Burnett v. United States
116 U.S. 158 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Burnett v. United States, 116 U.S. 158 (1885)

Burnett v. United States

Submitted November 23, 1885

Decided December 21, 1885

116 U.S. 158

Syllabus

The pension which widows are entitled to receive under the provision of Rev.Stat. § 4702 is the pension for total disability which is granted to those entitled to receive it by Rev.Stat. § 4695.

This was an appeal from the Court of Claims. The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

By an act of Congress of March 3, 1879, 20 Stat. 665, c. 290, the Secretary of the Interior was directed to place on the pension roll the name of Ward B. Burnett, and pay him a pension of $50 per month in lieu of the pension then received by

Page 116 U. S. 159

him. The subsequent Act of June 16, 1880, 21 Stat. 281, c. 236, provides that all soldiers then receiving a pension of $50 per month under the provisions of the Act of June 18, 1874, entitled "An act to increase the pension of soldiers and sailors who have been totally disabled," 18 Stat. 78, c. 298, shall receive in lieu of all pensions then paid to them by the United States, the sum of $72 per month; those whose pensions were thus increased from $50 to $72 per month to receive the difference between those sums monthly, from June 17, 1878, to the date when that act took effect.

On the 17th of July, 1882, Gen. Burnett received from the Department of the Interior a certificate showing that he was entitled to a pension "for gunshot wounds of left leg and rheumatism," at the rate of $30 per month, to commence on the first at August, 1848, and $31.25 per month from June 4, 1872, and $50 per month from June 4, 1874, and $72 per month from June 17, 1878.

By an act approved July 25, 1882, 22 Stat. 174, 176, it is provided that no person then receiving or who should thereafter receive a pension under a special act shall receive in addition thereto a pension under the general law unless the special act expressly states that the pension granted thereby is in addition to the pension which such person is entitled to receive under the general law.

Gen. Burnett died on June 24, 1884, from the effect of wounds received in the war with Mexico. The appellant, his widow, claims the same pension -- $72 per month -- that the husband was receiving at his death. The Interior Department granted her a certificate for a pension at the rate of only $30 per month, to continue from June 24, 1884, during her widowhood. Her claim for a larger pension having been denied, the matter was referred by the department to the Court of Claims. The claimant, in her petition in that court, asked for judgment against the United States for $210, that being the difference between $30 per month and $72 per month from the date of her husband's death to the commencement of this action. A demurrer by the government to the petition having been sustained, the case has been brought to this Court.

Page 116 U. S. 160

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