Act of Congress: Civil War Pensions - In part
In 1861, shortly after the Civil War began, Congress, in large part to attract recruits to the military, enacted legislation providing pensions for soldiers who suffered war-related disabilities, as well as the widows and orphans of soldiers killed in action. Congress amended the law in 1862 to provide a maximum pension of $8 per month for total disability, with proportionately reduced awards for partial disability.
The same award was made for widows and orphans, although amendments to the law increased the allowance to widows by $2 per dependent child. Where a veteran left no widow or children, the law provided benefits to dependent mothers or sisters, and eventually, if there were no dependent mother or sister, dependent fathers and brothers.
The law was amended repeatedly in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s. The amendments increased the generosity of the program, extended the program to veterans with disabilities that developed after the war but stemmed from wartime injuries, introduced finer distinctions between grades and specific types of disabilities, and tied the amount of the pension to the severity of the disability under this expanding matrix.