Social Security for Soldiers

The introduction of health and accident insurance did not completely fail in 1900. Only two years after the defeated referendum, the uncontested part of the proposal – military insurance – came into force. Soldiers thus became the first segment of the population to be subject to social security.

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Efforts to provide support to injured soldiers in Switzerland and other European countries reach back into the early modern period. Military pension schemes have been in place in the Confederation since 1852 and 1875. An accident insurance scheme was also set up for parts of the troops by private initiative in 1887. At the same time, the Confederation was working on a comprehensive health and accident insurance solution that was to cover not only the industrial workforce, but soldiers too. However, the draft bill of 1900 (Lex Forrer) was rejected by referendum. The federal authorities subsequently decided to split the uncontested military insurance from the more controversial parts of the proposal. The Federal Act on the Insurance of Military Persons Against Illness and Accident was swiftly passed in 1901 and entered into force in 1902. This represented the birth of the first social insurance in Switzerland.

The introduction of Swiss military insurance showed that in the case of injured soldiers the principle of insurance had prevailed over welfare. The Confederation no longer restricted compensation to people in need, but extended the benefits to members of the armed forces depending on the duration and severity of injury. Though the insurance only covered illnesses and accidents that occurred during military service, it did comprise illnesses and injuries not directly related to a military activity. However, no benefits were granted for pre-existing conditions that recurred or worsened during service. The insurance benefits included free meals and treatment up to complete recovery an illness allowance and, where applicable, a disability pension for soldiers as well as death benefits or survivors’ pensions for their next of kin.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Militärversicherungs-Schriftenreihe, 1, 1976 u. 2, 1979; Maeschi Jürg (2000), Kommentar zum Bundesgesetz über die Militärversicherung (MVG) vom 19. Juni 1992, Bern; Morgenthaler W. (1939), Militärversicherung, in Handbuch der schweizerischen Volkswirtschaft, 179-80, Bern.