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Cancer Society, and a member of the Governor's Committee to Keep Maine Scenic.
He also was a director of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and director of the Pine Tree Society for Crippled Children and Adults.
In addition to his American Legion membership, he also is a member of the Elks, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Auburn Exchange Club, Syracuse University Varsity Club and Webhannet Country Club.
Commander Rogers served his local American Legion post as service officer, adjutant, vice-commander and commander, before moving on to positions of increasing responsibility in the Legion at the State and national levels of the organization.
He served as Second District Commander of the Department of Maine and later served as Department Vice Commander and in 1955–56 served as Maine Department Commander. He also served The American Legion of Maine as chairman of its Rehabilitation and Service Committee, and as a member of its Child Welfare and Executive Committees.
Nationally, he has served as Maine's Alternate National Executive Committeeman, and has served as chairman of the National Distinguished Guest Committee, a member of the liaison committee to the National Public Relations Commission and in 1965–66 as National Vice Commander.
He was serving as a member of the National Commander's advisory committee up until the time of his election to the office of National Commander.
He is married to the former Constance Bearce and they are the parents of four children, three sons and a daughter.
Senator THURMOND. Mr. Chairman, just before the Commander begins could I announce that Senator Hansen was hospitalized this morning. We are very sorry he could not be here. And one of the staff members was asking me if I would please recognize Mr. Dave E. Norman, department commander; Mr. Jim Noll, Jr., special services officer; Mr. Dean Bush, public works official; Mrs. Benny Hanson, auxiliary past president ; Mrs. Joan Froman, a committeewoman.
We are very sorry about Senator Hansen who we think will soon be all right, and he regrets he could not be here.
Chairman CRANSTON. Commander, one other member of the committee is now present, Senator John Durkin, of New Hampshire.
John, if you have a few words to say, it would be most welcome. Senator DURKIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I notice the New Hampshire delegation contingent is somewhere in the hall. I would like to mention to these Legionnaires that I will meet them a little later on. And we are very happy to have you all here.
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank
you. I would like to say that I assume that most of you are Californians. I see Al Chamie among you, the former National Commander. I am delighted that he and others of you from California are present.
Commander Rogers, we welcome you. We are delighted that you, and your associates and your comrades are here. And now is your opportunity to present the program, your remarks.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM J. ROGERS, NATIONAL COMMANDER,
THE AMERICAN LEGION
Mr. ROGERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, and my good friend and neighbor, Ed Muskie.
The Senator was very kind about my golf game. We haven't had an opportunity to play on that golf course yet, but after the term of office this year ends I'm going to take up the challenge.
I would like to introduce those who are at the head of the table with me. To my right is Bill Lenker, of South Dakota, who is the chairman of our Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission. And next to him is Ed Golembieski, from Pennsylvania, who is our director of the Veterans' Affairs Commission. To my left is Frank Hamilton of Indiana, the chairman of our legislative commission. And next to him is Mylio Kraja, of Ohio, who is our director of legislation.
I would like to just introduce some of the national officers who I hope were able to get into the hall. The national vice commander from Georgia, Frank Kelly. Wilbur Walker, national vice commander from the State of Virginia. Father James Tuxbury of North Dakota, who is our national chaplain. My aide from the State of Maine, Ray Mills, from Auburn, Maine.
We have five past national commanders here: Judge Dan Foley, from Minnesota ; John Geiger, from Illinois; Jim Wagonnseller, from Ohio; Al Chamie, from California ; and Harry Wiles, from Kansas.
With us also today, Mr. Chairman, are the very distinguished members of The American Legion Auxiliary, including the very able present president, national president, Mrs. Paul Brown, from Idaho. And with her, national vice president, Mrs. Alvin Moltzen, of North Dakota.
Our Secretary, Doris Anderson, of Texas. The national treasurer, Mrs. Freeman, of Indiana. National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation chairman, Mrs. Bigalow, of Oregon. The director of hospital volunteers, Mrs. Calder, of Utah. The national VAVS representative, Mrs. Robert Bohn, of New Jersey. And the national legislative chairman, Mrs. Lyle Seymour, of Kansas.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, this is a summary of the more complete statement that I have filed with the committee. My purpose is to briefly mention those matters that are of the greatest concern to The American Legion, and that we believe will have the attention of Congress during its present session.
At the outset, may I say that we are most pelased to have this opportunity to appear before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs today. The American Legion was greatly concerned at the proposal to discontinue the committee and to place the responsibility for veterans' affairs elsewhere.
We are grateful that the Senate has continued the committee, and that through it, we will continue to have the sympathetic concern and understanding of the needs and problems of our Nation's veterans.
My comments about the matters at hand will be brief. In regards to the Veterans' Administration budget, fiscal year 1978, we are continuing to study the proposed budget for the Veterans' Administration for fiscal year 1978, that was submitted by President Ford, and we await any modifications that may be forwarded by President Carter.
The appropriations request by President Ford total $18,414 billion. We are pleased at the projected increase in employee levels for the Department of Medicine and Surgery, and at the provision of an increase of $27.6 million in construction funds for the replacement of hospitals.
We emphasize, as we have before, the continuing need for renovation and replacement of VA health care facilities if we are to insure firstclass medical care for veterans.
We question the advisability of decreasing employee levels in the areas of veterans services, and in compensation, pension and education. We hope the Congress will seriously consider current work loads before going forward with any such decreases.
We believe the approval of the budget amounts proposed for the Department of Medicine and Surgery will reinforce the Nation's commitment to the best possible quality of health care for veterans.
Under pension reform, The American Legion believes that possibly the most important benefits legislation to be considered this year is the need for reform of the Death and Disability Pension Program for veterans, their dependents and their survivors.
