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STATEMENT OF HON. PHILIP E. RUPPE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. RUPPE. The young men who have served and who are serving in the war in Vietnam have every right to receive the same benefits as veterans of Korean or the major wars. Any man who endures an armed conflict of this nature is, by anybody's description, a veteran. It is an oversight that these men have not been afforded true veteran status before now. They have endured hardship and dangers certainly as great as Korea, and there is absolutely no reason why Vietnam veterans should be denied the benefits that veterans of the other wars have received.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you so much for your statement, Congressman Ruppe. We will now hear Congressman Cramer, of Florida. You proceed, Mr. Cramer.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM C. CRAMER, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. CRAMER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am most appreciative of this opportunity to testify in behalf of my bill, H.R. 5278, the purpose of which is to liberalize the veterans' pension program (1) by permitting the waiver of certain retirement or annuity payments, (2) by increasing income limitations applicable to the payment of pensions, and (3) by increasing certain monthly pension rates.
H.R. 5278 embodies the proposals and provisions of the veterans' pension bills I introduced in the last Congress and on which I had the privilege of testifying before your committee during last year's hearings on non-service-connected pension legislation. I
was particularly glad to learn of the early date set for hearings on proposed veterans' pension legislation. I am hopeful that by holding early hearings the committee will have a greater opportunity in this Congress to more fully study all proposals presented for its consideration and that the result will be the reporting out of a bill which will come far closer than last year's to providing desperately needed relief for our veterans, and their widows and dependents. The so-called cost-of-living increase bill presented for House action in the last session was, in my opinion, pitifully inadequate.
There is an urgent need for this Congress to approve a strong, effective bill and I hope that included therein will be provisions such as I and many others have proposed to provide needed increases in pension rates, to permit the waiver of certain other income that will reduce pension rates, and to permit higher outside earnings without loss of pension. Viewed with the ever-increasing cost of living—which always hurts most those restricted to and dependent upon fixed incomes—to do less is to burden our veterans with the cost of the present administration's inflationary fiscal policies—the price of which they can ill afford.
To expect our veterans to meet today's living costs with yesterday's pension rates—in effect to lower their standard of living—is cruel ingratitude.
I know of no greater debt this Nation owes than to those who served in the wars of this country to protect the lives and preserve the freedoms we cherish and enjoy. To the veterans of this Nation, who valiantly and unselfishly risked their lives and suffered irreparable losses, and to the widows and dependents of those who made the most supreme sacrifice, we owe not only gratitude but the responsibility to provide all those in need with adequate benefits and compensation to permit them to afford life's necessities with dignity and self-respect.
My bill, H.R. 5278, is aimed at alleviating some of the most glaring inequities in our veterans' pension program, beginning with the unreasonable and unrealistic outside earnings limitations which constantly threaten to further reduce a veteran's pension.
My bill would first rectify the reduction in veterans' pensions—and in many instances loss of pensions—unjustly resulting from the 1965 increase in social security benefits. The inequity of this situation is readily apparent-when a source of income other than his veterans' pension is increased, the veteran is penalized with a reduction in or Ioss of his veteran's pension. My bill would permit a waiver of such out earnings to prevent a loss of pension.
In addition, H.R. 5278 would increase the pension rates payable under Public Law 86–211. As the committee knows, many veterans chose to remain under the old pension law, in effect prior to june 30, 1960, because of the more favorable outside earnings limitations. The increased rates of pension I propose are enumerated in the bill and I therefore will not list them again here.
My bill proposes a further remedy to accomplish the objective of increasing pension rates under Public Law 86–211 by increasing the amount of outside earnings permitted before the veteran, or widow or dependent of a veteran, suffers a reduction in pension rates. My bill proposes to increase the earnings limitations to $2,100 (from $1,400) for an unmarried veteran, or a widow without child; to $3,400 (from $2,700) for a married veteran, or a veteran with minor children, or a widow with children; and to $3,600 (from $1,200) on the total earned income of a veteran's spouse, after which amount the spouse's income shall be considered as the income of the veteran.
H.R. 5278 further would increase the pension rates payable under Public Law 88–664, effective July 1, 1960, by permitting those receiving benefits under this law to earn increased outside earnings without suffering pension deductions. As we are all aware, the major difference between the “old” and the “new” pension systems is based upon income. Under the "new" system, the less income a veteran has the more pension he will draw; the more income he has, even though still eligible for pension payments, the less monthly pension he will draw. The need to increase the amount of outside earnings under the “new” system, and thereby increase pension rates, is obvious.
This provision of my bill would increase the outside earnings limitations for an unmarried veteran, without dependent children, from $600 per year to $2,400; for a married veteran, or one with dependent children, from $1,000 per year to $3,600; for a widow, without children, from $600 to $1,800; and for a widow, with one child, from $1,000 per year to $2,400. Further increases would be provided for additional children. The bill would also increase from $1,200 to $3,600 the amount a spouse may earn without affecting the veteran's pension.
