Page images

well as to hospitals which are under the control of the Department of which the serviceman is not a member.

The proposed legislation, therefore, would permit a board to be appointed not only by the Department head of the member concerned but also by the head of any one of the five Departments who may have jurisdiction over the hospital in which the serviceman is hospitalized.

These Departments would be the Departments of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Veterans' Administration.

There is no other cost involved to the Government, and actually the enactment of the proposed legislation should result in a saving.

I believe Col. William A. DeFries of the Air Force is to testify on the bill.

Have a seat.
You may go ahead with your statement.

Colonel DEFries. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, I am Col. William A. DeFries, directorate of professional services, Office of the Surgeon General, Headquarters, United States Air Force.

I am accompanied by representatives of the Department of the Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps.

I appreciate this opportunity of appearing before you today on behalf of the Department of Defense to explain the need for enactment of H.R. 3320.

H.R. 3320 will amend the act of June 21, 1950, which provides methods for the determination of the mental competency of active and retired members of the uniformed services for the purpose of receipt of Federal pay.

When the mental competency of such a member is questioned, existing law requires that the determination of competency be made only by a board of three medical officers appointed by the Secretary of the service to which the member belongs.

The intent of the existing law was to eliminate the delays and expense of resorting to the courts for the appointment of a guardian and to expedite payment of moneys due to the active or retired member.

However, changes in the method of treatment of hospitalized members of the uniformed services have presented all of the uniformed services with a problem of administering the law, because of the requirement that the competency determination must be made by medical officers appointed by the Secretary of the service to which the member belongs.

With the implementation of Executive Order 10122 of April 14, 1950, and Executive Order 10400 of September 29, 1952, the responsibility for hospitalization of those members and former members of the uniformed services permanently retired for physical disability, placed on the temporary disability retired list, or receiving disability retirement pay has been transferred to the Veterans Administration when such members require hospitalization for certain chronic diseases.

Also in a medical emergency a member of one uniformed service may be hospitalized in facilities belonging to another of the uniformed services depending upon what Federal hospital is nearest.

When questions of mental competency arise, a Veterans' Administration hospital or a hospital of another service than that to which the member belongs is unable to take direct action under the terms of the existing law.

The determination of competency requires either that the service to which the member belongs appoint à board of officers to travel, if necessary, to the place of hospitalization or that a board of officers appointed from the service to which the member belongs at least review and pass upon medical evidence presented by physicians actually caring for the patient.

Neither of these two solutions is satisfactory. In either case there is duplication of effort; additional expense, particularly when travel is involved; and delay in disbursement of pay.

H.R. 3320 would eliminate the unnecessary expense, inconvenience, and delay of the existing system by authorizing the determination of mental competency to be made by medical doctors assigned to the Federal agency which is, in fact, providing medical treatment for the service member.

For those occasional instances in which hospitalization is nonfederally provided, the bill requires that the competency determination shall remain the responsibility of the service to which the member belongs.

In summary, enactment of H.R. 3320 will avert delayed decisions as to mental competency, expedite the pay due to members of the uniformed services, and therefore lessen his hardships and those of his family.

All of the uniformed services have experienced problems in the administration of the existing law. It is therefore urged that H.R. 3320 be given your favorable consideration.

I shall be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Mr. Kilday. Thank you, Colonel.

Is it correct that the effect of the bill is to bring it in line with the present Executive orders so that the board will be appointed by whichever of the Departments, including the Veterans Administration, or Health, Education, and Welfare, may have the medical care of the individual?

Colonel DEFries. Yes, sir.

Mr. KILDAY. And to preserve the existing provision of law as to a service member who is receiving medical care from other than a Gorernment agency?

Colonel DEFries. Yes, sir.
Mr. Kilpay. The last provision, I take it, begins on line 7, page 2.

If the hospitalization or medical care of the member is not provided by the United States, the board shall be appointed by the Secretary of the department having jurisdiction of the member. Each board shall consist of at least three qualified medical officers or physicians one of whom must be specially qualified in the treatment of mental disorders.

That is the present provision as to all, so it is preserved for those not under a Government agency and goes to whatever agency may be providing medical care.

Is there anything further?

Mr. Hardy. Yes, I have this question, Mr. Chairman: Under this statute, does the existing board determine competency for anything more than the matter of receiving pay that may be due?

The thing that I am raising the question about, I wanted to understand whether the proposal to permit the convening of a board in some—by some agency other than the service to which the member

belongs, would pass on matters other than the question of competency related solely to this business of receiving pay that might be due.

Mr. Kilday. I might say to the gentleman from Virginia, speaking from memory now at the time we passed this provision, up until that time there was no authority in the law for the payment of sums due from the Government to anyone other than the individual, except in those instances in which the incompetency had been judicially determined in accordance with the law of the State in which he was residing.

My recollection is that that statute simply authorizes the payment and protects the disbursing officer in so making the payment.

It would not constitute a determination of mental competency for any other purpose in my opinion.

Mr. HARDY. That is the question that I wanted to be sure of: A serviceman, for instance, who might be over at Perry Point in a veterans' facilities over there, and who might have a determination of incompetency-I presume he would have when he was sent there by the service_but then if he is released—that sometimes happens--and he

goes off the beam again while he is out, I would have some concern if the VA were authorized to convene a board to determine competency that might have effects other than that relating to the receipt of pay which might be due.

Colonel DEFRIES. It is my understanding, Mr. Hardy, that this bill will just have the primary—the primary point of the bill is that it will just have an effect on the pay involved to the member's dependents.

Mr. Hardy. And it would have nothing to do with retirement ! Or a finding as to whether his mental disorder was service connectedwhich sometimes affects retirement? Colonel DEFRIES. Yes, sir.