The legislation we are again proposing in this area is designed to accomplish the following objectives:
(1) To assure the beneficiary a level of income above the national measure of poverty;
(2) To prevent veterans and widows from having to turn to welfare agencies for financial assistance;
(3) To treat similarly circumstanced pensioners equally;
(4) To provide the greatest pension for those with the greatest need; and
(5) To guarantee regular increases in pension which fully account for increases in the cost of living. We hope the Congress will proceed to undertake reform of this pension program during this session.
In the area of disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation, assuming that continued inflationary pressures prevail in the economy, it will very likely be necessary for Congress to again review the levels of compensation for the service disabled, and of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of the service. We will support needed increases in these levels.
Under the National Health Insurance, we know that decisions on the National Health Insurance program will not be the primary responsibility of this committee. However, members will participate in the development of any National Health Insurance program.
In the formula for National Health Insurance, The American Legion will seek the inclusion of the following provisions to protect the integrity of the VA Medical Care program:
(1) The recognition of the VA Medical Care program as a Federal deliverer of health services, exclusively for the Nation's veterans;
(2) that the VA system, as it is now constituted under the VA Department of Medicine and Surgery, shall continue to be so maintained; and
(3) that a veteran who exercises his option to seek needed medical care from the VA shall not be required on any statement of inability to pay to include therein consideration of any benefits to which he may be entitled under a National Health Insurance program.
We earnestly solicit the support of all members for these saving provisions, designed to insure that veterans will be able to continue to exercise the option to choose VA medical care, in a system that is responsive to them and their particular needs.
Under the National Cemetery System, The American Legion appreciates continued congressional support of the planned expansion and development of the National Cemetery System.
In addition to those new cemeteries now being developed, we recommend early consideration of establishment of a new national cemetery in the Midwest, perhaps in the Michigan, Indiana, Ohio region. We shall make further recommendations to Congress as future needs of the National Cemetery System become apparent.
It's a fact that no veteran is completely rehabilitated until he is gainfully and steadily employed at work that enables him to use his skills and abilities. The continued, excessively high unemployment rate among veterans, especially the youngest, the black and the disabled, is of great concern to The American Legion.
In our judgment, the Department of Labor has not measured up to its responsibilities with reference to unemployment among veterans.
We continue to advocate the establishment of the position of Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment. And we seek legislation to amend the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), to insure that veterans organizations will have a voice at the local level on employment and training programs that are federally financed.
Measures have been introduced to amend title 38 of the U.S. Code to provide for the judicial review of the administrative decisions of the Administrator of Veterans Affairs.
The American Legion has consistently opposed judicial review. Our reasons are several. But they add up to the fact that, based on our many years of experience in presenting veterans' claims, we are satisfied that the interest of the veterans are better served under the present system of adjudication than they would be if a judicial review were superimposed.
In its legislative mandates, Congress has clearly indicated its intention that the adjudication of claims for gratuitous benefits provided to veterans shall be an administrative function. We continue to support that view.
The committee will have of record the expanded statement that I have submitted on the matters I have discussed. We in The American Legion appreciate the opportunity, graciously extended by the committee, to present our views.
In conclusion, may I extend again my invitation to all members to join the Legionnaires who are in Washington this week at our annual dinner this evening, honoring the Congress.
In this small way we hope to show our appreciation for the interest and concern that Congress has always shown for the welfare of the Nation's veterans, their dependents, and survivors. Our dinner will be at the Washington Hilton Hotel at 7:30 this evening, and I hope to have the pleasure of greeting you there.
Once again, Mr. Chairman, and members, we thank you. [Applause.]
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you very much, Commander, for that fine outline of your program. We deeply appreciate its clarity, the fact that you backed it up with further materials, and your brevity now because of the impending joint session for the Prime Minister of Canada.
I want to assure you that this committee wants your continuing advice on problems as they come along. We expect many sessions where you will be present, and many sessions with your staff and cther representatives.
I thank you very, very much.
Chairman CRANSTON. Any other members of the committee have anything further?
Senator RANDOLPH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, only for 30 or 40 seconds.
In 1978, we go back to celebrating Veterans Day, Armistice Day, on the day that means something, November 11. İsn't that correct?
Mr. ROGERS. It is; yes. [Applause.]
Senator RANDOLPH. And because of your leadership and other veterans'
groups, that came about. I hope that I might suggest to you that your help is needed on other days. You understand?
Mr. ROGERS. Yes, I do.
Senator RANDOLPH. On those days which events took place or persons were born, who have been the giants in the history of our country and meant so much to all of us, it is absolutely wrong, Mr. Chairman, to fit the official holidays or observances, just to make a long weekend. That's not the spirit of America, as I understand it. And I think we made a mistake. And we want not only to retrace the steps which you helped us to do in reference to November 11th, which will be celebrated in 1978 but in other days as well, George Washington's birthday, for example.
And I hope that in this way you will widen your circumference of influence. You did so much on that one day, help us to undo what we wrongly did in reference to the others.
Chairman CRANSTON. I want to announce before we adjourn that the committee will convene this Friday at 9:30 a.m. to consider the nomination of the VA Administrator, Max Cleland. He will be present at that time. Many of you who will be in Washington then would, of course, be more than welcome.
Senator THURMOND. Mr. Chairman, I would like to meet the South Carolina Legionnaires right after we close the meeting.
Chairman CRANSTON. I am looking forward to meeting all the Californians tonight at the party.
Thank you very, very much.
[Whereupon, at 12:11 p.m., the hearing in the above-entitled matter was adjourned.]