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and Sensory Aids Service, plans to convene a conference of all interested persons. This may possibly be held in conjunction with the National Convention of the Paralyzed Veterans Association in July since so many companies exhibit their products at that meeting. By that time the experience and information developed will enable the staff of the VA Prosthetics Center to deal with engineering and functional problems which have been identified and hopefully, in cooperation with the manufacturers, to develop sound standards of safety and quality and specifications. The target date, based on the above timetable, is December of 1972.

No steps have been taken as yet to develop new designs since our engineers are convinced that only by objective technical analysis of the available devices can they furnish effective directions for the development of improvements. Deficiencies must be identified before improvement can be affected.

Thank you for your interest.
Sincerely yours,

32-022 - 74 - 4

M. J. MUSSER, M.D., Chief Medical Director.

[No. 96]

COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS, U.S. SENATE
VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION,

OFFICE OF THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS,
Washington, D.C., March 12, 1974.

Hon. VANCE HARTKE,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: We are pleased to respond to your request
for a report on S. 2363, 93d Congress, as amended by Amendment
No. 512, submitted on September 19, 1973.

The bill as so amended proposes to amend chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, to (1) authorize monetary assistance for the purchase of an automobile and provide necessary adaptive equipment for veterans and servicemen serving after January 31, 1955, under the same eligibility criteria as are applicable to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict; (2) expand the concept of adaptive equipment; (3) increase the amount of the automobile grant from $2,800 to $3,300; (4) provide special driver training courses for persons eligible for automobile assistance and certain veterans not eligible therefor; and (5) authorize the Administrator to obtain insurance on automobiles or other conveyances used in conducting the driver training courses and to obtain personal liability and property damage insurance for all persons taking such courses.

Subsections (a) and (b) of the first section of the amended bill would amend section 1901 (1) of title 38, United States Code, to authorize monetary assistance for the purchase of an automobile and necessary adaptive equipment for veterans and servicemen serving after January 31, 1955, under the same eligibility criteria as are applicable to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict. Prior to the enactment of Public Law 91-666 on January 11, 1971, the Veterans' Administration was authorized by 38 United States Code 1901 to pay an automobile allowance of $1,600 to veterans entitled to disability compensation for loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands or one or both feet, or permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a prescribed degree, which resulted from service in World War II or the Korean conflict. The automobile benefit was also made available to a veteran who incurred a disability of the described nature in the line of duty in service after January 31, 1955, if such disability was shown to have been "a direct result of the performance of military duty."

Public Law 91-666 increased the automobile allowance to $2,800 and authorized adaptive equipment necessary to insure safe operation of the vehicle. The law also extended the class of eligible persons to include certain persons who apply while still in service. A serviceman with a prescribed disability incurred in World War II, the Korean conflict, or the Vietnam era, need only establish that such disability

on January 11, 1971, increased the automobile allowance from $1,600 to $2,800 and authorized adaptive equipment necessary to insure safe operation of the vehicle. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of new automobiles has not increased since the automobile allowance was last increased in January of 1971. Therefore, we do not favor the increase from the current $2,800 to the $3,300 figure proposed by this bill.

Section 3 of the bill would require the Administrator to provide directly, or by contract, special driver training courses at every Veterans' Administration hospital and, where appropriate, at regional offices or other medical facilities of the Veterans' Administration, to instruct persons who are eligible for an automobile under chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, to operate the type of automobile or other conveyance he obtains with assistance under such chapter. It also authorizes the Administrator to make such training course available to any veteran who he determines is in need of the special training. In addition, the bill would authorize the Administrator to obtain insurance on the automobiles and conveyances used in conducting the training courses, and to obtain personal liability and property damage insurance for all persons taking such courses.

·

The Veterans' Administration has been providing the type of driver training programs contemplated by this bill as part of its medical rehabilitation program. Furthermore, the Comptroller General of the United States, in a Decision dated May 16, 1972 (B-175086), stated that Veterans' Administration medical care funds could be expended, as a necessary component of the Veterans' Administration's medical rehabilitation program, to provide automobile liability insurance coverage for disabled veteran patients being given Veterans' Administration conducted driver training. Such insurance coverage has now been obtained. Thus, it would appear that the purposes sought to be accomplished by this section of the bill can generally be achieved without the need of the specific language proposed.

