April 16, 2021

Warren, Collins, King, Daines, Bustos Lead 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 

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 honorary veterans status, honorable discharges, a service medal, a burial plaque or grave marker, and other privileges.

Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Patty Murray (D-Wash), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also joined the bipartisan group. The bill will be re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Joseph Morelle (D-N.Y.), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

"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."

"Whether in a hospital or overseas on a military base, nurses work on the front lines of patient care in a wide variety of health care settings and serve as critically important advocates for patients and their families," said Senator Collins. "The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps played a vital role in WWII, addressing a critical shortage of nurses during the War and providing women with an expedited nursing education in exchange for their health care services. U.S. Cadet Nurses worked tirelessly to keep America's health care system strong, and many went on to work in military hospitals caring for our injured troops. I encourage my colleagues to join us in honoring U.S. Cadet Nurses."

"The women of the United States Cadet Corps left a legacy of service that makes all Montanans and Americans proud," Senator Daines said. "It's time to rightfully honor them, recognize their hard work, and give them the veteran status they earned."

"The women who served in the Cadet Nurse Corps put their country first and aided in our victories -- and it's past time they are granted honorary veteran status," Congresswoman Bustos said. "Today, I am proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to recognize their service and express our nation's eternal gratitude for all they did."

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 honorary veteran status, with an honorable discharge from service where merited;
  • Permit the Secretary of Defense to provide honorably discharged Cadet Nurses with a service medal, a burial plaque or grave marker, and other commendations to honor their service.

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, such as burial benefits in Arlington Cemetery.

Senator Warren first introduced the bill in December 2018 with Senators Collins, King, and Daines.

The bill has been endorsed by Military Women's Memorial, the American Nurses Association, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Nursing Organization for Nursing Leadership, Organization for Associate Degree Nursing, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Nurses Organization of Veteran Affairs, Association of Veteran Affairs Nurse Anesthetists, Infusion Nurses Society, Oncology Nursing Society, International Society for Psychiatric Nurses, Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, National League for Nursing, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Association of Public Health Nurses, American Nephrology Nurses Association, Society of Pediatric Nurses, Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses, National Association of School Nurses, Association of Community Health Nurse Educators, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.