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IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
SEPTEMBER 19, 1973 Referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs and ordered to be printed
AMENDMENTS Intended to be proposed by Mr. CRANSTON (for himself, Mr.
HARTKE, and Mr. RANDOLPH) to S. 2363, a bill to amend chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, relating to automobiles and adaptive equipment for certain disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes, viz:
On page 2, between lines 3 and 4, insert the following:
"(b) Section 1901 (1) of such title is further amended
3 by striking out all of that part of clause (B) beginning with
4 'the Vietnam era' down through the end of such clause, and
5 inserting in lieu thereof ‘after January 31, 1955.'." 6
On page 2, line 4, strike out " (b)” and insert in lieu 7 thereof “ (c)”.
Amdt. No. 512
IN TIIE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
MARCII 8, 1974 Referred to the ('ommittee on Veterans Affairs and ordered to be printed
AMENDMENT Intended to be proposed by Mr. CRANSTON to S. 2363, a bill to
amend chapter 39 of title 38, l'nited States Code, relating to automobiles and adaptive equipment for certain disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces, viz: Add at the end of the bill the following:
SEC. 4. (a) At the end of chapter 39 of such title, insert
2 the following new section:
:3 “g 1904. Research and development; coordination with
' (a) In carrying out prosthetic and orthopedie appli6ance research under section 216 and medical research under
7 section 4101, the Administrator shall provide for special 8 emphasis upon the development of adaptive equipment and
9 adapted conveyances (including vans) meeting standards
Amdt. No. 1006
1 of safety and quality prescribed under subsection (d) of 2 section 1903, including the development and support for the 3 production and distribution of devices and conveyances so 4 developed. 5 “ (b) In carrying out subsection (a) of this section,
6 the Administrator, through the Chief Medical Director, shall
7 consult with the Secretary of llcalth, Education, and Welfare 8 and the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Ad9 ministration, as established within the Department of IIcalth,
10 Education, and Welfare by section 3 (a) of the Rehabilita
11 tion Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112), in connection with
12 programs carried out under section 3 (1) (to develop and
13 support, and stimulate the development and utilization, in
14 cluding production and distribution of new and existing
15 devices, of innovative methods of applying advanced medical
16 technology, scientific achievement, and psychological and 17 social knowledge to solve rehabilitation problems) and ser
18 tion 202 (1) (2) (establislıment and support of Rehabilita
19 tion Engineering Research Centers) of suchi let.”.
(1) The table of sections at the beginning of such 21 chapter 39 is amended by inserting at the end thereof:
“1904. Research and development; coordination of other Federal pro
[From the Congressional Record, Aug. 3, 1973]
Mr. CRANSTON. Mr. President, I am introducing today S. 2363 on behalf of myself, Senator Hartke, and Senator Randolph, a bill which would amend the provisions of chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, entitled “Automobile and Adaptive Equipment for Certain Disabled Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces.”
Mr. President, as chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare in the 91st Congress, I authored the amendments to this chapter-Public Law 91-666—which directed the Veterans' Administration to provide the adaptive equipment necessary to operate a motor vehicle or other conveyance for those veterans eligible for the automobile assistance grant.
Mr. President, the purpose of the bill we are introducing is to clarify some aspects of chapter 39 and to expand eligibility to certain other seriously serviceconnected disabled veterans not previously eligible, and to assure that the adaptive equipment provided will include all those devices necessary to assure the safe and healthful operation of the vehicle by the eligible veteran.
Since Public Law 91-666 was enacted on January 11, 1971, there have been at various times great difficulties in its implementation. I have written to the Veterans' Administration on two occasions urging the development of safety and quality standards for automobile adaptive equipment, as well as the establishment of an intra-agency committee to determine policies, and a means of alerting servicemen of their potential eligibility under chapter 39.
The VA's replies have generally not been all I would have liked, but I was extremely gratified that Mr. Donald E. Johnson, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, in his October 28, 1971 reply to my first letter did establish an intraagency committee along the lines I had suggested. I will insert this correspondence at the conclusion of my remarks.
Our bill today attempts to correct many of the difficulties which have been well documented in these exchanges with the VA, and in the cases individual veterans have brought to my attention.
Mr. President, S. 2363 would make several important changes in the provisions of chapter 39.
First, it would remove the inequitable limitation now governing the eligibility of Vietnam era veterans for chapter 39 assistance. Presently, unlike World War II and Korean conflict veterans, Vietnam era veterans must meet more stringent line-of-duty criteria : That is, in order to be eligible they must have been injured in the line of duty and during the direct performance of duty. Yet, severely disabled World War II or Korean conflict veterans are eligible for automobile grant assistance and, as a result of Public Law 91-666, for the provision of adaptive equipment, if they satisfy the line-of-duty criterion alone.
This basic inequity would have been removed had the Senate-passed bill (H.R. 370) been enacted in the 91st Congress. The administration has now proposed legislation to achieve this purpose.
