« PreviousContinue »
Rather we foresee an active year of vigorous oversight, and enactment of new legislative initiatives. We want now to hear your recommendations as to what those initiatives should be, and once again for myself I welcome all of you to this room and to Washington.
I want particularly to welcome here this morning the members of the California delegation, including this year's Commander of the VFW from California, c. W. Kelly, the Adjutant Quartermaster, Carl Zager, the Senior Vice-Commander, John Bassaw, and the Junior Vice-Commander, George S. Bellon.
I certainly want to welcome all of you and all the other members of the California delegation, especially the other past commanders who are présent and I look forward to seeing you all at tonight's congressional dinner.
At this time I would like to introduce, although he certainly needs no introduction to you, Senator Robert Stafford, our newly designated ranking minority member with whom I work very closely and with great pleasure, and I trust great affection. [Applause.]
Senator STAFFORD. Thank you, very much, Mr. Chairman, for those gracious words. I certainly look forward to working with you on behalf of veterans in this country over the next several years, and it's a real privilege to be on this committee with you.
I would like to extend my special welcome to not only all of the delegates here but to the members of VFW from Vermont. I trust they will rise and wave. [Applause.]
I am planning a light lunch with them and with the National Commander, so we'll be in condition to do justice to your sumptuous dinner tonight.
And as I say in welcoming all of you here, as a member of this committee, and as a member since 1946 of VFW myself, I must say I am very happy to see you here, and I am very happy that this committee is still robust and in being, to greet you here and to look at the interests of the VFW over the years in the future.
I look forward very much to your message, National Commander Smith, your counsel in the deliberations which you will help us with over the next 18 or 20 months. With that I think I will yield to the chairman and to my colleagues on the committee. Thank you. [Applause.]
Chairman CRANSTON. One of the strong members of this committee, Strom Thurmond. [Applause.]
Senator THURMOND. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, I am delighted to see all of you here. I believe we have with us this morning the National Executive Director, Cooper Holt, the Commander in Chief, Bulldog Smith, the able Senator Talmadge, my cousin from Georgia. The reason he's such a good man is his mother was a Thurmond from South Carolina. We also have the National Legislative Director, Don Schwab. And I believe the President of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Mary Souders, is here. Where is she? Here she is. She adds greatly to the appearances of this group.
We are proud of our South Carolinians who have come up here, Jimmy Cathran, a past National Commander, and as I call their names I wish they would stand. I just want to recognize them. [Applause.]
87-044 0 - 77 - 4
The Senior Vice Commander Frank Edwards, the Director of the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs Hoyt Hill, National Council member Billy Randall, Adjutant Quartermaster David , Hutto, past Department Commander Sam Littlefield, Tommy Burns, and some others, I'm sure. We're so glad to have all you South Carolinians here.
And by the way, if you'll come over to the Capitol steps in front of the Senate wing of the Capitol at 12:30, we will take a picture there, the South Carolina group. And please be there promptly at
Now, I am not going to take the time. I just want to say that I want to commend Commander Smith here, Bulldog Smith, for the fine job he's been doing, and I especially wish to commend him, and Cooper Holt and Don Schwab, for the great work they did in helping to save this veterans committee. [Applause.]
I just want to say that no organization did more than the VFW to help to save the veterans committee, and we appreciate your efforts. [Applause.]
I am proud that you have such a good motto, honor today, by helping the living. What's finer than that, in addition to your services to the veterans and their dependents. That's commendable. Your strong national defense stand is commendable. Your stand for Americanism and freedom and patriotism are commendable, and everything that you stand for that I have found out about anything is worthwhile, is true American. And we are proud to have this great organization, and I'm delighted to be a life member of it. Thank you, very much. [Applause.]
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you, very much, Strom.
Rotating back to the majority side of the table, another strong member of this committee, one of its newer members, has arrived Senator John Durkin. [Applause.]
Senator DURKIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I know you have a long program and you want to hear the testimony, so I will be very brief. I just want to welcome the New Hampshire contingent, wherever they may be. [Applause.]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman CRANSTON. Another strong member of the committee back to this side of the table, Senator Cliff Hansen of Wyoming. [Applause.]
Senator HANSEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. We have a great delegation here from Wyoming. I hope those of you who were able to get inside the room might stand and wave. [Applause.]
I want to compliment the VFW for having chosen for honor this evening a very dear friend of mine, a great American, a great Senator, and a great veteran, Herman Talmadge. Herman, we are proud of you. [Applause.]
It's been said before, but let me repeat again how pleased I am personally, and how grateful all Americans should be everywhere, that the Veterans Affairs Committee is an active, ongoing continuing committee. I want to say also that the role you have played in helping guide and direct policy, that I think is of crucial importance to this Nation, entails the efforts and the concentration you have given to the questions of pardon and amnesty.
I also recognize the important role you are playing in focusing upon nominations for SALT negotiations. Questions I understand you recognize as being very relevant to this country and to our defense posture. I am certain that you will be pleased to know that the strong support that your position has bound upon members of this committee on the Panama Canal continues to merit my full support.
We are mighty proud and very pleased, Mr. Smith, that you are here to guide us, and we want to hear from you. And I join the other members of this committee in welcoming you before the Veterans Affairs Committee. Thank you. [Applause.]
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you very much, Cliff. Before going to Mr. Smith let me say that Senator Stone was extremely unhappy that he was unable to be present today. He asked me to read this note from him.
Washington, D.C., March 8, 1977.
DEAR ALAN : I regret to inform you that I will be unable to attend this morning's Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing due to a prior commitment.
