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experienced loss of earning capacity through service to their country.
PVA does feel that this is an appropriate time to address its concerns on compensation and on dependency and indemnity compensation. The full House has only recently discussed questions of national economic policy. Reports indicate an increase in inflation rates and the possibility of a harmful recession.
With that in mind I would like to highlight certain aspects of the complete statement.
The last two Congresses have enacted legislation which set varying rates for different groups of veterans for compensation benefits. PVA is concerned that such a precedent will be carried into other areas of veterans' programs, especially by those who would further restrict veterans' benefits under the guise of fiscal restraint.
There is a concern, in the fragmentation into different groups of veterans.
Also PVA strongly opposes any offset of compensation benefits, such as recent proposals regarding social security payments. Compensation benefits, as has been discussed earlier today, were and continue to provide for a specific purpose, the loss of earning capacity of the disabled veterans.
One final concern is the presumptive period for certain neurological disorders.
PVA is grateful to Members of Congress who have introduced legislation to recognize a presumptive period for service-connection for veterans who have experienced certain neurological disorders.
We would ask that the existing 7-year presumption for multiple sclerosis be extended to a small number of veterans who have experienced syringomyelia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, transverse myelitis, or pernicious anemia. These diseases are of unusual origin, usually resulting in paralysis, perhaps caused by trauma or exposure to toxic substances. PVA would request this subcommittee to closely examine the needs of veterans with these unusual and very destructive neurological conditions.
In regard to dependency and indemnity compensation, PVA wishes to express its gratitude for recent efforts to improve this program.
Unfortunately, however, surviving spouses who have spent their time caring for disabled veterans still receive DIC benefits based upon the veteran's military pay grade and not his degree of disability.
The spouse often foregoes opportunities for education, work experience, and other factors of employability to care for the veteran. These factors in turn work against the spouse in any attempts to enter the job market.
This is especially true for surviving spouses of veterans who served in the lower military pay grades. PVA once again, as we have done previously, requests that legislation be proposed to set the DIC rate at a minimum of 75 percent of basic monthly compensation at the time the veteran dies. We feel this is a reasonable request for spouses who have served the Nation by helping care for service-connected disabled veterans.
One final comment, with regard to this program and with regard to some of the discussions that have taken place here earlier. PVA, Mr. Chairman and members, is concerned not only about fiscal year 1982 but the implications that OMB has raised for, I guess what you call, the outyears. We are very distressed to see an agreement that the Congress supposedly had made now going into negotiations.
I would submit that Mr. Stockman's position on those negotiations is that he wants a minimum of 100 percent of what he wants, and if he can get more he will take 200 percent.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That ends my statement, and I will answer any questions that I can.
Mr. Hall. Thank you very much, Mr. Mansfield.
Mr. WYLIE. I have had two or three inquiries on the presumption of multiple sclerosis as being service-connected if it is contracted within 7 years after the veteran leaves the service.
Are there bills in on that, do you know?
Mr. MANSFIELD. That is the current title 38 status, and PVA is requesting that that 7-year presumption be extended to these other neurological disorders.
Mr. WYLIE. Under the present law if a person contracts multiple sclerosis within 7 years after leaving the service it is presumed to be service connected?
Mr. MANSFIELD. Yes, sir.
Mr. WYLIE. And what you are saying is that that should apply to any neurological disorder?
Mr. MANSFIELD. Well not any, sir. We indicated four specific ones that do in the end result cause paralysis, either complete or partial.
Also with regard to the, even the 7-year presumptive period, there are cases I have seen that have gone before the Board of Veterans Appeals, where the discovery has taken place after the 7year period, but they have been able to prove that there were signs existing during the 7-year period.
Mr. WYLIE. I got it.
Mr. Hall. I am asking the question for my own information, does that disease lead to a paralysis?
Mr. MANSFIELD. In certain cases, sir. What we are dealing with here is with neurological disorders. Some of them affect the, I guess you might say, below the neck, the spinal cord, as it comes out of the brain, in certain instances you have the, I guess you'd call it, the supply to the brain cells itself, with the blood flowing through capillaries or whatever, in the brain cells themselves, can affect certain areas, including motor areas, or other areas.
Mr. Hall. I knew about the others such as lateral sclerosis and transverse myelitis, but pernicious anemia is one I didn't know would cause paralysis.
Thank you very much for your testimony. We appreciate your being here.
Mr. MANSFIELD. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hall. Mrs. Rosemary Locke, legislative chairman of the National Military Wives Association.
NATIONAL MILITARY WIVES ASSOCIATION, INC.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the National Military Wives Association thanks you for this opportunity to express our views on dependency and indemnity compensation and to ask for your continued support.
Like any program of its size DIC has areas that need improvement. However, in previous congressional oversight hearings suggestions have been made which, if implemented, would virtually destroy the program Congress designed, a program for which military families are grateful.
NMWA's statement will respond to some of those suggested changes.
Many of our members can recall a time when there was no DIC, when families of active-duty servicemen had very little compensation in the event of death or where there were great disparities between the compensation given survivors of Regulars or Reserves.
Congress 1957 enactment of DIC brought some means of security to all widows and dependent children of military members who died of service-connected causes. NMWA asks that you continue to make DIC applicable to all.
Every active-duty service member, whether officer or enlisted, first-termer or careerist, should be assured that should he die while serving his country his dependents will have the protection of DIC.
