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same system provided when families are deprived by the service-connected death of the veteran.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to recommend that the Subcommittee reconsider H.R. 4528 and H.R. 7059 and amend them to eliminate the requirement that a veteran must be permanently and totally disabled for at least twenty years in order for his survivors to be eligible for DIC, since we feel this would create undue and unnecessary hardship. We believe that entitlement to DIC for the survivors of a veteran who has a permanent and total service-connected disability is justified on the basis of the profound effect such a severe disability must inevitably have had on his general health and well-being. We cannot believe that the disability has had a less profound effect if the veteran dies less than twenty years after the original disability was incurred! Certainly the needs of the veteran's family are no less because of his shorter service.
Similarly, we would urge elimination from H.R. 4528 of the provision precluding eligibility in the event of accidental death not related to the service-connected disability. For the relatively small number of accidental deaths involved, the administrative problems and possible litigation would far outweigh the savings which might result from retention of the provision. Traditionally, the armed forces and the Veterans Administration have been liberal in allowing serviceconnection for disability and death not the result of willful misconduct but not incurred in the line of duty as long as the individual was a member of the armed forces. We believe the same yardstick should be applied for permanently and totally disabled veterans whose survivors would be covered by the bill. Most importantly, the veteran and his family are still subject to the same problems in creating an adequate estate whether his death is accidental or not.
This Subcommittee will be interested to know that Canada provides death pensions to the survivors of veterans rated 50% or more disabled from serviceconnected causes without any means test and without distinction as to the cause of death. Canada also grants the surviving widow of such a veteran the full amount of his disability compensation for one year after his death as a means of assisting her to adjust to new financial circumstances. According to our information, the widow of a Canadian veteran who is rated as 100% disabled for service-connected blindness receives a widow's pension of at least $200.00 a month. Also the children's allowances are doubled to the widow on the veteran's death. Thus, we understand that the widow of a Canadian blinded veteran with three dependent children would receive at least $360 a month. This amount is not related to the cause of the veteran's death nor to his widow's financial resources. The sole criterion for eligibility for these benefits is the veteran's permanent and total service-connected disability.
A second inequity which the BVA feels is in need of legislative action are the statutory award rates presently provided under subsections (1), (m), (n), (0), and (p) of section 314, Title 38. We believe that these rates should be liberalized as reflected in two resolutions passed at the BVA National Convention in 1971. (Copies of these resolutions are attached to this Statement.) Resolution No. 12 seeks a revision in the current method of rating impaired hearing in combination with blindness for disability compensation purposes. Resolution No. 28 requests the Congress to amend section 314 of Title 38 to grant compensation under subsection (0) for loss or loss of use of a hand or leg when it occurs in combination with blindness. This latter subject is covered in H.R. 13596 which has been introduced by Chairman Teague. We strongly endorse the provisions of this bill.
Thirdly, we ask your urgent consideration of H.R. 13597, a bill to amend paragraph (r) section 314, Title 38 to provide an additional aid and attendance allowance to certain service-connected blinded veterans, the subject of our 1971 National Convention Resolution No. 27. The amendment provided by this bill would provide a monthly aid and attendance allowance to any veteran who is totally blind with 5/200 visual acuity or less and who is otherwise entitled to the compensation authorized under subsection (1), (m), or (n) or the intermediate rates thereunder. The BVA's request for this additional allowance is based on the obvious fact that one must see danger in order to avoid it. Often, the first indication of such danger to a blind person is too late-for instance, wet leaves, grease, ice spots, poorly marked excavations and obstructionswhen the veteran has already fallen and sustained bodily and serious injury.
It is a well established fact that, due to his disability, the blinded veteran is immediately cut off from eighty-five nercent of the means of communication and knowledge which sighted people enjoy. The blind person needs assistance in finding a restaurant table, reading menus, locating street addresses, entrances to
buildings, and in many other activities of his daily life. In addition, blindness must be considered a multiple, not a single, disability. Although a blind person may have both hands, his use of them is limited when one of them generally is given over to handling a cane or a guide dog; when he is being temporarily assisted by a sighted person, one hand is used for the cane, the other is on the arm of the sighted person.
For these reasons, all due to the veteran's service-connected blindness, the Blinded Veterans Association feels that the increased allowance as provided in H.R. 13597 is essential in order that the blinded veteran would be compensated for the expenses he incurs for aid and attendance in his everyday activity. Thus, we respectfully ask Congress to take action on this legislation during the present session.
Our final request is to urge legislation which will provide that the disabled veteran's automobile allowance grant provisions be extended to all disabled veterans in a manner similar to that which prevailed in World War II and without regard to the veteran's having incurred his disability in either a combat or non-combat action. We believe that this oversight was not the intent of Congress when the law was enacted.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say how very appreciative the entire membership of the Blinded Veterans Association is for the dedicated service and highly important contribution the members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee have rendered to the American veterans. There can be no doubt of the tremendous debt we owe you. We sincerely hope that Congress will act favorably on the legislation we have recommended, legislation which we believe is urgently needed at this time. Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today.
