SSR 78-7: EFFECT OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON OR CLEMENCY DISCHARGE ON SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
PURPOSE: To provide information which will be needed to respond to inquiries concerning the Presidential pardon or a Clemency Discharge for Vietnam-era draft evaders and military deserters.
CITATIONS: A proclamation issued by President Gerald R. Ford on September 16, 1974, announcing a "Program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters."
PERTINENT HISTORY: This program Policy Directive reflects a Presidential order establishing a Clemency Program to enable citizens who were convicted of violations of the Military Selective Service Act or the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the Vietnam era to resume a normal life within their community and country. The Clemency Discharge which is issued under the Clemency Program is a neutral discharge, issued neither under "honorable conditions" nor under "other than honorable conditions." Such a discharge does not entitle an individual recipient to veterans' benefits although application therefor is not precluded.
A Presidential pardon indicates all government offices and officials the President's intent that they do not consider pardoned offenses in deciding questions involving rights of the pardon recipient, thus removing most legal disabilities of an offense. It also restores Federal civil rights which have been lost because of a conviction, for example, the right to vote and hold Federal office.
POLICY DIRECTIVE STATEMENT: Since the above provisions relate only to Vietnam-era offenses, they have no bearing on World War II gratuitous wage credits on which the character of the discharge has a bearing. Moreover, the 1972 Social Security Amendments provide that members of the uniformed service will receive credit for noncontributory deemed military wages in the amount of $300 per quarter for any calendar quarter after December 1956 in which they receive basic pay in any amount for active military service including active duty and active duty for training. Section 229(a) of the Social Security Act authorizes noncontributory deemed military wages to be credited, in addition to the amount of basic pay, for active duty and active duty for training after 1956.
Since the character of the discharge has no bearing on the creditability of military service under these provisions, entitlement or eligibility to retirement and survivors insurance, and disability insurance would in no way be affected by either the Presidential pardon or the Clemency Discharge. (The creditability of military service does not directly affect supplemental security income benefits in any event.)