Second, the bill would provide that all those who served after January 31, 1955—the end of the Korean conflict era-and before August 4, 1964—the beginning of the Vietnam era-would also be eligible for the automobile assistance grant and the provision of adaptive equipment. This change would conform to the same philosophy underlying the adoption last year of Public Law 92–328 which provided, effective July 1, 1973, for the equalization of so-called “peacetime” veterans with those who served in "wartime” for the purposes of disability compensation and underlying S. 59, now on the President's desk for signature, which would among other changes, remove these distinctions for purposes of eligibility for VA hospital care and medical services. I believe the historical dates chosen for so-called “war” periods tend to be arbitrary and that it is inequitable to return a "peacetime” distinction for purposes of chapter 39 when it has been removed for purposes of VA disability compensation and health care.
Third, the amendment provides for an increase in the basic automobile grant allowance from $2,800 to $3,300. This allowance is awarded on a one-time basis to those veterans eligible under the chapter. This increase is designed to match the rise in the cost of automobiles since passage of the last increase in Public Law 91-666 in 1970. In fact, the Senate originally passed a $3,000 figure that year which was lowered to the present $2,800 level in compromise with the House version of H.R. 370.
This $500 increase should itself have no inflationary impact; rather, its purpose is to offset the 16.9-percent inflation which has eroded the purchasing power of the present $2,800 amount since January 1970.
Further justification for the $500 increase proposed in the bill is provided by the following analysis. The Senate, in its 1970 amendment-H.R. 370—to chapter 39, originally approved an increase in the automobile allowance to $3,000. That figure was justified by data regarding the average-sized American automobile cost. Figures recently provided by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors show that the list price of a standard two-door model automobile with the necessary power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, and air-conditioning has increased by about 8.7 percent in these 3 years. Thus, the 10 percent by which the increase in this amendment exceeds the 1970 Senate-passed figure will allow somewhat for the anticipated rise in new car prices for the 1974 models due on the market very shortly.
The bill also provides that out of the amount of the automobile grant the VA is authorized to pay State, local, and Federal taxes. This codifies a VA General Counsel's opinion holding that such payments are proper.
Fourth, Mr. President, the bill defines for the first time in law the term “adaptive equipment” under the chapter and lists several items as included in that term.
From the very beginning of the implementation of the amendment to chapter 39 in the 1970 law, there has been considerable confusion and arbitrary application of the term "adaptive equipment.” For example, what a veteran would receive under this provision from one VA regional office, a similarly eligible and disabled veteran would not necessarily receive from another. One specific example of unevenhanded application of the law is the allowance of air-conditioning as one such item of adaptive equipment. VA regulations have not been at all definitive on this question-despite the statutory charge of the Administrator to prescribe minimum standards of safety and quality for adaptive equipment and to provide such equipment "under regulations which he shall prescribe"and some veterans have received air-conditioning as allowable adaptation under chapter 39 while others similarly situated have been refused. Clearly, such arbitrary rulings cannot be tolerated, especially when we are dealing with a piece of equipment which is necessary to the health and safety of some disabled individuals. Eligible quadriplegic veterans, for example, have certain outside temperature limitations which, if exceeded, may cause dizziness, dehydration, or hypertension. These limits can be as low as 90° F. Certainly, it is necessary to assure that these types of conditions do not occur during the operation of a motor vehicle.
Fifth, the bill requires the VA Administrator to assure, either by direct provision or by contract, that driver training is available at every VA hospital, and, where appropriate, at VA regional offices and other medical facilities, to those disabled individuals eligible for the assistance provided by this chapter. It does not limit such training to those individuals eligible for assistance under the chapter; and includes express authority for the Administrator to provide for such training for those who are not eligible for chapter 39 assistance but who may need such training as a part of their total rehabilitation in a VA hospital,
The bill also authorizes the Administrator to pay for liability insurance for eligible veterans during the period he is enrolled in such training.
On that point, Mr. President, I would like to add that I have received indications that many disabled veterans have enormous difficulty in obtaining automobile insurance. If they are able to purchase insurance, it is only through “assigned risk” pools and at very high rates. There is contradictory evidence concerning the justification for this practice. The question has been studied in various States and the results in those studies do not yield a conclusion that disabled drivers are necessarily a higher risk group. In fact, some results indicate that the very contrary is true.
The hearings that will be held on this bill this fall, Mr. President, will seek to clarify this question and may very well result in our amending the bill to make provision for appropriate insurance subsidies, or, at the very least, a joint VA Denartment of Transportation study and report on all of the aspects of this question. I am hopeful that we will be able to reach an effective conclusion and resolution with respect to this matter in the bill we report from committee.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the full text of the bill we are submitting and my correspondence with the VA on implementation of Public Law 91-666 be printed in the RECORD at this point, in that order.
There heing no obiection, the bill and correspondence were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows: