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- - 199, 200
-Subcommittee on Compensation and Pension (See: Compensation and Pen-
Cost estimates, H.R. 4786-
Walker, William H., National Commander.
Walker, William H. (See: Veterans of World War I of the U.S.A., Inc.)
NON-SERVICE-CONNECTED PENSION BILLS
THURSDAY, MARCH 2, 1967
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to call, in room 356, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. W. J. Bryan Dorn (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding:
Mr. DORN. The subcommittee will come to order.
We are meeting this morning to open the hearings on all pending non-service-connected pension bills, as well as those which seek to provide additional benefits for the veterans of the Vietnam era.
The authors of each of these bills have been advised of the hearings, and have been invited either to appear before the subcommittee or to submit a statement.
Without objection, I will insert at this point in the record the text of the bills, together with the President's message of January 31, which indicates the administration's position on the general subect of this hearing.
(Documents to be furnished follow :)
[90th Cong., 1st sess., House of Representatives, Doc. No. 48]
AMERICA'S SERVICEMEN AND VETERANS
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES RELATING TO AMERICA'S
SERVICEMEN AND VETERANS
January 31, 1967.-Referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and ordered to be printed. To the Congress of the United States:
On July 28, 1943, in a fireside chat on the progress of the war and plans for peace, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the Nation :
“* * * the members of the Armed Forces have been compelled to make greater sacrifices than the rest of us * * * they are entitled to definite action to take care of their special problems.”
America has taken that "definite action.” It has responded to the needs of the men and women who have carried the banner of liberty in time of danger.
We have not forgotten the veterans of past wars. At Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry, at Normandy and Midway and at Heartbreak Ridge, these brave men earned an honored place in history. Their sacrifices have brought greater justice and decency to the world.
Today, the members of our Armed Forces are again fighting and giving their lives in the defense of freedom. It is essential that we convey to them-and to all Americansour full recognition and gratitude for their service in Vietnam and in other troubled areas of the world.
Never have we had more cause to be proud of our Armed Forces. When I visited Cam Ranh Bay last October, I could see that the morale of our men was high for they are determined to succeed. Gen. William Westmoreland, their
commander, told me that our troops were the finest the United States had ever placed in the field. We must take “definite action" for them.
Many civilian employees of the Federal Government are also working in the villages of South Vietnam, providing the help that a young nation must have to grow and become strong. These employees are exposed to the hazards and dangers of a war which has no frontline. We must also extend special benefits to them.
I. SERVICE AND VETERANS
In the past 2 years, you in the Congress have enacted and I have signed a series of measures to help honor our commitment to Americans now serving or recently separated from the Armed Forces:
Two military pay raises since August 1965, an average increase of 13.6 percent.
A new cold war “GI bill” to speed the readjustment of returning servicemen through new education, training, medical, and home loan benefits.
An increase in hostile fire pay.
A 10-percent average increase in disability compensation and enlarged benefits for surviving children and dependent parents of those who died as
a result of a service-connected injury. We must now take additional steps to fulfill our obligations to those who have borne the cost of conflict in the cause of liberty.
I propose the Vietnam Conflict Servicemen and Veterans Act of 1967. This important legislation has six major objectives :
First, to remove the inequities in the treatment of veterans of the present conflict in Vietnam.
Second, to enlarge the opportunities for educationally disadvantaged veterans.
Third, to expand educational allowances under the GI bill.
fth, to increase the pen now received by 1.4 million disabled veterans, widows, and dependents.
Sixth, to make certain that no veteran's pension will be reduced as a result of increases in Federal retirement benefits, such as social security.
EQUAL BENEFITS FOR VIETNAM VETERANS
Veterans of the Vietnam conflict should receive benefits comparable to those granted to their comrades of World War I, II, and Korea. Prior legislation has equalized many of the benefits. But, because of certain gaps in the law, today's veteran, his family, and his children are ineligible for a number of benefits other war veterans receive.
It is only right that these loopholes be closed. It is a matter of simple fairness that the veteran of the Mekong Delta and Chu Lai be placed on a par with the veteran of Pork Chop Hill and Iwo Jima. The Senate passed—and my administration supported—such a measure last year.
I recommend that the following benefits be extended to veterans who have served on or after August 5, 1964:
Disability compensation at full wartime rates for all veterans.
Disability pensions for veterans and death pensions for widows and children.
Special medical care benefits, including medicines and drugs for severely disabled veterans on the pension rolls.
$1,600 toward the purchase of an automobile by veterans with special disabilities.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE VETERAN
Since last June, when the new GI bill went into effect, more than 500,000 veterans have applied for education and training benefits. Thousands more are signing up each week. Today, over one quarter of a million returning servicemen and women are preparing for the future and learning new skills in universities, colleges, and technical and vocational schools across the Nation. By the end of fiscal 1968, this number will increase to more than 500,000.
While the new GI bill is less than a year old—and an outstanding successwe can still work to extend and improve it.
Even today, some 20 percent of those separated from the Armed Forces each year-about 100,000 young men—have not completed high school. Many of these young veterans have the ability and desire to better themselves. All too often, they lack the financial means to complete their high school education and enter college.
As a nation, we cannot afford to neglect this valuable manpower resource.
The present GI bill makes no special provision for a returning serviceman who needs to finish high school or take a "refresher course" before he can enter college. In fact, it works in just the opposite way. For each month the veteran pursues a high school education under the GI bill, he loses a month of eligibility for college benefits under the law.
This situation must be changed. I recommend legislation to provide full GI bill payments to educationally disadvantaged veterans so that they can complete high school without losing their eligibility for follow-on college benefits.
