapacity for work was due to an injury while on duty or due to the old age of the veteran (Skocpol 1992, p. 111). The veteran's pension was thus set to a retirement pension and the age limit was later set at 62 years (Aaronson 1942, p. 12). As a result, the number of veterans entitled to retirement rose from 489,000 to 996,000 within three years (Weber 2017, p. 235).

First World War

The USA entered the war late and mobilized 4.73 million soldiers by the end of the war, of which around 2.8 million were deployed overseas. Almost 117,000 were killed and more than 200,000 were injured (DeBruyne 2018, p. 2). During the First World War, the war victims and veterans 'care was fundamentally reformed due to the high costs of the veterans' care of the independence and civil war. Payments at federal level only reached their peak 40 (war of independence) and 28 years (civil war) after the end of the war (Skocpol 1997, p. 102). The reform should prevent a comparable cost explosion through a system of voluntary and subsidized life and disability insurance, which should cover a large part of the benefits in the event of death or disability.

In 1914 the War Risk Insurance Act was enacted, which provided insurance for merchant navy ships covered by the Treasury. When the war broke out, this law was massively expanded and henceforth stipulated compensation payments in the event of death, wounding or disability of soldiers who fought overseas (Love 1918, p. 46). The amount was based on a fixed system of reduced earning capacity due to disabilities and the size of the family (Aaronson 1942, p. 12). War invalids who could no longer practice their profession were given the right to vocational retraining. A central component of the law was the option for soldiers to take out voluntary life and disability insurance, the premiums of which were significantly lower than those of private providers (Altschuler and Blumin 2009, p. 25). In addition, the families of the soldiers on duty were given a portion of the monthly pay, which was supplemented by an additional state payment (Pietruska 2017, p. 249). In addition, all injured veterans who fought overseas were now eligible for medical care and rehabilitation provided by the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. However, the system planned by the government largely failed. The soldiers' life and disability insurance were to be included in civilian life after the end of the war, but 90% of veterans canceled their insurance in the course of the 1920s (Altschuler and Blumin 2009, p. 30).

After the war, three administrations were responsible for war victims and veterans: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions in the Ministry of the Interior and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, which were merged in 1930 to form the Veterans Administration, the forerunner of today's Veterans Ministry.

The labor market in particular posed a problem for veterans and war invalids in particular. With the Vocational Rehabilitation Act 1917 and the Soldier’s Rehabilitation Act 1918, professional reintegration was regulated by law (Bryan 2002, p. 229). 128,000 veterans had completed appropriate training courses by 1928 (Ortiz 2010, p. 15). In 1920, the Smith-Fess Act (Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act) was extended to disabled civilians in 1920. The law, modeled on military war victims' pensions, provided for a government contribution of 50% of the cost of state measures. While only eight states had previously set up programs for the professional reintegration of civilly disabled people, 18 months after the Smith-Fess Act came into force, the number was already 34 (Bitter 1979, p. 16). In addition, former combatants received a bonus if they wanted to take up employment in the civil service after being retired. In the mandatory Civil Service Exam, disabled veterans were awarded ten bonus points, healthy veterans five bonus points (Altschuler and Blumin 2009, p. 26).

Up until the First World War, one-off bonus payments had played a central role in the provision of veterans. After the end of the war, however, the soldiers only received a bonus payment of $ 60, which led to the establishment of interest groups for veterans (Zacchea 2013, p. 33). Unemployment among the former soldiers was disproportionately high, despite the good economic situation until the outbreak of the Great Depression. In 1924, Parliament passed the World War Adjusted Compensation Act (“Bonus Act”), an additional support program for soldiers who had served in the army between April 1917 and July 1919 (Weber 2017, p. 237). Veterans were paid $ 1 for each day of service or $ 1.25 if they served overseas. A maximum of $ 500 or $ 625 could be claimed. Smaller amounts up to $ 50 were paid out immediately. The heirs of deceased veterans could immediately claim the amount due to them. The majority, however, was issued in the form of certificates, which could only be redeemed from 1945 onwards and which were to serve as security for loans until then (Waller 1944, p. 241).Dissatisfaction with the Bonus Act and the rapidly rising unemployment led to the March 1932 World War II veterans on Washington ("Bonus Army") to expand social benefits, v. a. however, to demand the possibility to redeem the certificates immediately. An expansion of the provision for veterans and war victims was politically highly controversial. Several presidents argued that military service was a patriotic duty and therefore should not be placed in a better position than the civilian population (Zacchea 2013, p. 33). With the Social Security Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt in particular pushed the expansion of the civil welfare state, some of which would also benefit veterans. In 1936 the World War Adjusted Compensation Act was replaced by the Adjusted Compensation Payment Act. This should fight the impoverishment of World War II veterans and at the same time strengthen domestic demand. World War II veterans received government bonds amounting to $ 1.745 billion, which until 1945 had an annual interest rate of 3%, which was above the interest rate for savings deposits (Telser 2003, p. 242). Veterans were also able to sell their government bonds to the Treasury, which was noticed by almost 75% within the first year and resulted in the disbursement of $ 1.4 billion. Only 30,000 bonds remained in the possession of veterans until 1945 (Altschuler and Blumin 2009, p. 30).