1971 NATIONAL CONVENTION-RESOLUTION No. 12
Whereas, the sense of hearing becomes the principal avenue of information for a blind person; and
Whereas, impaired hearnig in combination with blindness compounds problems incident to the pursuit of vocational, social, and recreational activities ; learning; communication : orientation and mobility : and other daily living skills; and
Whereas, except for a few statutory provisions dealing with loss of hearing in combination with loss of sight, the Veterans Administration Disability Rating Schedule assigns percentages of disability for hearing loss occurring in blinded veterans as if such hearing losses occurred in individuals with normal vision; Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Miami Beach, Florida, on August 7, 1971 and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs to take appropriate action to revise the current method of rating impaired hearing in combination with blindness for disability compensation purposes in order to eliminate current inequities in the disability rating structure.
1971 NATIONAL CONVENTION-RESOLUTION No. 28
Whereas, the use of a prosthetc hand or a prosthetic leg can be managed more efficiently by an individual with normal vision; and
Whereas, loss of the tactile sense caused by an artificial hand or foot is considerably more handicapping when it occurs in combination with blindness, thereby depriving the blind individual of essential contacts with the environment; and
Whereas, the use of an orthopedic cane to assist a blind person who has lost a leg deprives him of the use of a long cane as blindness mobility tool; Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Blinded Veterans Association in convention assembled in Miami Beach, Florida, on August 7, 1971, does hereby respectfully request the Congress of the United States to amend Section 314 of Title 38 of the United States Code to grant compensation under Section 314 (o) for loss or loss of use of a hand or leg when it occurs in combination with blindness.
Mr. SCHNAIR. Now, the main point we wish to stress, is the disability compensation rates, and there is no question about it, that the 10-percent bill is not adequate enough, especially for those, the severely disabled veterans.
In many areas where the minor or moderately disabled can do things for themselves, those with major disabilities have to buy those same services in every area, practically, that they operate; they are limited, at best, in what they can do to look after their own physical needs or assistance in different areas.
As an illustration, take the case of a blinded veteran, a normal person can just leave this building, go outside, get a car, public transportation or anything he wishes, but a blinded veteran does not enjoy that privilege. Similary, if he goes into a restaurant for a meal or something like that, he cannot go to a cafeteria and pick up a sandwich or something of that nature, but he is obliged to go to a restaurant because somebody has to get a seat for him, read the menu, bring the food, tell him what the check is and things of that kind.
Now I could multiply that by many, many areas. Still, he has to pay out of his compensation for those particular services that are a direct result of his disability. Ten percent will never cover that because, as we all know, a gratuity for any service that anyone gets is from 15 percent minimum upward.
In order to correct that situation, we have also asked for legislation, which has been introduced, to extend the privileges of paragraph (R) for aids and attendants to all complete and totally disabled blinded veterans. We think that particular provision is long overdue and should have been recognized from the very beginning.
He, of all the disabled persons, is most mobile in a sense, but it is that same mobility that hampers him where he has to have assistance on the outside or it may sound contradictory, it is not, because we do live in a sighted world, and all around him everything is geared for sighted people; “use other door," "elevator not working," "out for vacation," "danger," "obstruction ahead," or what have you, he is not aware of anything until he comes in contact with it.
As a matter of fact, every step he takes, and he knows it may be his last. And, in many areas, he feels a strong need for attendants, which he should have. But, out of his compensation, he cannot afford it. That is why we feel that those benefits of paragraph (R) should be extended to him.
Similarly, coming back to that same 10-percent increase, unlike in other areas-medical expense for his dependents is not borne the Veterans' Administration. If there should be any kind of medical expense, especially one of a major medical nature, he goes into debt to a great extent.
As someone pointed out before, I believe the World War I people, people on welfare get that extended to them, none of us severely disabled veterans get those privileges extended to them, and that should be taken into consideration.
One other point we would like to make, is on "DIC” benefits. With the stress and strain of everyday living, and we read about it all around us, we develop all kinds of conditions, heart conditions, ulcers, nervous tension, we feel every severely disabled veteran, in one form or another, to a larger or lesser degree, has to contend with those things in everyday living, still when he dies it is not presumed to be service connected, and we feel rightfully it should be.
In part of our written testimony, we point out what our neighbors in Canada do. If a veteran who is service connected to the extent of 50
percent or more dies, there is no question whether it was service connected or not; his dependents are automatically entitled to DIC benefits. They go a step further, and I think it would be well to adopt it in all areas, that is, instead of the amounts of monetary benefits being cut down, the widow continues to receive the same monetary benefits that were given to her deceased husband for a period of 1 year, which we think is only fair and just, for the simple reason that at a time when she needs more money, we do just the opposite, we give her less.