A final, and most important, provision of my bill would authorize the furnishing of outpatient medical services to veterans of World
War I. Our World War I veterans are presently excluded from receiving such services and the correction of this inequity is long overdue.
In conclusion, I once again respectfully urge the committee to approve a strong, effective veterans' pension bill and I sincerely hope that my recommendations submitted today will assist the committee in realizing this goal.
Mr. DORN. Thank you so much, Mr. Cramer. We appreciate hearing from you and the other Members who were able to come in this morning. There are a number of other Members who introduced bills related to the subject of these hearings who were unable to appear personally for various reasons, but who have asked that their statements be printed in the record of these hearings. Accordingly, I ask unanimous consent that their statements be included at this point in the record in the order of receipt.
(The statements referred to follow :)
STATEMENT BY HON. MARTHA W. GRIFFITHS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN Once again, I urge the Committee to recommend legislation providing that monthly social security payments shall not be considered as income in determining eligibility for veterans' pensions. My bill H.R. 647 would do just that.
Surely Congress cannot much longer maintain the posture it now takes on the relationship between social security payments and veterans' pensions. In one breath we declare very firmly that veterans' pensions are based on financial need and that a single dollar of income, from whatever source, reduces need. In the next, we fall over one another in our rush to assure the public that, should social security benefits be increased, we will amend the law so that veterans' pensions won't be cut.
The fact is that many thousands of people need both sources of income, in their entirety, to live at all decently. It's time we stop trying to sidle up to the truth, to only half-acknowledge it.
Furthermore, both social security and veterans' benefits have been earned, earned in separate and quite distinct contributions to this nation. I fail to see how the level of benefits in one program can reasonably be tied to the level of benefits received from the other. Certainly, social security payments are not reduced if the beneficiary also receives a civil service retirement pension, or a municipal pension, or dividend income, or any of a number of other forms of income.
May I ask the committee to give very serious consideration to my bill H.R. 647.
STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE PETER N. KYROS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF MAINE
H.R. 6020 provides increased pensions for veterans with non-service-connected disabilities and for their dependents, as required by President Johnson in his recent message. The increases are modest, in view of the present size of pension payments and the rising cost of living. In fact, proposed increases reflect the five and a fraction percent rise in the cost of living since January 1, 1965, when pension rates were last adjusted.
It has become increasingly difficult for veterans and their dependents to support themselves on pension payments. Given the present level of pensions, scaled to annual income, a veteran with no dependents and annual income under $600 receives $1200 per year from the V.A. Twelve hundred dollars provides a minimal standard of living for this man who served his country in time of need. H.R. 6020 would provide this deserving veteran with an extra $48 per year, an amount which becomes significant in proportion to the payment he now receives. For the 870,000 veterans presently living on pensions, the increased rate proposed by H.R. 6020 would total $45,400,000 in the first year.
The widows of America's veterans deserve their nation's consideration as well. At present, widows of veterans of wars before World War I, providing they are 70 years old or older, receive $780 per year in pensions. The additional payment of $48 per year, as provided by H.R. 6020, would constitute a badly needed increase for 52,000 widows, and would cost $2.5 million the first year.
Widows of more recent wars receive pensions based on their annual incomes, and independent of their ages. Under the payment schedule now in effect, a widow with annual income of less than $600 receives a total of $768 in pension payments. Again, the $48 increase, while not much, would help. Increasing pensions for the 600,000 widows now on the rolls would cost $25.7 million in the first year of operation.
H.R. 6020 provides an increase for children of deceased veterans whose mothers are not eligible for pensions. For one child, the bill would raise monthly pension payments from $38 to $40. For each additional child in one family, pensions would increase from $15 to $16 per month. This phase of H.R. 6020 would benefit 240,000 needy children, and cost only $8.7 million.
Total cost of aiding 1,760,000 disabled veterans, widows and children of veterans by increasing their pension rates would be $82,319,000.
The final provision of H.R. 6020 proposes exclusion from computation of annual income any and all future increases in benefits from a Federal retirement program. This provision would eliminate an injustice which has occasionally deprived veterans and their dependents of portions of their income. In these unfair situations, pension receipients have suffered a net loss of aggregate income because an increase in their pensions from non-VA sources has made their annual incomes exceed the maximum permitted for receiving a veterans' pension. If the social security increases recommended by the President are enacted, this waiver provision would result in additional pension expenditures to 271,000 beneficiaries of $42 million the first year, assuming the waiver goes into effect July 1, 1967.
The intent of H.R.-3777 is to eliminate the present discrimination against veterans of the Viet Nam era and to provide for the equalization and continuity of veterans benefits now and in the future.
A major inequity at present lies in the denial of pensions to Viet Nam era veterans and their dependents for non-service-connected disability and death. It should be pointed out that few individuals with accredited service during the Vietnam Conflict will have immediate need for these pensions. However, it is only proper to provide for the future disabilities of veterans of Viet Nam, just as this country has for veterans of all earlier wars.
Since 1917, compensation for service-connected disabilities has been paid at a different rate for wartime and peacetime veterans. Although this principle appears sound, payment of compensation at the prescribed 80 per cent of wartime rates is unjust to veterans of Viet Nam, for they are serving under wartime conditions just as surely as those who served in Africa, Italy and the Philippines in World War II. Eliminating this inequity would benefit 35,000 veterans and would cost only $7,365,000 in the first year.
H.R. 3777 also provides certain medical benefits for veterans of the Vietnam Conflict. These benefits include the presumption that an active psychosis developing within two years of discharge will be deemed to have occurred in service, and include the provision of drugs and medicines prescribed for non-service-connected conditions, and various other somewhat minor medical provisions. As with other benefits provided by the present bill, veterans of Viet Nam deserve equal treatment with veterans of earlier wars. Cost of the medical provisions of H.R.-3777 is estimated at $1,900,000.
Another provision would guarantee at least the minimum justice our nation can provide for Viet Nam era veterans by giving them equal rights to funeral expenses and American flags for the caskets of those who sacrifice their lives. In the first year, such burial expense for 2,600 servicemen would cost approximately $657,000.
The final provision of H.R.-3777 deal with assistance for disabled veterans to purchase specially equipped automobiles. As in past wars, men who have lost limbs in the service of their country deserve every aid to restore their mobility. H.R.-3777 would provide $1,600 toward the purchase of an automobile for veterans disabled during active duty anytime after January 31, 1955.
H.R.-3777 is more comprehensive than other legislation you will consider in regard to veterans benefits in that it will provide such benefits for veterans of both the Vietnam Conflict and “the period beginning on the date of any future declaration of war by the Congress and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or concurrent resolution of the Congress." This definition of a “period of war” would provide the continuity of wartime benefits for veterans as I mentioned earlier.
This bill also differs from other legislation in that pensions for Viet Nam veterans would be made retroactive to January 1, 1967, rather than at the start of fiscal 1968.
I believe this legislation, H.R.-3777, effectively fulfills an intent to provide a continuity and equalization of wartime benefits for veterans and corrects the inequities of the current bill.
STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE ARNOLD OLSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF MONTANA
Mr. Chairman, I want to express my gratitude to the members of the Committee for allowing me time to present my views on the subject of pensions and added benefits for Vietnam Veterans. As you know I have introduced HR 4511 which would, I believe, take care of the many problems of the needy and disabled Veteran and his dependents.
I am convinced that the conditions under which our troops are serving fully justify the extension of wartime benefits as comprehensive as those accorded Veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict.
In his message to Congress on the 31st of January, the President recommended a legislative program to remove many of the inequities that exist in the benefit program for the Vietnam conflict Veterans. These recommendations included : (1) disabled compensation and dependence allowance for service connected disability Veterans at wartime rates : (2) disability pensions for Veterans and death pension for widows and children: (3) extension of special medical care, including medicines and drugs for severely disabled Veterans on the pension rolls; (4) $1600 toward the purchase of an automobile for Veterans with special disabilities: (5) increasing the minimum and maximum group life insurance coverage : and (6) increasing the maximum educational assistance allowance for Veterans without dependents from $100 to $130 per month.
Concerning provisions for on the job training, I want to urge the Committee to give this serious consideration. These Veterans must be given the right to choose a program to prepare themselves for life in the competitive economic community. On the job training is a well-established and well-accepted means of acquiring a skill. The fact that many Veterans desire this type of training is established by the experiences with World War II and Korean conflict Veterans—1,662,500 chose this method of adjustment.
Consideration must be given to the educational assistance allowances for institutional or cooperative training under the Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1966 (Public Law 89–358) recognizing that it was not the intent of Congress to have the assistance allowance cover the total cost of the Veterans education under the original GI Bill, the Korean GI Bill, or under the latest act. In terms of total cost of education in an instituation of higher learning, however, the payments given earlier Veterans compared favorably. This cannot be said of the rates of $100 for a Veteran without dependents, $125 for a Veteran with one dependent, and $150 for a Veteran with more than one dependent, now authorized under the 1966 Act. According to conservative estimates of the Office of Education, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, from the 1952–53 school year to the 1966-67 school year, total educational costs at the college or university level increased by 45 per cent in public institutions, and 61.5 per cent in private institutions. This source also informed us that these costs are increasing at the rate of about 5 per cent a year. Yet, the allowances provided under current law are less than were authorized in 1952.
A lack of comparability of educational assistance under existing legislation is in the formula for computing the period of entitlement. Under the WW II GI Bill, entitlement was computed by adding one year to the period of active service