Cambridge Disability Law and Policy Series: Race, Ethnicity, and Disability: Veterans and Benefits in Post-Civil War America

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Using data from more than 40,000 soldiers of the Union army, this book focuses on the experience of African Americans and immigrants with disabilities, investigating their decision to seek government assistance and their resulting treatment. Pension administrators treated these ex-soldiers differently from native-born whites, but the discrimination was far from seamless - biased evaluations of worthiness intensified in response to administrators' workload and nativists' late-nineteenth-century campaigns. This book finds a remarkable interplay of social concepts, historical context, bureaucratic expediency, and individual initiative. Examining how African Americans and immigrants weighed their circumstances in deciding when to request a pension, whether to employ a pension attorney, or if they should seek institutionalization, it contends that these veterans quietly asserted their right to benefits. Shedding new light on the long history of challenges faced by veterans with disabilities, the book underscores the persistence of these challenges in spite of the recent revolution in disability rights.