April 03, 2019

Warren, Collins, King, and Daines Lead Senators in Re-Introducing Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Honor WWII Cadet Nurses

Nearly 120,000 women answered the call of duty to care for our country during World War II

Bill Text | One-Pager

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) today re-introduced the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act, a bill to honor women who served in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII with honorary veteran status. The bill would recognize former Cadet Nurses' service to our country and provide them with honorable discharges, ribbon and medal privileges, and certain burial privileges. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert  Menendez (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) also joined the bipartisan group. The bill will be re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), and Greg Balderson (R-Ohio).

“When our Nation faced a shortage of nurses during World War II, women from across the country took action by joining the Cadet Nurses Corps, where they trained and worked hard to provide Americans with necessary care,” Senator Warren said. “That’s why I’m proud to re-introduce legislation that recognizes and honors the valuable contributions Cadet Nurses made during a crucial time in American history.”

In the midst of WWII, a severe shortage of trained nurses threatened the nation's ability to meet domestic and military medical needs. In response, Congress established the Cadet Nurse Corps, an integrated, uniformed service of the Public Health Administration, in 1943. The Cadet Nurse Corps provided young women with expedited nursing education in exchange for "service in essential nursing for the duration of the war." In 1944, the Federal Security Agency identified "national recognition for rendering a vital war service" as a privilege of service in the Corps.

In total, nearly 120,000 women completed the Corps' rigorous training. Cadet Nurses served in military hospitals, VA hospitals, Marine hospitals, private hospitals, public health agencies, and public hospitals until the program ended in 1948.

Cadet Nurse Elizabeth "Betty" Beecher was one of those 120,000 women. She trained to become a Cadet Nurse in Boston, Massachusetts, and then served as a nurse at a Staten Island, N.Y., marine hospital near the end of WWII. "We prevented a total collapse of the health care system," she said. "Had we not stepped up and volunteered and enlisted in the Corps, I'm afraid the country would have been demoralized and our boys would have come home to a sick country." 

The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act would:

  • Provide Cadet Nurses with veteran status, with an honorable discharge from service where merited;

  • Provide Cadet Nurses with limited burial benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and

  • Permit the Secretary of Defense to provide honorably discharged Cadet Nurses with a service medal. 

The legislation would not provide still-living Cadet Nurses with Veterans Affairs pensions, healthcare benefits, or other privileges afforded to former active-duty service members.

The bill has been endorsed by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Organization of Nurse Executives, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Senator Warren first introduced the bill in December 2018 with Senators Collins, King, and Daines.

“The Cadet Nurses answered the call of duty to fill a critical need during World War II,” said American Nurses Association President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN. “We are proud to support this bill to acknowledge and recognize these women for their selfless service to their country.”