Obviously, there is no way that survivors can be completely compensated for the loss of a loved one, the loss of the family provider. However, the compensation given that family should be in proportion to the loss. Their standard of living should not have to drop drastically. NMWA is totally opposed to the concept that the survivors should have to prove their "need” for the benefit.
Military service is a unique way of life, not just a job. It requires a 24-hour-a-day commitment to serve when called. Families of service members are required to share in that commitment and the sacrifices required.
Jean Hilsman, NMWA president, and I recently returned from a 2-day visit with families of the 82d Airborne at Fort Bragg. They spoke of their pride in being part of this elite unit which is ready to respond to troubled areas on short notice. They also spoke of the stress this readiness places on families.
Recently two unit officers, in their mid-forties, died of heart attacks during physical training. In another unit a young soldier was killed when his jeep overturned. All of these men left behind wives and young children.
I mention this to point out that death, injury, or shortened life are very much a part of military life in peacetime as well as war. In each situation, war or peace, the service member was performing service or was on call. In each case his survivors need the protection afforded by DIC.
Congress should review this program which is so important to military survivors to be sure that the compensation given is fair and at least equal to that given other Federal survivors.
NMWA thanks you for this year's cost-of-living raise, however, we would recommend that a yearly cost-of-living adjustment be considered. Many older widows have exhausted other financial resources and are primarily dependent on DIC and social security. For them the yearly need to seek a cost-of-living adjustment is a source of real concern, inflation having increased their housing and medical cost dramatically.
Finally, although it may seem a small matter, there is the point of remarriage after age 60. Many DIC widows live lonely lives because they are unable to remarry without the loss of DIC, or they are forced to accommodate to new life-styles which may be morally offensive to them and their children. We ask, again, that you favorably consider legislation which would allow their benefits to continue upon remarriage.
Your support of a strong dependency and indemnity compensation program will also help in the retention of a career force. It will give the additional assurance to service members and their families that you recognize their families' needs and have provided a fair system they can count on.
Thank you for the opportunity to express our views on a benefit which is of such importance to wives and widows of the uniformed services.
Mr. Hall. Thank you very much, Mrs. Locke, for your very short testimony, and to the point. It brings out some very good issues.
One thing that you mentioned, that every active-duty service member, whether officer or enlisted, first-termer or career, should be assured that should he die while serving his country his dependents will have the protection of the DIC. I think that is true now.
Mrs. LOCKE. Yes, it is, sir.
Mr. Hall. I think it is a good program, and I think it should never in any way be altered or amended in any way, and we appreciate your position on that.
The gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Wylie.
I must say that your statement in the fifth paragraph, page 2, about being able to draw, after remarriage, after age 62. Or age 60, I mean. It has some appeal to me.
I am sure you don't have with you a guesstimate or figure as to how many widows that might affect.
I don't know if there would be any way of getting at that. There might be. We might see if there is some figure we could come up with as to a cost estimate on that.
Mrs. LOCKE. I am sorry. I don't have any figures, but it is a source of concern to some widows at that age. Mr. WYLIE. Yes. It has been brought up before this morning. Thank you very much, we appreciate your testimony. Mr. Hall. Thank you very much, Mrs. Locke. Mrs. Jean Arthurs, president, National Association of Military Widows.
Mrs. Arthurs, you may proceed.
Mrs. ARTHURS. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF JEAN ARTHURS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF MILITARY WIDOWS Mrs. ARTHURS. I am Jean Arthurs, president of the National Association of Military Widows.
We are grateful for the privilege of appearing before this committee today to present our views on dependency and indemnity compensation for the surviving spouses who will be affected by this legislation.
To give you a short preview of the DIC widow, dependency, and indemnity compensation is based upon the government's obligation to provide the surviving spouse a support substitution in exchange for the serviceman giving his life for his country.
This means the serviceman was killed on active duty or died of service-connected causes, which indicates the widow coped with the sudden tragic loss of the breadwinner or had been caring for a disabled veteran until his death-and now has been trying to exist on about one-fourth of the basic income.
Monetarily in most active-duty deceased cases it means that the DIC widow is the survivor of a veteran with a shortened lifespan who was unable to accumulate an estate sufficient to provide for his survivors.
Often the surviving spouse of a severely disabled veteran has provided extensive care because of the veteran's disability. The cost of the extensive care often exceeded the allowance for serviceconnected disability which led to many problems, financial as well as psychological.
We have many histories such as the amputee who also suffered a personality change. With the burden of care of the double amputee plus the mental harassment which was so great, the widow developed psoriasis which encompasses her entire body today, from the loss of her hair to the need to wear slippers instead of shoes.
At these hearings I have often heard the state of the veteran, but there has not been a great deal of consideration for the families of these veterans and I thought maybe it would be well to tell you about one.
They, too, have served our country in endless ways and should be credited accordingly.
The primary legislative goal of the National Association of Military Widows is to seek equity among the Federal survivor benefit programs. By Federal we mean the military and civil service, who share the same paymaster and should receive the same equal benefits.
The military survivor benefit plan was enacted in 1972 and it allows widows to remarry at age 60 and retain the SBP annuity. The FECA, the RSFPP, and the social security allow remarriage as a means of permitting the older surviving spouses to live out their lives in comfort and dignity-and legally married, which is very important to their moral standards.
The DIC is the only category of Federal spouses in which they are deprived of benefits if they remarry after age 60. In the interest of equity for all this oversight should be corrected now.