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Statistics show that 79 percent of these survivors are widowed over age 40; 56 percent of them are over age 50, and many are much older and will never have a chance to remarry.
In reality this involves a token number of widows, and at least it will allow them to escape the loneliness of widowhood and live a morally respected life. The cost factor is negligible as so few could find remarriage.
You asked about how many. It might be, we have figures that would say 14 in 10,000 widows over the age of 60 might possibly remarry, sir.
Mr. WYLIE. 10,000 widows?
Surely this Congress has the compassion to pass Representative Whitehurst's bill, H.R. 644, which allows the DIC widow, age 60 and over, to remarry and retain her DIC annuity. It would be a step toward making the DIC program equitable with the other government programs.
It is said that the veterans' programs are to assist the citizen soldier who serves his country in time of peril. If this citizen soldier loses his life serving his country, the DIC benefit is designed to partially fill this void for the widow.
With the scenario it takes to become a DIC widow, and they surely are survivors in the true sense of the word, it is difficult to see how they can survive on a “partially filled void” as indicated.
Similar cases such as when civil servants might accidentally meet their demise in a perilous situation, such as a loss of the submarine Thresher and such as that, under the FECA they receive 55-percent benefit, plus 1 year's pay; the Foreign Service widow receives 75-percent benefit and 1 year's pay plus a few other fringes.
Now this can be adapted in various ways, and I just gave you one ruling on that.
But which are DIC widows only partially endowed, at not more than 40 percent?
DIC is unique in another way. It is the only benefit program wherein the longer the serviceman serves and the higher in rate or rank he attained, the less percentage in proportion the widow receives. We really feel this is an unfair equation.
Being “partially" benefited means that this DIC widow who has so gallantly moved from pillar to post, made do with an inadequate income, tried to educate children properly, cared for an ill husband, is often faced with not only the bereavement but the financial inability to cope with not more than a 40-percent income. If she has a house she can't afford to live in it. The burdens are unending.
"Partially" benefited means the DIC widow must go to work regardless of circumstances. Low pay in the military precludes the establishment of much of a savings account. Wives of military personnel have little opportunity to establish a career for themselves so they are unable to build up a retirement program for themselves. Generally, their age and lack of skills make finding a job almost impossible in this youth-oriented society of ours.
Widows of servicemen who served in the First and Second World Wars are now in their sixties, seventies, and eighties, and they are a sad group. They are facing the hardships of loneliness, of old age, the inability to cope with the spiraling inflation and the fears and uncertainties of a spartan existence.
Condo conversions continue to fill my mail with horror stories. Really, this is a very serious situation as far as the housing of people is concerned.
It is our plea today that this Congress see fit to correct the inequities of the DIC program and place it on equal footing with the other Federal benefit programs.
When Abraham Lincoln stated in his address to the Nation that this country would care for the widow and the orphan, surely he meant on an equitable basis for all.
Thank you so much for allowing me to testify today. I will be glad to answer any of your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Arthurs appears on p. 82.]
I do have some question, though, that a partially benefited income, if you took it to fruition, you would have an intolerable cost attached to it, as I see it.
Now we have spent a lot of money foolishly in this Nation; I know it as you do, too. What Lincoln said we all agree with. But it has been my experience, when you speak of the widows and servicemen in the First and Second World War having these terrible hardships, I get mail from just about every kind and character of human being, and I have had very, very little corespondence from the widows of veterans of the Second World War who are facing the condition that you indicate here now.
I am sure that I have received some, but I don't find all of the horror in my mail that I am sure you are getting from people throughout the country.
Certainly this committee looks upon what you say with every bit of the feeling and compassion, but certainly at some point in time it is a question of being able to take a bill and put through since we have 435 people who vote. It is a question of numbers.
And I dare say that in some of the other areas that we have heard here today, dealing with additional benefits I think there is maybe a time when you could be more, when we could be more persuasive to the other members in getting some of these things across; the times we are in right now, I don't think that we would have that much success, not that that makes it right. That is just a matter of fact representing the tenor of the times.
I appreciate your statement. I am not in disagreement with anything you say. I am just concerned about trying to go forward at this time 100 percent and accomplishing what you are legitimately seeking. Well, I just don't-
Mrs. ARTHURS. Well, Mr. Hall, if I may respond. I have been coming up here for 7 years, and I find that we go step by step, widows. Widows are on the low end of the totem pole, you know. It takes a great deal of effort, believe me, in the Armed Services Committee or any of the Veterans' Committees.
They have had hearings on, in the Senate Veterans' Committee on remarriage after 60, and it was the very service groups, most of them said that there was no money for that, even though it was
such a small matter as about 14 women in 10,000 that could find remarriage.
My point is making these things equitable. Just passing the bill would help, you know, and as far as these women getting remarried, who is kidding who? A woman over 60 remarrying? There just aren't that many, and I am really discouraged to think that the people don't have greater foresight that they couldn't at least pass the bill and they could bring out the equity. Do you understand what I mean?
Mr. HALL. I understand.
Mrs. ARTHURS. Now the other thing about your mail, receiving letters from widows. Sir, I have worked with widows all these years, and I will be the first to admit they are their own worst enemy. They lack confidence for the most part, or you will find some that will just bore you to death and call up all the Congress
I really discourage their calling you people on the telephone. I do suggest they write postcards if they can. Then they will call me up and they will say, do you think it's all right if I can put this on a postcard, and you tell me what to say.
I say, I am not going to tell you what to say on that postcard. If you don't know what your situation is then don't ask me to tell you. But they should be writing cards, but they have a fear of this.
