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Permit a widow in computing her annual income for pension purposes to exclude expenses of the veteran's last illness which she paid prior to his death;
Permit a widow or wife of a deceased veteran to exclude amounts paid for the last illness and burial of a child of the veteran when computing annual income for pension purposes;
Establish for the first time a housebound allowance for veterans receiving benefits under the old pension program;
Increase from $35 to $40 the monthly housebound allowance payable to eligible veterans under the new pension program;
Liberalize the requirements for a veteran to be paid special aidand-attendance allowance by providing that a patient in a nursing home would be presumed to be in need of regular aid and attendance;
Provide that veterans who have attained the age of 65 would be presumed to be totally and permanently disabled for pension purposes; and
Permit the furnishing of therapeutic or rehabilitative devices, medical equipment and supplies (except medicine), when medically indicated to veterans receiving pension based on the need
for regular aid and attendance. I wish to emphasize, Mr. Chairman, that I am still strongly in favor of legislation containing these features and have introduced H.R. 3754 as a companion bill and supplement to the above provisions.
I wish to take this opportunity to commend the President for his recent message to the Congress wherein he called for increased veterans' benefits. His message demonstrated his concern for our older veterans as well as our men now serving in Vietnam. In his message the President stated :
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 per cent increase in the pensions of 1.4 million veterans, widows and dependents.
Last week I proposed to Congress a 20 per cent overall increase in social security payments—representing the greatest increase in benefits since the Act was passed in 1935. Although these increases will ben fit 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.
I share the President's concern and desire that we make certain that the proposed social security increases do not adversely affect the non-service-connected pensions now being paid to veterans and their dependents. I therefore wish to point out that my bill, H.R. 3754, would accomplish this by providing an increase in the present income limitations and I urge that this bill be given your favorable consideration.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, very much, Thad. If there are no questions by the subcommittee members, we will now hear Congressman Halpern of New York, another valued member of the full Committee on Veterans Affairs. Mr. Halpern, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. SEYMOUR HALPERN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. HALPERN. Mr. Chairman, I offer to you and your fellow members of this subcommittee my thanks for giving me this opportunity to precent my views.
I appear before you to urge your affirmative action on two bills which I have submitted, H.R. 5431 and H.R. 5433, and similar bills offered by the distinguished gentlemen from Texas, Mr. Olin Teague, chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, of which I am proud to be a member.
I am also here to stress the need for additional amendments to fill in grevious gaps in current proposals, which ignore thousands of Americans who jeopardized their lives in military assignments, yet cannot qualify for benefits.
It would seem, from present proposals, that we ignore them because they fought at the wrong time in the wrong part of the world.
The word “benefits” is a common colloquialism used in connection with the proposals for our veterans, widows, and dependents. Actually it is a misnomer. "Benefits would indicate a measure of benevolence on our part. Actually, what we propose involves the long-due rights of these defenders of democracy, and their survivors.
H.R. 5431 would provide he same range of benefits given to veterans of previous wars, to those who have served in Vietnam since August 5, 1964, the date of the incident of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Our 600,000 men fighting in Vietnam are as much engaged in as deadly a conflict as any of their brothers, or fathers, or grandfathers who were called to arms in World War I, World War II, and Korea.
This bill would recognize the Nation's debt to these young men by providing disability compensation at full wartime rates for veterans of this conflict, disability pensions for veterans, and death benefits for widows and children, special medical care benefits, including medicines and drugs for severely disabled veterans on the pension rolls. It would also provide $1,600 toward the purchase of an automobile by a veteran with special disabilities.
These provisions are just, as far as they go, but I submit that they do not go far enough when the starting date is limited to August 4, 1964, and the benefits are limited to those who have fought in Vietnam. We leave a broad gap between the Korean war cutoff date of February 1, 1955, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and we ignore other areas of conflict.
What about the men abroad our Navy's aircraft carriers, who convoyed nationalist troops toward Quemoy and Matsu, under the threatening guns of the Communist coastal batteries in 1958? Must we say that because the carriers were not sunk and our men killed, they offered less of themselves than other American soldiers ?
What about the 14,000 Americans deployed to Lebanon in the summer of 1958 ? Were they not as willing to fight for their country, and to die if need be?
The pilots we sent into the Congo late in 1960 and early in 1961 came out safely. But, at the same time, 18 Italian pilots on similar missions were reportedly killed and eaten. Can we say that because
our airmen did not suffer the same dreadful fate, they are less worthy of the benefits we provide for other fighting men?
It is true that we called our men advisers when they went to Vietnam in the early days. It is true that before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, we did not recognize that we were fighting a real, hot war. But 15,000 served in Vietnam in these early days, about 200 were killed and 1,100 wounded. Those Americans deserve no less by way of benefits than the others who have fought for our country.
And finally, even after Tonkin, in the spring of 1965, we sent many thousands of American troops to the Dominican Republic, on a mission of critical importance to the United States. Must they be barred from benefits because their service was in the wrong part of the world?
At present, I am having legislation prepared to fill in the gaps. And I trust that you gentlemen, and the full committee, and the full House, will see fit to take speedy action to approve both H.R. 5431 and the amendments which would recognize our equal debt to those who offered their lives in support of freedom and democracy in the inbetween years and the inbetween places.
My second bill before you, H.R. 5433, and the similar bill offered by Mr. Teague, would recognize the fact that increases in the cost of living have lessened the valve of pensions received by veterans, widows, and dependents of World Wars I and II and the Korean war. The measure would increase by 5.4 percent the pensions received by 1.4 million Americans in these categories.
There can be no question about the need for this change, and I know that you will take the necessary action to speed this measure on its way to final enactment.
Mr. DORN. Thank you, Mr. Halpern. We will now hear our colleague from the State of Florida, Congressman Gurney. Mr. Gurney, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDWARD J. GURNEY, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. GURNEY. The bills which I have introduced concern income limits for veterans and their widows and pension rates for widows. H.R. 2395 and H.R. 2396 call for an increase in the extremely low outside income limits for veterans and widows of veterans receiving pensions and 10 percent raise in the pension paid to a veteran's widow. These bills are not new; I appeared before this committee only last July on behalf of similar proposals. The need today is even greater than it was then.
Prices on all goods and services have risen steadily for the past few years and show no sign of stopping. The people who are hardest hit by this inflation are those who have to live on a fixed income.
They still receive the same amount of money which they have received since 1960, but their money does not buy as much as it did. While inflation soars, the retirees pay for it.
Yet in spite of this situation, the disabled veterans who are no longer able to work and the widows of men killed defending their country still have the same unrealistic limits set on their outside income that they had in 1960.
Among the many letters I have received from constituents about pensions to veterans and widows of veterans, one lady writes:
I am only fifty-five years old and five years from my Social Security. As you know, I get $64 per month and am only allowed to earn $600 a year. A grand total of $1,328 a year. That forces poverty right on your front doorstep.
Another example is a disabled veteran with an outside income of $605 a year from his social security and modest investments, who receives a pension of $75 a month, or $900 a year. His total yearly income then is $1,505. Poverty is also on this veteran's doorstep.
And a veteran with a wife and two children to support, who has a yearly income of only $1,005 from his wife's earnings or other sources, receives only $80 a month, or $960 a year. His total yearly income is $1,965, which is almost impossible for four people to exist on.
H.R. 2396 is designed to ease the burden of inflation for these disabled veterans, and H.R. 2395 provides for widows of veterans. Three income categories are used to determine pensions for veterans and widows of veterans. Those whose income places them in the lowest of these receives the largest pensions. By increasing the limits, those in the lowest levels of each category will be included in the next group below them and hence receive a larger pension.
My proposals are shown in the following table:
$1,000 Present income limit of $1,200_
1, 700 Present income limit of $1,800_
2, 600 Veterans and widows with dependents : Present income lim of $1,000_
1, 600 Present income limit of $2,000.
2, 700 Present income limit of $3,000_
3, 800 Under H.R. 2396 the veteran mentioned above, who has an outside income of $605 a year, would fall within the lowest limits and receive a pension of $100 a month, bringing his yearly income to the far from princely sum of $1,805. This is not too much, but it is better by far than the $1,495 we allow him now.
The veteran with a wife and two children and an outside income of $1,005 would be able to draw $115 a month, for a total income of $2,385.
H.R. 2395 would provide the same benefits for veterans' widows, which H.R. 2396 provides for veterans, and in addition would increase the pensions paid to them. Presently these pensions, at their highest rate, for a widow with children amount to only $80 a month under present law.
The time is long overdue for a reevaluation of these unfair low limits, which force our old and sick veterans and veterans' widows to live on incomes far below our proclaimed levels of poverty.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Mr. Gurney. We will now hear another fine Member from the State of Florida, Congressman Bob Sikes. Bob, you just go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT L. F. SIKES, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA Mr. Sikes. Mr. Chairman, only a few weeks ago President Johnson remarked in presenting his veterans' proposals to Congress, “We must now take additional steps to fulfill our obligations to those who have
borne the cost of conflict in the cause of liberty.” Surely, no group is more deserving of consideration in this respect than the veterans of World War I. These men are in many ways our forgotten veterans; men who fought in earlier wars receive a "pure service” pension regardless of need; veterans of later wars have received education benefits, housing benefits, and other measures designed to help them make up the civilian earning years they lost while defending their country. The veterans of World War I had none of these, yet they gave their contribution to the cause of liberty” in full measure.
In addition to the fact that the benefits they received were generally lower and less inclusive than those provided to veterans of other wars, veterans of World War I have profited less from social security, today's principal form of income maintenance in retirement, than any other group. As Thomas H. Patten, Jr., wrote in the June 1966 issue of Pension and Welfare News, these men "have benefited less from OASDHI and industrial health-welfare and pension plans than veterans of more recent wars either because they did not work in covered employment or worked only a short time thereunder or perhaps retired when benefits were less adequate in one way or another. For these persons, the well-established veterans' pension rationale * * * remains pertinent and defensible * * *.?
Further evidence of the neglect which these men have suffered is provided eloquently by a few statistics concerning their current status. The average World War I veteran today is over 70 years of age. Although some of these aging soldiers may enjoy the benefits of a comfortable retirement, too many live in poverty and need. One official estimate places nearly 10 percent of war veteran families among the ranks of those living in poverty. Many are World War I veterans. Herbert M. Houston, national commander of the Veterans of World War I, estimated in 1966 that a veteran and his dependent under the present pension laws could receive as little as $1,365 total annual income, from pension and social security combined; a single veteran under Public Law 86-211 as amended could draw as little as $1,620 and a veteran with dependent as little as $1,680. Can we, as grateful Americans, consider this an obligation fulfilled to men who have given part of their lives to preserve our heritage? In many States these men could go on welfare and live as well or better than they are living now. But they are proud men. They have served their country, have sacrificed for her, and they feel justly entitled to the pension which the Government pays them in recognition.
To provide that these men and their widows live out their remaining days in the comfort and dignity to which they are entitled is an unpaid debt that we have failed to acknowledge. While they were risking their lives in the trenches of Europe, the country at home was prospering. The years they lost were among the most productive of a man's life, and time lost is not easily regained. We do not put a dollar value on a man's service to his country, but surely a debt so ill paid is a disgrace to the Nation.
It is in order to fulfill this unpaid debt that I have introduced my bill H.R. 4521. Under this bill, a veteran who served for a period of 90 or more days during World War I, was honorably discharged or released from such service, and is not entitled to retired pay, retainer pay, or disability retired pay arising from service in the Armed Forces