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READJUSTMENT BENEFITS FOR INDIVIDUALS ENTERING THE ARMED SERVICES AFTER JANUARY 31, 1955

FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 1960

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS,

Washington, D.C. The committee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to adjournment, in room 356, Old House Office Building, Hon. James A. Haley presiding.

Mr. HALEY. The committee will be in order.

The committee has as its first witness this morning Mr. Reuben Johnson of the National Farmers Union.

Is that correct, sir?

STATEMENT OF REUBEN JOHNSON, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION

Mr. JOHNSON. That is right.

Mr. HALEY. Will you, for the record, state your name, your address, and who you represent? Then you may proceed.

Have you a written statement, by the way?

Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. Chairman, I do have a written statement, and I will be very happy to proceed in any way that you see fit.

Mr. Haley. You may proceed as you care to, sir.

Mr. JOHNSON. I am Reuben Johnson, coordinator of legislative services, National Farmers Union, 1404 New York Avenue NW., Washington, D.C. I am here in behalf of the National Farmers Union.

Delegates to the most recent convention of National Farmers Union expressed support for the continuation of a program along the lines of the highly successful GI bill. The resolution approved by the delegates is as follows:

A program along the lines of the highly successful GI bill should be renewed and its principles should be extended in workable ways to all young people, according to need and to aptitude for college level education.

As an organization of farm families, we are especially interested in the on farm training program for veterans which H.R. 2258 and similar bills authorize. Under the authority proposed in such bills, many young people from rural farm areas will be afforded the opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning who otherwise would not be able to get a college education.

Justification for É.R. 2258 is reflected in the interest of colleges and universities in student loan provisions of the Defense Education Act of 1958. Student requests for loans for college training under this program have been overwhelming. It is clear that the need is greatly in excess of the funds available in spite of recent supplemental appropriations.

For example, in 1959, the first year of the program, nearly 1,400 colleges and universities asked permission to participate in the program. Applications for funds that year totaled approximately $62 million. The $6 million approved by budget officials in the administration was increased by Congress to $30 million before the end of 1959. Further increases in the program earlier this year will help, but funds are still not available to meet requests of needy, able students. Demonstrated need for the student loan program is strong justification for continuation of the GI bill program.

We all know of the tremendous success of the GI bill and Public Law 550. The GI bill, including the Korean extension, has enabled approximately 9 million service men and women to get special training to better equip themselves to earn a livelihood and to catch up the years lost by military service. As one witness stated last year: “No program ever gave so many people so many skills in so many pursuits.

When President Roosevelt signed the original GI bill on June 22, 1944, the opponents of educational provisions viewed this "experiment” with "alarm.” But as the program developed, the experts began to see it in a new light. Veterans flocked not only to college campuses, but to technical and trade schools, to business institutions, to on farm training classes in the public schools operated in cooperation with existing departments of vocational agriculture and to jobs where as apprentices they could afford to learn new skills.

The full impact of the GÌ bill can probably never be fully assessed. Public acceptance and approval still apparent today, however, is evidenced that it was far more successful than its most ardent supporters had dreamed possible. College enrollments doubled and tripled. At the peak of college enrollments in 1947, almost 80 percent of all male students were obtaining degrees—thanks to the GI bill. Among them were many from the farm areas of the Nation who would never have had the opportunity to attend college except for the assistance it provided.

The cost of this program has actually been a sound investment when consideration is given to opportunity provided for 9 million soldier-citizens to make a solid contribution to the productivity and wealth of the United States. As a matter of fact, Federal taxes paid by these soldier-citizens on income resulting from increased earning power made possible by the GI bill training will repay the Government. Likewise, we believe the cost to the Government of the program such as is proposed in H.R. 2258 and related bills will be repaid because of increased earnings made possible by the furtherance of training and education in many different and varied occupations.

Under the GI bill, more than a million veterans studied agriculture in the on farm training program. It is difficult today even under ideal circumstances for young families to become established in the business of farming. It is more difficult at a time when the parity level is at 78 than it was when the parity level was at 100.

Many young families have not been able to weather low farm prices in the face of increasing cost.

Moreover, there is continual need of replacements for 5 million farm operator families. Training and assistance afforded eligible young families in the on-farm training program will mean the difference between success and failure for many young people who want to stay on the farm. In this connection, Mr. Chairman, we also support provisions of H.R. 2258 and related bills which provide for home and farm loan guarantees. Tighter money and higher interest rates are responsible for credit problems more difficult now than in the administration of earlier GI bill programs.