Second World War

The supply of former soldiers, which the veterans perceived as insufficient and also politically highly controversial, changed fundamentally during the Second World War. The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act 1944 ("GI Bill of Rights") meant a break with the previous veteran provision (Skocpol 1997, pp. 95–115). For the first time, the law granted benefits to young, healthy veterans with the aim of helping them build an economic existence and thus reintegrate them into society. At the same time, the measures aimed to avoid costly pension burdens for non-disabled veterans, such as those created in the course of the civil war. The old-age insurance of working veterans of the Second World War was given over to the civilian pension insurance introduced in 1935. According to estimates by the President’s Commission on Veterans ’Pensions, established in 1955, 90% of veterans would be entitled to equivalent benefits from the contributory pension system (March 1956, p. 13). For this, however, their integration into the labor market was essential.

The benefits of the GI Bill of Rights included subsidized loans for the purchase of housing, starting a business or acquiring a farm. Added to this was the reimbursement of vocational training or tuition fees of up to $ 500, which also covered the tuition fees at top universities such as Harvard (Skocpol 1997, p. 97), the financing of study materials, and grants for the livelihood of trained veterans and their families. Veterans were also entitled to $ 60 / week unemployment benefits for up to 52 weeks. Low-income self-employed people could also receive grants of up to $ 100 / month. At the same time, the law consolidated the traditional gender-specific distribution of roles, as men benefited almost exclusively from it: "The only way for women to obtain these benefits was to marry veterans, which millions, of course, did" (Cherlin 2009, pp. 69-70) .

Of the approximately 15.5 million World War II veterans, 5.6 million completed vocational training and 2.2 million completed college or university training. 14% of the veterans received unemployment benefits and 29% loans for the purchase of housing, farms or business start-ups (Mettler 2005, p. 345). With the funding measures, 4.3 million homes were acquired from veterans. From a fiscal point of view, the GI Bill is one of the largest federal social policy programs ever launched. The total cost for the duration of the program (1944–1956) was $ 14.5 billion, which today corresponds to about $ 115 billion or $ 15,000 per recipient (Congressional Research Service 2017, p. 40).

The GI Bill was flanked by medical rehabilitation measures and pension payments for wounded and disabled soldiersFootnote 1, Survivor Benefits, and Veterans Preferential Employment in the Public Sector, which was reorganized under the Veterans ’Preference Act (1944). Veterans Administration spending on all measures in 1947, including benefit obligations from previous wars, was just under $ 7.5 billion (March 1956, p. 15), or 3% of GDP. In addition, there were benefits in kind and in cash for veterans at the state level, such as preferential employment,Footnote 2 Tax exemptions, training grants or residential accommodation (Aaronson and Rosenbloom 1945, pp. 12-20).

