Murphy part of latest effort to recognize cadet nurses as veterans

Seventy-five years after they signed up to fill a nursing shortage on the home front, legislation in Congress would recognize cadet nurses as veterans.

More than 180,000 women, like Kathleen Kingsley, 91, of Norwich, and Elizabeth Yeznach, 92, of Gales Ferry, signed up to be part of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, a federal program established to address the nursing shortage during World War II. By 1945, they were providing 80 percent of the nursing care in U.S. hospitals. The vast majority of their patients were civilians.

"The nurses who sacrificed in World War II served their country and earned our eternal gratitude. This bill rights a wrong, and grants recognition to the Nurse Corps members who saved service members lives and helped them return home," said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a co-sponsor of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act introduced last week by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. House by U.S. Reps. Cheri Buston, D-Illinois, and Greg Gianforte, R-Montana.

Under the bill, cadet nurses would be recognized as veterans and be eligible for burial benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It would also enable the secretary of defense to provide them with a service medal.

Previous legislative attempts to recognize these women, who are mostly in their 90s, have failed. One argument is that they don't meet the criteria for being a veteran. They weren't federal government employees or legally obligated to future government service, but rather received federal scholarships and were allowed to resign at any time.

Yeznach, Kingsley, and other local cadet nurses interviewed by The Day last month expressed doubt that after so much time has passed, they'll receive recognition.

"I don't know how many of us are left," Yeznach told The Day in an interview last month. She has testified before Congress in support of recognizing cadet nurses as veterans.

"Many people feel that as far as being given veterans recognition, they feel that we met our obligations as they were," she said.

The latest effort has the support of the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.


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