People, women as they get older, sir, they lack confidence, and when it comes to writing to the heeler of the people out in the boondocks, I get the craziest correspondence from people out in the, well, what I, maybe you don't call them boondocks, but out in the other areas, and they really don't know quite how to approach the thing. They need somebody to take care of them.
You know, you've had a husband for so many years, and then all of a sudden he is gone, and it takes a pretty strong person to pick himself up by his bootstraps and carry on, you know.
Mr. HALL. You are very convincing.
Mr. WYLIE. You didn't mean Columbus, Ohio, when you said boondocks, did you?
I respectfully disagree, though, about people who get around 60 or 62 or 65 not being willing to write. When there was some talk about reducing the benefits of social security from 80 percent to 55 percent for early retirement at age 62 I got about 3,000 letters in less than 3 weeks in protest, and I know most of them came from people over age 60, and they weren't all men. So I think if they get worked up enough that they will write.
You say there are 14 widows out of every 10,000 widows, 10,000 World War II widows?
Mrs. ARTHURS. No, that is just a basis. I have a study on aging that I am sorry I don't have with me today, but on this aging study they outline people, and, for instance, men, these veterans groups that were against this remarriage, you know those men go out and marry young women. They don't marry women in their own age bracket.
Mr. WYLIE. They do? I see.
Mrs. ARTHURS. You know, and that really leaves these widows out here on a limb. But if they just would it would help tremendously.
Mr. WYLIE. Well, when you say 14 out of 10,000, we have to start out with how many widows would there be in this category who survive servicemen who are either killed in active duty or died of service-connected causes, and then I think we will have-
Mrs. ARTHURS. Sir, this President's Committee on the Aging, that is not a military organization. And that is just a general statement that they made that came out of their statistics.
Mr. WYLIE. OK. We will try to find out how many that actually translates into.
Let me ask this, just for my own, I should know this, but let us assume, for example, that a woman is widowed, she was married say when she was 24, and at age 40 her husband passes away of a service-connected disability and she is 40, also. She remarries at age 45. At age 50 she is divorced. Is she eligible to go back on DIC at that point?
Mrs. ARTHURS. Yes, sir, if she is receiving DIC.
Mr. WYLIE. OK. This is just for information purposes only, but there is no implication intended that she should
Mrs. ARTHURS. You know when you talk about the equity of DIC I would like to bring out that the Congress has just passed the bill reopening the survivor benefit bill for retired people, and while we are talking about age I do think it is necessary to tell you that you know the majority of those men, it might seem like an inexpensive bill at this time, but with all the young women they are marrying that bill is going to escalate and be very expensive before they get through with this.
Mr. WYLIE. Thanks very much for your excellent testimony, and I compliment you for taking the time out to appear here this morning Mrs. ARTHURS. Thank you. Mr. Hall. Thank you very much.
We will next hear from Mr. Charles Joeckel, assistant national legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans, and he is accompanied by Mr. Arthur Wilson, national service director and Mr. Jesse Brown, chief of claims.
Glad to have you.
LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS;
With your permission I would like to submit the full text of my testimony and summarize for the record.
Mr. HALL. Without objection, it will be admitted.
Mr. JOECKEL. Let me begin, Mr. Chairman, by thanking the subcommittee and the full committee for their efforts with respect to Public Law 97-66, particularly that provision which will allow congressional oversight of any reorganization plan.
1 See p. 86.
In my testimony I refer fairly extensively to the budget, and I think that that subject has been covered in sufficient detail. I am pleased to note that because of your badgering, I guess of the VA, we have found out that the employment losses in DVB will be minimal. We will be a little more reassured about the budget when it finally passes the Congress.
I would like to pay particular attention today to the VA unemployability review. It is one of the topics of today's discussion. Not too much time has been spent on it.
Our organization, which is made up of service-connected disabled veterans, is naturally very interested in protecting the integrity of VA programs. We support the VA's program of ongoing review and evaluation, particularly to protect the integrity of benefits provided to service-connected disabled veterans.
Our concern regarding the unemployability review centers around the point where the VA has gone beyond protecting program integrity and enters an area where the purpose of the review is aimed at tightening up on the program.
Since the program review began the VA has requested copies of individual unemployability ratings which were granted in the field. We know that they have considered plans to review cases of veterans over the age of 60, have considered plans to conduct a second review of those cases involving neuropsychiatric disabilities, and they have a new proposal for a DVB circular.
So far the review, in our opinion, has been a successful one, reviewing approximately 68,000 claims, setting employment controls on 13.2 percent of those which had been lost, reducing about 5 percent of the claims reviewed, which can be extrapolated to mean about 95 percent of those reviews were correctly evaluated.
What we have become alarmed over is the VA's latest proposal for a circular which, in our opinion, is designed more or less to intimidate local rating boards. As we see it the proposed circular provides for examples in claims work to be used somewhat as guidelines to the board for evaluating individual unemployability claims. The examples, in our opinion, are weak, and they fail to elaborate on certain pertinent facts, and it deals with a judgment, the independent judgment of the rating board member.
We don't think that this is a very good tool to use and we would think it would be more or less used as a device to intimidate their professional and independent judgment.
When you look at all of the things that have been done since the code 18 review began last year it would look, considered independently, as routine business by the VA, but when we put the things together it appears to us that the VA has set on a deliberate course to tighten up on the program. We note that in the VA's testimony today they plan to call in not only those cases that were granted but those that were denied.
In our view we don't quite know what the intent of further review is, No. 1; No. 2, we don't know what they will learn from denied cases, although it would seem to show a little more fairness on the part of the VA.
As we see it, we don't think that the Veterans' Administration should be calling claims into central office at all. As I stated