Sociopolitical Effects of Provision for War Victims

At the beginning of the American welfare state there were veteran's pensions, which mutated more and more into old-age pensions and, as a result of exploding costs, slowed civil old-age insurance (Skocpol 1992, pp. 102–152). In 1930 the total cost of veterans' care was a quarter of federal spending and even exceeded the defense budget (US Department of Commerce 1966, p. 109). The high costs led to a rethinking as early as the First World War. In the interwar period, in the context of the Great Depression, the government prioritized the expansion of civil social policy. A change of course did not take place until World War II when military old age pensions were pushed back in favor of integration measures for young and healthy veterans (GI Bill 1944). After World War II, it served as a model for over a dozen other GI Bills and support programs for veterans and their loved ones. Examples are the Korean Conflict GI Bill (1952), the Post-Korean Conflict and Vietnam Era GI Bill (1966) and the Post-Vietnam Era GI Bill (1976) or, more recently, the so-called Post-9/11 GI Bill and most recently the so-called Forever GI Bill (2017) passed under President Trump. In 1956, the children and spouses of killed or disabled veterans were also included in the training programs (War Orphans ’Educational Assistance Act or Survivors’ and Dependents ’Educational Assistance Program). Both the take-up rates and the costs of these training and integration measures were high, especially in the programs created after mass wars (Table 1).

However, these GI bills were only part of an overall confusing and expensive system of veterans' care, the costs of which remained high after 1945 due to the frequent involvement of the USA (Tab. 2) and always soared to around a fifth of federal spending after the end of the conflict.

The Cold War also ensured that the number of active members of the army remained high and that conscription was maintained until 1973. After its abolition, however, the "All Volunteer Army" was in competition with the private sector when it came to recruiting qualified personnel. As a result, not least on the initiative of high-ranking military personnel, social benefits and training support measures for army members and their families were expanded in order to recruit qualified personnel (especially the white middle class) for the army or to keep them in the army (Mittelstadt 2015, p. 99). These programs were expanded under President Reagan in particular, while civil social policy was cut back at the same time (Mittelstadt 2015, pp. 94–119). This created a military welfare state that offers members of the army and their families comparatively generous social benefits and educational opportunities. The spectrum ranges among others. from free medical care, tax-free housing benefits and the assumption of ancillary housing costs, separation and relocation allowances, subsidies for food and everyday goods to childcare facilities. In addition, there are various support measures in the area of ​​training and further education (Mittelstadt 2015, pp. 232–236). This military welfare state is of considerable size and forms a separate segment within an already complex social security system. This can be seen from a separate administrative structure, specific eligibility conditionsFootnote 3 and generous social benefits that have no equivalent outside of the military (Gifford 2006, pp. 382–391). Even today, the army is the largest employer in the United States, providing medical care to ten million people. If one also includes the veterans' supply, then the potential target group of the military welfare state is enormous. In 1955 the number of veterans including family members was 74.8 million people. Together with the 5.9 million active military personnel and their families, this represented 49% of the American population (March 1956, p. 13).


The emergence and organization of war victims' provisions

The uniform German provision for war victims was initially based on the war against France (1870/71), but remained inadequate (Pironti 2015, pp. 41–46, 59–61). It was not until 1906 that the government decided to reform, which, however, did not remove the existing separation between professional soldiers (officers and NCOs) and conscripts. While officers thanks to the pensions of the new officers' pension lawFootnote 4 were able to secure their social status from now on, conscripts were now entitled for the first time to permanent pension payments within the framework of the Team Supply Act.Footnote 5 Following the example of accident insurance, these were linked to the degree of disability, with disabled people being entitled to a pension from a degree of 10%. In addition, disabled people from 50% received a mutilation allowance. Despite this progress, the pensions of the conscripts remained very meager. Both laws also only provided for pension payments, but no medical treatment or social and professional integration measures (Pironti 2015, pp. 51–57). The pre-war legislation of 1907 was rounded off by the Military Survivors Act, which combined both peace pensions and war pensions in a coherent pension system (Pironti 2015, pp. 64–66).

First World War and Weimar Republic

Overall, the laws of 1906/07 were created primarily for a professional army in peacetime, but not for the provision of invalids in a modern mass war. Accordingly, it quickly became apparent during the First World War that the provisions on provisions for war victims were completely inadequate. The war left 1.5 million mutilated and disabled people in the German Reich alone, including 500,000 severely disabled people with at least 50 percent incapacity, 525,000 war widows and 1,130,000 war orphans. Overall, the number of war victims even amounted to four million (including the wives, orphans and possibly parents of the disabled) (Pironti 2015, p. 19). As in most of the other belligerent states, the government of the Reich issued new regulations that were supposed to pave the way for the disabled to return to normal. The Reich Supply Law (RVG) of 1920Footnote 6 had a completely new quality than the previous provisions: injured persons now had a legal right to care linked to citizenship, whereby a need no longer had to be proven (Whalen 1984, pp. 131–139). The RVG pensions are no longer based on rank, but on civilian occupation (also on marital status and place of residence). In line with the elimination of the rank principle, responsibility for the provision of war victims was transferred from the military authorities to the new Reich Ministry of Labor (RAM) in 1919, thus demilitarizing war victims (Frerich 1987, p. 109). All disabled persons with a reduced earning capacity of 15% or more (increased to 25% from 1923) were now entitled to a basic pension, and severely disabled persons (from 50% reduced earning capacity) also received a severely disabled allowance.

The far-reaching provisions on welfare and social welfare / professional welfare were also very important. For the first time, the disabled were entitled to free medical treatment, which was paid for by the Reich, as well as to vocational advice and training, and to professional reintegration. The fourth pillar of the RVG was the survivor's pension, which no longer formed an independent complex as it was in the laws of 1906/07. In the absence of direct family members, the parents of the fallen victim received parental allowance amounting to 30% of the pension (Hudemann 1991, pp. 275–278). Civilians who suffered damage to their health as a result of the war were not directly recorded by the RVG. Instead, the Reich Government passed the War Personal Injury Act in 1922,Footnote 7 which provided for the application of the RVG for civilly injured persons and their survivors (Frank 2003, pp. 160–161).

The RVG was flanked by the Severely Disabled Persons Act, which had been enacted shortly before.Footnote 8 This stipulated that employers should fill 2% of the positions with severely disabled people (more than 50% reduced earning capacity). With the same specialization and professional experience, the disabled person had to be hired. He also enjoyed special protection against dismissal. From then on, at least one severely disabled person had to be represented in works councils and employee representatives (Rühland 1957, pp. 63–65). For the first time, the law brought together civilian (accident) victims and military victims (Göpfert 2006, p. 39). Although the stipulated employment quota of 2% was rarely achieved in practice, of the 425,000 seriously injured (325,000 war victims and 100,000 accidents) around 376,000 were placed in 1927 (Hudemann 1988, p. 393, note 24).

“Third Reich” and World War II

After the economic restrictions of the Weimar period had been largely withdrawn, the Nazi regime began setting its own accents in the provision of war victims from 1938 onwards. With the Wehrmacht Welfare and Supply ActFootnote 9 not only began its remilitarization, but also its renewed division into two parts. While the civil supply offices and the RAM retained responsibility for the disabled from earlier wars and the RVG remained in force, Wehrmacht affairs were again dealt with by the military (Diehl 1985, p. 175). Accordingly, the focus was on the soldier (Diehl 1987, pp. 715–727): From then on it was a question of “handicap” instead of the “degree of reduced earning capacity”, whereby the law only differentiated between four levels. The levels and thus the severity of the wound determined the amount of the pension (Rühland 1957, pp. 73–76). In order to recognize the primacy of military and not civil professional performance, the law reintroduced differentiation according to ranks. The primary aim of the provisions was to restore or maintain the victim's fitness for military service or the ability to work. For all other cases, the law provided for a disability pension (AVU) (Hudemann 1988, pp. 395–399). With this, the Nazi regime had created a supply system that "although partially developed the basic principles of the RVG of 1920, modified or supplemented them in essential areas under the primacy of armament and readiness for war" (Hudemann 1988, p. 397).

The Wehrmachtsfürsorge und -versorgungsgesetz (WFVG) created for peacetime was finally replaced by the Einsatzfürsorge- und -versorgungsgesetz shortly before the beginning of the Second World WarFootnote 10 added. Although this did not make any structural changes to the system of 1938, it did introduce a wide-ranging bonus system for soldiers "who suffered physical damage while sacrificing their health and life during a special mission with weapons or other ordnance or in the combat zone", as stated in the preamble (Hudemann 1988, p. 398). Since it also applied to civilian war victims, it laid the foundations for the preparation of German war victims' provisions for the Second World War (Diehl 1985, p. 174).

Occupation and Federal Republic

After the end of the “Third Reich”, the Allied occupation zones determined the provisions for war victims until 1949. The provisions of the RVG, the WFVG and the EWFVG were repealed by the Supreme Control Council of the Allies in 1946, and pension payments stopped. Until the occupying powers regulate zonal systems, war victims were dependent on social assistance. After the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, dealing with the consequences of the war in society was at the top of the political agenda (Frank 2003, p. 157). However, the ability to act was subject to tight financial limits. Following on from a bridging act (Diehl 1993, pp. 87-108), the government passed the Federal Supply Act (BVG) on December 20, 1950,Footnote 11 which consciously continued the traditions of the RVG (Diehl 1985, p. 185) and came into effect retrospectively on October 1, 1950. Like the RVG, it was based on four pillars: medical treatment, professional or social welfare, pension payments and survivors' pensions. Not only former soldiers and their relatives were entitled to benefits, but also civil war victims (including prisoners of war and internees) (Frerich 1987, p. 110). In this way, uniform care was created for the first time for both the military and civilian invalids of the Second World War and for the military and civilian disabled persons of the First World War (Rühland 1957, p. 239).From a 30 percent reduction in earning capacity, the disabled received a basic pension, which was initially intended as a modest compensation for damages and was independent of income. From a degree of disability of 50%, an income-related equalization pension was added, which was supposed to compensate for economic damage and secure livelihoods (Göpfert 2006, p. 40). Widows, orphans and possibly the parents of the fallen soldier were entitled to a survivor's pension.

On the other hand, more important than the pensions were the benefits of medical care and occupational or social welfare, which the BVG expanded again compared to the RVG: disabled people should be looked after as comprehensively as possible and integrated into the labor market and society as quickly as possible. The state was responsible for all costs (Wulfhorst 1999, p. 1048). As a result, the pensions were initially deliberately kept low in order to give the disabled people incentives to return to work (Rüfner 2005, p. 694). Finally, in 1960 occupational damage compensation was added in order to be able to better take individual occupational and economic damage into account (Frerich 1987, pp. 110, 257).

The provision for war victims was completed three years after the BVG came into force with the passing of the Severely Disabled Act.Footnote 12 This provided for a compulsory employment quota for severely disabled persons of 8% for private and 10% for public employers with seven or more employees (Bösl 2009, p. 172). The law adhered to the causal principle and was limited to the equality of war victims and victims of accidents, while disabled people were not included from birth (Göpfert 2006, p. 40). In addition, the BVG and the Severely Disabled Act, similar to the Weimar models, consolidated the classic role model of the male breadwinner and thus had a structurally conservative effect.

Sociopolitical Effects of Provision for War Victims

The war victims' pension reform reformed after the First World War served as a model for social legislation. From then on, the RVG and the Severely Disabled Act formed the guideline “for a more rational intervention by the state in the social field”, which initially “primarily concerned the war victims, but in the long term should interest ever wider sections of the population” (Pironti 2015, p. 348). The provisions of the two basic laws are still extremely innovative from today's point of view: Instead of pension payments, the RVG relied on the reintegration of the disabled into society and the labor market with the help of extensive medical and professional care with a "socio-therapeutic claim", which the disabled also have one certain form of reintegration “dictated” (Geyer 1983, pp. 245–248). Social welfare has been nationalized and centralized, and the regional structures necessary for this have been modernized (Pironti 2015, pp. 349–350).

For the first time, the disabled had a legal right to both pillars of the law. That the state is not only responsible for economic survival, but v. a. also took over the health and labor of his war-damaged nationals is a modern element of the Weimar war victims' provision (Hudemann 1991, p. 278). In this way, German war invalids were able to return to their jobs much faster than their British counterparts, for example (spoonbone 2014, p. 356). The instruments of medical care and social welfare anchored in law by the RVG continue to have an effect today and also form the supporting pillars for self-determination and equal rights in Book IX of the Social Code (SGB IX, section “Rehabilitation and Participation of Disabled People”), which came into force in 2001 shaped life of disabled people ”(Frank 2003, p. 161).

Another effective further development was the abolition of the distinction according to ranks: The pension amount was no longer determined according to military, but according to civil professional criteria with the help of the "degree of disability". As a result, the RVG not only ensured legal security, but also fairness in the distribution of the scarce funds and equalizing effects (Pironti 2015, pp. 349–350). This equalization also prevailed in the recognition of the mentally ill as victims of war. In this way, the general pension entitlement acted as a “pacemaker of the modern welfare state, the basic features of which also shape the pension system of the Federal Republic of Germany to this day” (Löffelbein 2014, p. 356).