We are taking a further step. In recent months thousands of men who would have been rejected for military service because of insufficient educational achievement are being accepted ; 40,000 men will enter the service in the first year of this new program, and 100,000 each year thereafter. Its purpose is to provide the intensive training needed to make these young men good soldiers. Upon the completion of their military service, they will be better educated and equipped to play productive and useful roles as citizens.
I am directing the Secretary of Defense to find new ways to improve this program.
The time has also come to increase the educational assistance allowance under the GI bill. A single veteran pursuing a full-time course receives $100 a month to help him finance his education. This amount is less than the $130 a month paid to the child of a deceased or disabled veteran who may be taking the same courses at the same school.
The veteran going to school is usually older and may bear heavier responsibilities. I recommend an increase in the monthly educational assistance allouance under the GI bill from $100 monthly to $130 for a veteran.
In accord with the present scale of benefits, a married veteran with children receives $150 monthly under the GI bill, regardless of the number of children he has. To help veterans with families who wish to continue a full-time educational program, I recommend that the monthly payment be increased by $10 a month for the second child and $10 a month for each additional child.
These increases in the educational assistance allowance will benefit the more than 250,000 veterans now enrolled in schools under the GI bill.
There can never be adequate compensation for those who suffer the loss of a loved one on the field of battle. We can, however, help ease their financial burden in time of sorrow. Through a combination of social security, dependency and indemnity compensation, and other benefits they are being relieved of much of the economic hardship.
In addition, the 89th Congress enacted a group life insurance program for servicemen. Under this law, a member of the Armed Forces may purchase up to $10,000 in life insurance. The Government pays a large part of the cost.
With the outstanding cooperation of the Nation's insurance firms, this program has worked smoothly and effectively.
We should now raise the limits of coverage. This will provide a further career incentive for the men and women of the Armed Forces as well as added protection for their loved ones.
I recommend an increase in the amount of available serviceman's group life insurance, from a maximum of $10,000 to a minimum of $12,000—with higher amounts scaled to the pay of the serviceman—up to a maximum of $30,000.
This proposal would carry out a recommendation of the Cabinet Committee on Federal Retirement System's. It is in line with the general principle that the amount of group life insurance should be geared to the amount of salary earned. It will provide a substantial amount of insurance for all members of the Armed Forces. And it will permit servicemen returning to civilian life to continue the insurance at prevailing commercial rates, without regard to their physical condition.
VETERANS OF PAST WARS
The legislation I have proposed above primarily reflects the public concern for the welfare of veterans of the Vietnam conflict. But this administration has not forgotten the veterans, dependents, and survivors of earlier wars.
Today, there are about 94 million Americans who fall into this categoryalmost one out of every two persons in the Nation.
The last several years have witnessed dramatic improvements in the range and quality of services and benefits available to our veterans and their families
I have asked for and Congress has approved veterans' appropriation increases of $300 million each year for the past 3 years. Except for the 2 years immediately after World War II, my veterans' budget for fiscal 1968 of $6.7 billion is the highest in history.
Those programs for veterans and their families which have been expanded include
A 10-percent increase in pensions.
A 30-percent increase in subsistence allowance for veterans receiving vocational rehabilitation training. We are also providing the best medical care a grateful and compassionate nation can offer.
Last year more than 740,000 sick and disabled veterans were patients at VA hospitals. Four new hospitals have been opened in the past 2 years. Five more are scheduled to be completed within the next 8 months. With the modernization of six additional hospitals, over 15,000 new beds will be added for disabled veterans during the coming year.
Special medical research is also being pursued in pioneering areas such as organ transplant, chronic lung disease, and dramatically new methods of fitting artificial limbs. This year I have asked for over $46 million to support this vital work.
Nor have we forgotten the veteran who because of disability and age may be in needy circumstances.
We are helping to meet their needs through wide-ranging improvements in the social security, senior citizens, education, health, and children's programs.
I have already submitted a number of those recommendations to the 90th Congress. I will submit others shortly.
Although many of these new proposals will have an important relationship to programs for veterans and their survivors it is important that we do more.
To help meet today's cost of living, we should raise the standard of living for disabled veterans, and the widows and other dependents of deceased veterans receiving pensions.
I propose, effective July 1, 1967, a 5.4-percent increase in the pensions of 1.4 millions veterans, widows, and dependents.
Last week I proposed to Congress a 20-percent overall increase in social security payments—representing the greatest increase in benefits since the act was passed in 1935. Although these increases will benefit millions of older Americans, we must make certain they do not adversely affect the pensions paid to those veterans and dependents who are eligible for both benefits.
Accordingly, I propose that the Congress enact the necessary safeguards to assure that no veteran will have his pension reduced as a result of increases in Federal retirement benefits such as social security.
A COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF COMPENSATION, PENSION, AND OTHER
The proposals I have outlined will, I belive, strengthen our veterans' programs. But we must assure the continuing soundness of these programs.
I am directing the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs, in consultation with leading veterans' groups, to conduct a comprehensive study of the pension, compensation, and benefits system for veterans, their families, and their survivors. I have asked him to recommend to me by January 1968 proposals to assure that our tax dollars are being utilized most wisely and that our Government is meet ing fully its responsibilities to all those to whom we owe so much.
II. CIVILIANS SERVING IN VIETNAM
Among those engaged in the effort to preserve freedom in southeast Asia are civilian employees of agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of State, Agency for International Development, and U.S. Information Agency.
There are no frontlines in Vietnam. These employees are frequently exposed to hazardous conditions. They have suffered terrorist attacks in hamlets, villages, and even in the larger cities. Despite their status as civilians, many have been killed, seriously wounded, or reported missing.