I would, however, like to thank the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for presenting their legislative proposals to the Senate Veterans' Committee and express my wholehearted support for their efforts. Warm personal regards. Most cordially,
RICHARD (Dick) STONE. Chairman CRANSTON. It seems like whenever we have any real important business to transact, and some very important person to be introduced to the committee, that somehow that Senator is Herman Talmadge, another strong and outstanding member of this committee who has some special relationship, he sits down there with the person testifying instead of up here.
The other day we had the hearing on Max Cleland, to consider him as nominee for the head of VA, who was sitting with him! Senator Talmadge. Who is seated down there with Mr. Smith? Senator Talmadge.
Senator TALMADGE. Thank you, very much. [Applause.]
STATEMENT OF HON. HERMAN E. TALMADGE, A U.S. SENATOR
FROM THE STATE OF GEORGIA
Senator TALMADGE. Thank you, very much, Mr. Chairman, and my colleagues with the Veterans' Affairs Committee, it affords me a great deal of personal pleasure this morning to welcome my fellow Georgian and a long time warm personal friend, “Bulldog" Smith, to our committee.
“Bulldog" gets his name very properly because of his tenacity and it is richly deserving. He was elected National Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States at their national convention in New York last August.
He is currently employed as the assistant veterans employment representative for the United States Department of Labor in Georgia. "Bulldog" Smith has an outstanding record of leadership and service in World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1945, at the age of 17, and served in the central and southwest Pacific areas with the 56th Air Engineers Service Group, attached to the B-29, Heavy Bombardment Group of the 20th Air Force.
He joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1947, and has since served on the post, district and department levels, as well as national council member, southern conference chairman, and numerous national committees.
“Bulldog” Smith is also a current member of the Georgia State Veterans Board, and has served as its chairman, vice chairman and secretary.
"Bulldog" Smith has been a credit both to Georgia and to the Nation through his leadership in the VFW. He has been outstanding in his representation of our Nation's veterans.
Mr. Smith is here today to present the VFW's priority legislative program for the coming year.
We welcome their recommendations and we are delighted indeed to have my fellow Georgian and my warm personal friend, as the VFW National Commander-in-Chief. [Applause.]
STATEMENT OF R. D. SMITH, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, VETERANS
OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Senator Talmadge, for those very warm and generous remarks, and we in the State of Georgia are indeed honored and privileged to have a man of your stature serving not only the veterans in Georgia but all of the Georgians.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am delighted to appear before this full, separate Veterans Affairs Committee rather than as we feared for a while, a subcommittee of a Human Resources Committee. We all experienced 4 very trying months during the consideration of reorganization of the Senate and I wish to take this opportunity to thank those Senators who rose and spoke to retain this committee, and the many who worked behind scenes toward the same end.
I would be remiss, indeed, in not also expressing my sincere gratitude to those professional staff members who throughout this period worked closely with my executive director and legislative director.
I wish to congratulate you, Senator Cranston, upon your election as chairman of this vital committee, and to welcome Senator Matsunaga, who is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as a new member of the committee.
Accompanying me today are the national and State officers who comprise the leadership of our great organization, and who are directly responsible for the 24th consecutive year of increased membership, which has passed the 1.8 million mark this year.
My purpose here today is to present our priority legislative program for this first session of the 95th Congress. The voting delegates to our 77th National Convention held in New York City last August passed more than 200 resolutions, the preponderance of which ad
dressed improving veterans' benefits, enforcing those laws enunciated in the United States Code, and rejecting proposed administration, negative legislation, to reduce and erode existing benefits.
T'he most important of those coming within the jurisdiction of this committee have been included in our pamphlet entitled “VFW Priority Goals Legislative and Security for 1977," and are appended to my testimony. Without objection, Mr. Chairman, it is requested such be printed in its entirety, as a portion of the official transcript of this hearing.
Chairman CRANSTON. Without objection it is so ordered.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, sir. The bread and butter issues, of course, merit our first consideration. Our greatest debt is to those veterans who made a special sacrifice and have suffered disabling disabilities defending our Nation during periods of war and hostility and to the survivors of those who made the supreme sacrifice.
Therefore, and based on current inflation, we recommend an increase of not less than 6 percent, which could be higher by the time hearings are held, and legislation passed to benefit those in receipt of compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation.
I wish to commend this committee for including in legislation which became Public Law 94-581, the Veterans Omnibus Health Care Act of 1976, a provision to extend CHAMPVA coverage to the widow or surviving children of a veteran who, at death, suffered from a permanent and total, service-connected disability, regardless of the cause of death, fulfilling another of our priority goals.
However, I sincerely hope this Congress will see fit to go the one step further to fulfill another of our priority goals, and grant dependency and indemnity compensation to the survivors of veterans in the same category.
As you are aware, there are some 122,000 such veterans for whom their spouses have had to constantly care, restricting employment opportunities, and, upon the death of the veteran, and determination of compensation payments, are often left in dire financial straits and devoid of marketable skills.
The inadequacies of the pension program for our comrades in need due to their non-service-connected disabilities, and their widows, have been a growing concern to the VFW, as you well know.
We believe the pension program should be so restructured as to permit those who answered the Nation's call to duty and served in uniform during times of peril, and their widows, to live in dignity well above the poverty level afforded welfare recipients.
Our priority goals include supporting restructuring of the pension program to benefit all recipients and not be more restrictive than present law. However, it is our opinion, at this time, that action on pending pension legislation other than granting a cost of living increase of at least 6 percent, should be deferred until after the study by the Veterans' Administration, mandated by Public Law 94-432, has been submitted to Congress and sufficient time elapsed for a thorough study thereof.
With respect to educational benefits, we were gratified Public Law 94-502, the Veterans Education and Employment Assistance Act of