In those instances if the member were on active duty, the process is somewhat different. In those instances the individual, should he become mentally incompetent, is of course hospitalized. He is brought before a meclical board and subsequently a physical evaluation board, and he is retired by reason of this affliction.

Mr. BLANDFORD. But the point, Colonel, is that the evaluation board must be a boird made up of officers of his service.

Mr. HARDY. That is the thing that I wanted to be sure of. Colonel De Fries. That is right. Mr. HARDY. I want to be sure we are not empowering a board of another agency to make findings that have more far-reaching effect than merely the clearance or relieving of disbursing officers of liability for making payments to an incompetent person.

Colonel DEFRIES. No, sir; that is not the purpose of this bill, and it does not do that.

Mr. HARDY. I know it is not the purpose of it, but I want to be sure it is not the effect of it.

Colonel DEFRIEs. It is not the effect of it.
Mr. KITCHIN. May I ask a question with regard to legal precedence?

Although these boards determine the mental competency for the purpose of protecting the disbursing officer, what legal significance and precedence would that set for those cases wherein a determination would have had to have been made in civilian courts?

Mr. KILDAY. I would imagine if a person is charged with a crime after this determination, it would be at least persuasive.

Mr. BLANDFORD. If I recall in 1950, Mr. Chairman, we went into this subject matter. It would not prevent the individual from protesting a commitment, in a civil court based upon the finding of a medical board.

All this really does is to permit an individual-say, a wife-to go to the head of the department and say, "My husband is a patient at the hospital. He doesn't understand money. He has been spending it. He is getting his pay. Or he has some accrued pay or retired pay, he is hospitalized and he doesn't know what he is doing, and I have got to survive and also I have to protect his interests."

Now, for the purposes of the payment of money that is due him from the Government and only for that purpose, this board meets to determine his competency and they approve the appointment, say, of his wife to handle his affairs. And then the money is paid to the wife and that in turn relieves the Government of its obligation, and relieves the disbursing officer who has made the payment to the wife and not paid it to the man, so thereafter the man could not say that this money was paid to his wife but wasn't paid to him. So it protects the Government and it protects the wife.

Mr. KILDAY. A very important thing in that connection is the saving of expense to the individual and the estate of judicial proceeding.

Mr. BLANDFORD. It would not prevent the individual later from going to court.

Mr. Kilday. I think most cases come up from the standpoint of the officials having the patient, knowing he is mentally incompetent, and the protection of the disbursing officer in making the payment.

Mr. KITCHix. To carry it a little further, supposing the same wife under the circumstances you have mentioned, had an estate to be settled on the same basis of mental incompetency of her husband.

Would the testimony or would the record of this board declaring him to be incompetent be available to her in civil court to establish the same claim that she had established before?

Mr. KILDAY. I don't know, but I think the point here is that--when was it, in 1950, we passed this law which is not being amended whiclı is in effect--this does not in any way change that except to add additional officers of the Government who can make the determination, because no longer do the services always have custody of the patient.

Mr. BLANDFORD). I would say, Mr. Chairman, all it could be used for would be an allegation for a petition, and that would be as far as you could go, since this is a very privileged relationship, and I think this policy-as a matter of fact, the regulation precludes disclosure of matters of this nature, so I doubt whether it could be used for any other purpose—it probably could be used as the basis for a filing of a petition but the civilian court would ther inake its own decision.

That is a curbstone opinion.
Mr. KILDAY. Is the representative of the Army present?

Major Gibes. Maj. James Gibbs, U.S. Army. We are in support of the bill.

Mr. Kilpay. Who represents the Navy?

Captain NADINI. Capt. John Nadini, U.S. Navy. We also support the bill.

Mr. KILDAY. And the representative of the Marine Corps, I believe, the colonel said was present.

. Norris Broome, U.S. Marine Corps, Office of Legislative Liaison, Department of the Navy. I can say with authority

the Marine Corps supports this bill. tration or the Public Health Service? Being participants in this law,

Mr. BATES. Is anyone speaking on behalf of the Veterans' Adminisit seems there should be some representation here.

Mr. Kilpay. Is there any representation for the Health, Education, and Welfare or the Veterans' Administration?

(No response.)
Nr. Kilday. I hear no response.

Mr. BATES. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that a statement on behalf of the Veterans' Administration and Public Health Service be inserted in the record at this point.

Mr. Kilday. Without objection, we will authorize counsel to secure a statement from those two agencies.

(The information, when received, will appear in the record at this point:)


Washington, D.C., February 26, 1959. Hon. CARL VINSON, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services, Washington, D.C.

DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: In response to your request at the hearings held on February 25, 1959, on H.R. 3320, that the committee be advised of the views of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare on this bill, I can advise that the Department would have no objection to its enactment.

We reported favorably on the bill to the Bureau of the Budget on November 4, 1955, when the legislation was still in draft form. Technical amendments which we suggested at that time have been included in H.R. 3320. Yours truly,

REGINALD G. CONLEY, Assistant General Counsel, Legislative Division.


Washington, D.C., February 27, 1959. Hon. CARL VINSON, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.

DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN : In response to your request for the views of the Veterans' Administration with regard to H.R. 3320, I am happy to advise you that this agency has no objection to the enactment of this bill. Sincerely,

SUMNER M. WHITTIER, Administrator. Mr. KILDAY. We will take the bill up in executive session.

(Whereupon, at 10:50 a.m., the subcommittee proceeded to further business.)

H.R. 4068

Mr. KILDAY. We will now take up H.R. 4068, a bill to amend title 10 of the United States Code by repealing section 7475, which restricts the increasing of forces at naval activities prior to national elections.

« PreviousContinue »