While we would have no objection to having specific reference to this program contained in the law, we question several aspects of the current proposal. For example, rather than requiring these training programs at "every hospital and, where appropriate, at regional offices and other medical facilities," we think it preferable to afford the Administrator maximum flexibility, so that the training can be provided at selected hospitals where the need would be greatest and where the most expertise in this type of training could be marshalled. Accordingly, we would suggest that lines 2 and 3 on page 3 of the bill be deleted. Furthermore, the bill would appear to authorize insurance on all automobiles used in conducting driver training courses even though they might be Government owned. This would, of course, be inconsistent with the settled policy of the United States to assume its own risks and losses in both tort matters and damage to its own property. For this reason, we would suggest that language be added to the proposed subparagraph (2) of the new subsection (e) of section 1903 of title 38, limiting the insurance provision to situations where non-Government owned vehicles are used.

Our present training program is conducted as part of the medical care and treatment authorized by chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code, and is therefore limited to those veterans eligible for care under such chapter. The new proposal would broaden eligibility

was service connected. If the disability was incurred in service after January 31, 1955, a veteran, as distinguished from a serviceman, is eligible only if it was a "direct result of the performance of military duty."

In March 1973, we recommended to Congress legislation that would authorize automobiles and adaptive equipment for Vietnam veterans under the same conditions as apply to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict. This bill would accomplish our proposal and, in addition, would extend the same criteria to those persons serving after January 31, 1955 (end of the Korean conflict), up to August 5, 1964 (beginning of the Vietnam era). We have no objection to the additional feature of this measure. We would, however, suggest that the word "eligible" in line 7, page 1 of the bill, be deleted as unnecessary and confusing.

Subsection (c) of the first section would further amend section 1901 of title 38, United States Code, by adding a new paragraph providing that the term "adaptive equipment" includes, but is not limited to, power steering, power brakes, power window lifts, power seats, and special equipment (power lifters) necessary to assist the eligible person into and out of the automobile or conveyance; air-conditioning equipment when such equipment is necessary to the health and safety of the veteran and to the safety of others, regardless of whether the automobile is to be operated by the eligible person or by another person; and any roof modification of the automobile or other conveyance if needed because of the eligible person's physical condition.

Currently, if a veteran cannot operate the automobile he is not entitled to any adaptive equipment. S. 2363 would not change this present limitation except with respect to air-conditioning, as discussed below. Power lifters are not currently available as adaptive equipment, but would become so under the bill. Such lifters, however, may be authorized currently under either section 612 or 617 of chapter 17, title 38, United States Code, which provides for hospital, domiciliary and medical care.

The bill would also expand the concept of adaptive equipment to include any modification of the automobile roof "if needed by the eligible person because of his physical condition." The intent of the quoted language is not entirely clear. Presumably, it is designed to authorize the modification in those instances where the qualifying service-connected condition of the eligible person is such as to require the modification to permit him to enter and operate the conveyance. If the intent is otherwise, the language in question should be clarified. With respect to air-conditioning, it is currently available under chapter 39 only to the eligible person if he drives the automobile. Under the proposal, it would be available even if he cannot drive the automobile himself, but it is determined that it is necessary to his health and safety, and to the safety of others.

The expansion of the concept of adaptive equipment proposed by subsection (c) appears to be a reasonable extension of the current program. Accordingly, we have no objection to its favorable con

sideration.

Section 2 of S. 2363 would amend section 1902 of title 38, United States Code, by increasing the maximum monetary amount available for purchase of an automobile from $2,800 to $3,300, including all State and local and other taxes. Public Law 91-666, enacted into law

for the training programs to include veterans eligible for the automobile allowance under chapter 39, and any other veteran who needs it. It is conceivable that at least in this last category of veteran, the new authority could authorize training to veterans not now eligible for medical care and, therefore, not now eligible for the training programs already being conducted.

There is no data available upon which to base an estimate of the cost of subsections (a) and (b) of the first section of the bill, as amended. It is estimated that the cost of the remainder of the bill would be approximately as follows:

Fiscal year:

1974

1975

1976

97

1978_

Additional cost (in millions) $2.6 2.9

3. 1

3. 5

For the foregoing reasons, the Veterans' Administration opposes enactment of section 2 of S. 2363, and, subject to the recommended changes, favors enactment of sections 1 and 3.

Advice has been received from the Office of Management and Budget that there is no objection to the presentation of this report from the standpoint of the administration's program.

Sincerely,

DONALD E. JOHNSON,
Administrator.

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