Bill introduced in Congress to make WWII Merchant Mariners eligible for veterans' benefits

A bill that was recently introduced in Congress would make World War II U.S. Merchant Mariners eligible for honorary veterans’ status and certain veterans’ benefits.

H.R. 1288, the World War II Merchant Marine Service Act of 2013, would expand the list of documents accepted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prove service and to grant honorary veterans’ status to the Coastwise Merchant Seamen. The bill would also award any commendations, ribbons, or honors earned during time of service, and provide burial benefits to these individuals that played such an invaluable role in the World War II efforts. 

U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., introduced the bill and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is a co-sponsor.

“During World War II, American Merchant Mariners played an indispensible role, transporting goods from port to port and across theaters in support of the fight against totalitarianism,” Courtney said. “The target of German U-boats, mines and enemy ships, Merchant Mariners suffered one of the war’s highest mortality rates. At the time, President Franklin Roosevelt called their efforts, ‘the most difficult and dangerous job ever undertaken.’”

Courtney said the legislation will “at long last recognize that wartime service and provide WWII Merchant Mariners and their survivors with benefits they earned risking their lives in service to our country.”

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