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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

American Red Cross. Future Ship Workers—A One-Armed Welder, 1919. Halftone poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (182.01.00)

Helping Disabled Veterans Return to the Work Force

In the spring of 1917, as the United States entered the war, the American Red Cross founded the Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men in New York, headed by Douglas McMurtrie. Intended to address all disabilities, the charity was soon overwhelmed by veterans who had survived the devastating effects of modern warfare. McMurtie, observing the efforts of the European belligerents to retrain disabled men, believed America could become a leader in that effort and make it possible for disabled veterans to have meaningful and adequately compensated employment. The Soldiers Rehabilitation Act (Smith-Sears Act), passed by Congress in June 1918 to provide federal funds to assist disabled veterans, served as a model for future federal legislation on disabilities.