Uncle Sam has rejected, as "untimely," a claim for a long-overdue, clearly deserved military bonus. It was submitted by a Gayle Schuchardt-Bauer.

Although at first blush this might look like some flabby, pointy-headed bureaucrat ripping off a combat veteran, one can see the government's side. Up to a point.

It seems the bonus was first offered more than 113 years ago.

The bonus, of course, is not for Schuchardt-Bauer herself. She is very much alive, and busy in historical research. Rather, it is for a relative. He was Cpl. Ernst Schuchardt. He was killed at the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

Schuchardt-Bauer, who could not be reached for comment, first became aware of the bonus while doing family research at the National Archives. She learned that Cpl. Schuchardt was a relative.

Researchers advised her, as a point of information, that according to records the late corporal had never been paid an enlistment bonus due him. The amount was not specified.

At any rate, Schuchardt-Bauer applied for the bonus on grounds that the corporal, who died in the service of his country, had not collected it and she is, after all, family. At that point-113 years after the fact-she ran into some government red tape.

Lots of people-veterans, survivors and family members-applied for payments due them after the bitter and bloody Civil War.

Finally, Congress passed a law saying nobody could submit a claim for back pay, bounties or bonuses due "volunteers" after Dec. 31, 1912. That did not apply to draftees, which is probably why even in today's Army, recruits are advised never to volunteer for anything.

Five score and 13 years later, the General Accounting Office got into the act. It cited the 1912 law, saying the woman missed her chance, either by 68 years or 113 years. Anyhow, she missed it.

Surprisingly, federal officials say that Civil War claims still crop up from time to time, although the war officially ended in 1865.

In fact, the Veterans Adminstration is still paying out bonuses to widows and children of Civil War veterans.

As of last month, the VA had 103 widows still drawing veterans compensation or pensions from the Civil War services of a spouse. In addition there are 142 children, many in their 80s and 90s, who are drawing benefits because they were adjudged, at age 18, to be helpless or incompletents. About 75 percent of the benefits go to survivors of Union Army veterans. The rest go to those who served in the Confederate Army or Navy.

Both the VA, and the General Accounting Office, think the issue of veterans benefits, bonuses and payments will be around for a long, long time. Currently the nation has 30 million living veterans.