The change in responsibility from the military authorities to the RAM in 1919 (Diehl 1985, p. 172) shows that the provision of war victims' provisions did not constitute a new military pillar of the German welfare state. The RVG thus abolished the previous dualism between military provision and traditional welfare (Pironti 2015, p. 66). After the break of the Nazi era, in which the war victims' provisions were transferred to the High Command of the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the war, it was subordinated to the Federal Ministry of Labor in the Federal Republic.

The Federal Republic followed the two Weimar War Victims Acts. In some cases, the BVG took up some provisions of the RVG verbatim (Rühland 1957, p. 238). Like the RVG, the BVG also focused on integration and rehabilitation and not on cash benefits. As a result, the pension level was quite low compared to Western Europe. The pensions were not dynamized until 1970, 13 years later than in the pension insurance (Hudemann 1991, pp. 289–291).

The RVG eligibility requirements were linked to citizenship. The compensation was not based on the principles of insurance and welfare, but on the principle of care, which was even given a legal claim. This resulted from damage in connection with a state-imposed citizenship, namely general military service (Geyer 1983, p. 236). This quid-pro-quo logic continued in the BVG from 1950 and was later expanded to include the Soldiers Supply Act (1957), the Civilian Service Act (1960) and the Federal Disease Act (1961; replaced by the Infection Protection Act in 2000). The BVG is thus the central component of the social compensation law, which is based on the provision for war victims (Frank 2003, p. 165).

The social security of uninjured veterans was guaranteed both in the Weimar Republic and in the Federal Republic of Germany by the civil welfare state, the development of which was far more advanced than in the USA. The civil welfare state experienced an enormous boost after each of the two world wars and was expanded - also with regard to dealing with the consequences of the war. For the period after the First World War, for example, the unemployment benefits from 1918 and the unemployment insurance introduced in 1927 (see Obinger and Schmitt 2019), for the FRG the pension reform implemented in 1957, but also the expansion of social assistance through the Federal Social Welfare Act of 1961. Soldiers' periods of service in the military after both world wars were also recognized as qualifying periods for social security (Hockerts 1980, pp. 171–194).

The foundation stone for the equality of disabled people was laid with the Severely Disabled Persons Act 1920, even if the causal principle was able to assert itself against the final principle. It is precisely here that the provision for war victims was “a pulling force for the establishment of general social legislation” (Pironti 2015, p. 339). While civil accident victims were already included at this point in time, the inclusion of people with congenital disabilities did not take place until 1974 with the law for the severely disabled. This was preceded by protests by the (civil) disability associations (Bösl 2006, pp. 57–65). They repeatedly pointed out that, in their opinion, the unjustified betterment of the war victims and ultimately succeeded with this argument. Since then, war and civil handicaps have been given equal status in professional welfare, with employers having an employment quota of 6%. If this is not met, a compensation levy must be paid, which benefits a dedicated compensation fund (Göpfert 2006, pp. 42–43). The rights to preferential job placement and recruitment, to special protection against dismissal, to additional leave - which were first introduced by the War Victims Benefits Act - have thus been in effect since 1974 for all severely disabled people, regardless of the cause of their disability. The final principle had thus finally prevailed against the causal principle. The third amendment to the Federal Social Welfare Act created a legal right to integration assistance for all physically, mentally and emotionally disabled people without exception (Hartmann 1981, p. 86). A further alignment was made by the Rehabilitation Equalization Act of 1974, which adjusted the different benefit laws of the various rehabilitation agencies - health insurance, accident insurance, pension insurance, war victims' insurance - to one another (Hartmann 1981, p. 85). In 1986, the “Reduction in earning capacity” was finally renamed “Degree of disability”. The regulations on pensions for war victims can therefore be seen as the roots of the law for the severely disabled in Germany (Göpfert 2006, p. 47), which underlines the innovative content of the early Weimar legislation. In line with this, the largest German association of war victims, the Association of War Victims, Survivors of the War and Social Pensioners in Germany (VdK), no longer only cares for war victims, but advocates socio-political improvements for all people, but also for civilly disabled people (Spörke 2008, Pp. 44-55).