Page images

The compelling argument, however, in favor of the repeal of the law so far as it relates to compensation, and the substitution therefor of the pension laws, is found in the inadequacy of the rates provided and the unfair discrimination against the beneficiaries of this act as compared with those receiving the benefits of the pension laws. It would be very interesting and of first importance to present a detailed comparison of the rates allowed for compensation and the rates allowed for pension for like disabilities if this were possible. For a very surprising reason, however, it is not possible.

Section 302 provides: "A schedule of ratings of reductions in earning capacity from specific injuries or combinations of injuries of a permanent nature shall be adopted and applied by the bureau.” It is now nearly two years since this law was enacted, but up to the present date no such schedule of ratings has been adopted, as will appear from the following letter of the Director of the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, addressed to the Representative in Congress who introduced the bill now under consideration, and the further fact that similar information was received by him from the director, by telephone, on August 27, 1919.


Washington, June 95, 1919. Hon. JOSEPH W. FORDNEY,

House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. Dear Mr. FORDNEY: I am in receipt of your letter of June 3, 1919, in which you inquire what compensation is being paid to soldiers and sailors for different degrees of disability.

In reply, you are informed that at the present time a board of officers appointed by the Chief Medical Adviser, is sitting for the purpose of preparing a table of ratings of disability. You can very readily understand that this is a matter requiring not only the exercise of technical skill of a very high order, but the results of actual experience as well. In view of these facte the bureau has been conducting its ratings upon a tentative table. It is now felt that sufficient experience has been had upon which to base a more suitable table. As previously stated this table is now being prepared in consonance with the war-risk insurance act. You will recall that the act authorizes the revision of this table from time to time and it is my intention that such revisions shall be made at stated intervals in order that compensation claims may be made with full justice to beneficiaries of the War Risk Insurance Bureau and the General Government. A copy of this letter is inclosed for your use. Very truly, yours.


Director. Certain comparisons of rates can, however, be made with confidence, based on individual instances, which have come to the attention of Members of Congress and others. The contrast is, perhaps, most striking with reference to amputations of arms or legs. Compensation is provided by the law (sec. 302) for total disability, if he had neither wife nor child living, $30 per month. For partial disability the monthly compensation shall be a percentage of the compensation that would be payable for his total disability, equal to the degree of the reduction in earning capacity resulting from the disability." The rate of pension allowed under the pension laws for the loss of a hand or a foot is $40 per month. It is stated by the author of this bill that in a case coming to his personal attention the soldier was in receipt of $7.50 per month as compensation for loss of a foot, this being based apparently upon an estimated 25 per cent of the rate of $30 allowed for total disability. Similar instances have doubtless come to the attention of many Members of this House. It is certain that in no case can compensation for loss of a limb exceed the rate of $30 per month, whereas the pension for an amputation below the elbow or knee is $40 ser month; amputation above the knee or elbow, $46 per month; and if so near the hip or shoulder as to prevent the use of an artificial limb, $55 per month. This results in an anomaly. A soldier who lost a limb in the line of duty prior to October 6, 1917, receives a sension of $40, $46, or $55 rer month, whereas a soldier with a like disability incurred on or after October 6, 1917, receives a compensation of $7.50 per month, or, in some cases, possibly $30 rer month, but in no case more than that, if he have no wife, or child, or widowed mother dependent on him. This leads to another curious feature of this act. f the soldier, receiving $7.50 per month for the loss of a leg, should take unto himself a wife his compensation would be increased to $11.25 per month. If he have also one, two, or three children living a slight additional increase will be allowed, but nothing additional for a fourth, fifth, or sixth, or any additional child.

The law provides that the amount of each monthly payment shall be determined according to the family conditions then existing. To administer this requirement it is necessary to ascertain before making each monthly payment whether the unmarried soldier has married, whether the married soldier has lost his wife, whether, since the last check was issued, another child has come to bless his home, or whether the number of children has been reduced by death. The almost impossibility of properly administering this provision of the law is apparent.

The bill now under consideration has been carefully prepared with a view, not only of substituting the pension laws for the compensation law in case of soldiers serving since October 6, 1917, but to safeguard what might be called vested rights already acquired under the compensation law, and also to continue in force certain provisions in the war risk insurance act, more or less remotely related to the subject of compensation, such as the furnishing of reasonable governmental surgical and hospital service, and the rehabilitation, reeducation, and vocational training of certain beneficiaries: also to inco: porate into the pension laws a few items in the compensation law which are believed to be just and reasonable, such as including those increasing the rates allowed to widows and dependent parents, and also extend the provisions of existing pension laws to menbers of the Army Nurse Corps (female) and the Navy Nurse Corps (female).