She should have an adjustment period. What they also do is that the dependent children get twice the amount of whatever their allotment was, and that helps to a certain degree.
Now, we feel the increase in compensation should be in excess of 10 percent. We should get paragraph (R) for aids and attendants and DIC benefits should be extended.
There is one other area that we think should be looked into; namely, the rate for a blinded veteran in combination with the loss of an arm or leg. We don't seem to realize when one has to direct an artificial arm or leg, one has to see where to point it in order to pick up an object. They cannot have that.
Still, they are rated exactly the same as the sighted person would be with a similar disability; namely, an artificial arm or leg. The same mistake is made in the case of hearing. The blind sense is sight; the blinded veteran is deprived of that; still
, his hearing, in combination with blindness, is rated the same as it would be for a sighted person.
We think it is a simple matter of recognition that he cannot be rated in the same way because he cannot fall back on his sense of sight. He must depend on those other senses that he has. Therefore, we say those things should be reviewed differently and liberalized.
We have other things we would like to bring up, but I am sure others will develop it, so we wish to thank you for your courtesy, and will be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Mr. Schnair.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. Mr. Schnair, thank you for a very helpful statement. I know that only those who have suffered the impairment of blindness know what loss of sight means, and how it affects their lives economically and socially. I am sure the Veterans Administration and this committee want to try to restore to the veteran as much as possible his normal life in society. Your statement is very helpful and we will look a these recommendations carefully.
Mr. SCHNAIR. Thank you.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a request, if you please, sir.
An earlier witness, Mr. Langer, testified for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I was discussing with him the area of similar eligibility criteria for benefits for Vietnam era veterans, and World War Two and Korean conflict veterans. I request that we leave the record open so that he can expand on it for the benefit of the committee. Mr. Dorn. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(The following additional statement was later submitted by Paralyzed Veterans of America, and placed in the record as ordered :)
PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA,
Washington, D.C., May 24, 1972.
Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. DEAR CONGRESSMAN DORN : In accordance with the Committee's request, I am pleased to submit this additional statement incident to the testimony presented before your Committee on Tuesday, May 23, 1972. It would be sincerely appreciated if this could be made part of that testimony.
At the time of our presentation, we were questioned on that part of our testimony which declared that veterans of the Vietnam era are being discriminated against in benefits available to them as compared to those benefits available to veterans of World War II; the Korean Conflict; post-Korea, and the so-called peacetime periods in between. These discriminations occur in the areas of education; vocational rehabilitation ; loan guaranty ; automobile grant, and hospitalization and pension benefits for those who were severely disabled after their honorable discharge from service.
In the area of education, I believe the Commitee has already recognized the discrepancies and is in the process of remedying them in legislation now being considered.
Chapter 31 of Title 38, United States Code, provides that veterans who served between July 26, 1947, and June 26, 1950, and those who served after the Korean Conflict, including Vietnam veterans, must have a service-connected disability of 30% or more, or prove that their disability is such that they have a pronounced employment handicap, in order for them to be eligible for vocational rehabilitation benefits. World War II and Korea veterans did not have these two restrics tions to contend with.
Chapter 37, Title 38, provides that any veteran under this chapter who has served a total of 90 days and was discharged, released, or retired under other than dishonorable conditions, may be entitled to a home, farm, business, or insured loan, except if his service is after January 31, 1955. Under the latter circumstance, the veteran must have at least 181 days of active duty, and then his eligibility extends only to the home loan.
Chapter 39 of Title 38 states, in effect, that if a veteran meets all other requirements, and was on active duty at the time he incurred his disability, he would be entitled to an automobile grant. If service was after January 31, 1955, then the disability must have been incurred in line of duty as a direct result of the performance of military duty.
Title 38 provides that a veteran who served during the so-called peacetime periods, and who suffers total and permanent disability after his discharge from service, is not entitled to pension benefits, and is on lowest priority for hospital care. Further, after his discharge from the hospital, he is not eligible for the issue of drugs, medicines, or prosthetic supplies. It is the contention of this organization that “peacetime” has been an ephemeral thing for the military forces of the United States during the past twenty-five years, and should be struck entirely from Title 38.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me this opportunity to add to my previous remarks. If you have any further questions, I would be only too happy to discuss these matters with you or a member of your staff. Respectfully submitted.
ALAN S. LANGER,
National Service Director. Mr. Dorx. Thank you very much, Mr. Schnair. I see that Mrs. Hicks, one of our lady Members from Boston, has come in, and we will now hear from her. Mrs. Hicks, you go right ahead.
STATEMENT BY HON. LOUISE DAY HICKS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mrs. Hicks. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before the distinguished Subcommittee on Compensation and Pension to give testimony in support of H.R. 14736 which I introduced on May 3 of this year. It is my honer to serve on the Veterans'