In way of summary, we see the following specific benefits in the approval of the extension of the veterans' education and loan benefit program by the Congress:

1. Inequity of educational opportunity for veterans will be corrected.

2. Educational opportunities will result in additional scientists, engineers, and technicians; thereby greatly increasing the number of qualified persons for jobs where current demand of industry has created need for further emphasis on scientific training and education.

3. Opportunities for individuals to make their own choices of vocation assuring education and training on balance with the total needs of our society.

4. The economy of the Nation will be strengthened.

5. Skills and abilities which otherwise may be lost or not used will be developed at every level of education beyond high school.

6. Voluntary enlistments for military service will increase with greater purpose and planning on the part of volunteers.

7. Cost of veterans educational benefits can be expected to be repaid by the recipients of such assistance through additional Federal income taxes paid on additional earnings.

8. Labor markets will be relieved of nontrained and semitrained applicants.

Along with other supporters of an extension of the veterans education and loan benefit program, we recognize and appreciate the very fine Senate action in 1959 which resulted in the approval of a bill similar to H.R. 2258. It is impracticable from an administrative standpoint, however, to substitute loans for grants in the event a veteran is unable to maintain scholastic achievements representative of the upper half of his class. The responsibility which would be placed upon the administrators of such a provision would involve burdensome details which should be avoided. We strongly urge that the legislation approved by the committee provide for grants the same as was true of the program administered under the orignal GI bill, and Public Law 550.

We have been greatly encouraged by favorable reports that we have received from many Members of the Congress, including members of this committee, in support of the continuation of a veterans education and loan benefit program.

Since the Senate has approved a bill along the lines of bills before the committee, we urge you to act promptly in the reporting of a bill.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HALEY. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.

I notice in your last statement you say, “Since the Senate has approved a bill. That is no indication that the House should, just because they approved it; is that right?

Mr. Johnson. I agree, Mr. Chairman, that that is true, and I thoroughly support you in the statement.

As a matter of fact, we are just one-third of the way when the Senate passes something.

Mr. HALEY. That is about right.

Now let me ask you, Mr. Johnson, just one question. That is all I have, I think.

You heard the testimony of the representatives of the Defense Department here the other day. Or did you!

Mr. Johnson. No, sir; I did not.

Mr. HALEY. On your No. 6, on the last page, where you say, “Voluntary enlistments for military service will increase with greater purpose and planning on the part of volunteers.” That statement is quite sharply in conflict with the statement made by the Defense Department, who did not take that kind of view.

In other words, they thought that while the volunteers temporarily might increase, nevertheless, a bill of this kind would have the effect of encouraging the military personnel to leave the service. That, of course, is of considerable concern to not only ourselves, as members of the committee, but I think to the committee as a whole. If we are setting up something here that will discourage the continuation of a volunteer in the service, the defense service, then I think we ought to take a very good look at that, in view of the fact that today, more than at any time before, technical skills in the service are necessary to man the defense systems of this country.

What would be your view?

Mr. Johnson. Mr. Chairman, my reaction to the position which the Defense Department has taken is simply this: The defense posture of the United States is broader than just the people that happen to have on uniforms at any particular time.

For example, we who are farmers and who produce the Nation's food supply and have been so efficient in doing so, feel that we are a vital and integral part of the defense posture of the United States.

My attitude would be that the defense posture of this country will be strengthened through any program that we have which gives us a highly skilled and trained populace. Whether we get this training in uniform or out of uniform, does not make a great difference in terms of the overall goal that we are trying to reach as a nation.

Mr. Haley. Does the gentleman from South Carolina have any questions?

Mr. Dorn. Mr. Johnson, how many members do you have in the National Farmers Union, approximately, as of now, in the United States?

Mr. JOHNSON. We have about 270,000 families.
Mr. DORN. 270.000 families?
Mr. JOHNSON. Yes.
Mr. Dorn. What are their dues, annually, per member?

Mr. Johnson. This varies, Mr. Dorn. In some States the dues are $5. In some States they are $10. And I think in one State they are hicher than that.

We are a voluntary organization of dues-paving farm families, and we operate our organization on the basis of the family membership.

Now, if you broke our membership down to individuals, would estimate our membership at somewhere between 650,000 and 700,000

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