The rate of pension allowed to widows of private soldiers of the Regular Establishment is $12 per month with $2 additional for each minor child. It is provided in section 3 of the bill under consideration that the rate of pension shall be $25 per month, as now provided by the compensation act, with $5 additional per month for each minor child. A further reason for increasing this rate to $25 per month is that that rate is now allowed by the pension laws to the widows of soldiers who served in the Civil War and the War with Spain, though not to those in the Regular Establishment. The rate of pension allowed to a dependent father or mother is now $12 per month, and it is herein provided that the rate be $20 per month, as now allowed by the compensation law.

Section 4 provides that the Secretary of the Treasury shall transfer to the Bureau of Pensions such records and documents as may have

been filed in the Bureau of War Risk Insurance in connection with claims for compensation.

Section 5 provides that nothing in this proposed act shall be construed to reduce or terminate the amount allowed for compensation heretofore made by the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, but payments of such allowances shall be continued out of appropriations for the payment of pensions, but that any beneficiary of an allowance for compensation heretofore made muy surrender such allowance and receive the benefits of existing pension laws in lieu thereof.

Section 6 provides that rank in service shall not be taken into consideration in fixing rates of pension, thus adopting a provision found in the compensation law, and also that every formal application for compensation heretofore filed in the Bureau of War Risk Insurance shall be accepted as a formal application for pension.

Section 8 repeats the provisions of the third paragraph of section 302 of the war risk insurance act in regard to medical, surgical, and hospital services.

Sections 9, 10, and 11 repeat certain provisions of the war risk insurance act in regard to various matters heretofore referred to.

The question of economy of administration is a very important one. Your committee is informed that there are now employed in the division of compensation, in the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, 1,411 clerks. There have been filed 284,899 claims, of which 193,970 have been allowed, leaving about 90,000 claims unadjudicated or reje ted.

The total number of pensioners on the rolis July 1, 1919, was 624,427. The number of such pensioners is being reduced at the rate of more than 20,000 a year. The addition to this roll of 194,000, persons who have been allowed compensation would not require any material addition to the force or equipment employed in the payment of pensions.

It is assumed that the number of clerks employed in the adjudication of compensation claims, 1,411, is exclusive of the disbursing force of that bureau. The entire force of the Pension Bureau provided by law at the present time is 904. Of this number 190 are employed in connection with the making of quarterly payments of pension, leaving 714 who may be said to be engaged in the adjudication of claims, provided no vacancies exist. The number of claims pending in the Bureau of Pensions July 1, 1919, was, in round numbers, 55,000. It thus appears that the Pension Bureau, with 55,000 claims pending, has an adjudicating force of less than 714, or about one-half as many as the compensation division of the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, with claims pending and rejected aggregating about 90,000.

It is confidently believed that the addition of 300 clerks to the present force would enable the Bureau of Pensions to take care of the additional work which would be devolved upon it by the enactment of the proposed bill. The employees of the Bureau of Pensions are peculiarly efficient in the adjudication of claims for pension. The building which they occupy was constructed especially for the use of that bureau. It is arranged conveniently for that class of work. It has a filing system which is well-nigh perfect. The rules of practice are fully formulated, readily accessible, and easily applied. They represent the accumulated wisdom of years of work of this character.

The Pension Bureau has a force of medical examiners which is available and readily accessible to claimants in every part of the United States, and has arrangements by which medical examinations of applicants may be had in any part of the civilized world. The boards of examining surgeons organized and equipped under the control of the Bureau of Pensions number more than 1,200, located in 48 States. These boards are maintained at a minimum cost, for the reason that each member is paid only for the examinations made by him. The bureau has a small, compact, highly organized, and efficient force of special examiners whose duty it is to make inquiries in the field in regard to questions of particular importance or difficulty. The decisions of the Commissioner of Pensions are subject to appeal to the Secretary of the Interior, thus adequately safeguarding the rights of claimants. The Pension Bureau has exceptional facilities for the payment of pensions. It is believed that very little, if any, additional expense would be necessary for mechanical equipment. The machines in use are equal to a far greater burden than they are now called upon to bear.

Without going further into detail, it is asserted with confidence that the enactment of the bill under consideration would result in a saving of the services of at least 1,000 clerks at an average compensation of $1,500 per annum each, amounting to $1,500,000 annually.

The committee unanimously recommends that the bill do pass.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »