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Historically, the granting of pensions to veterans has symbolized the gratitude of the country they have so heroically defended. Such remuneration is not regarded as a duty payment, for the sacrifices made by our soldiers cannot be measured in monetary terms. Rather it is a tribute to the soldier who has shouldered his country's arms and conquered the challenge to her freedom. Unfortunately, in recent years, the nature of the pension program has changed. Under the present system of income limitations, the veteran must prove his need before he can be awarded his pension; he must undergo the undignified and humiliating treatment which is commonly accorded to persons on the welfare rolls on the assumption that they are trying to cheat the government.
He is in effect made to feel that he is attempting to get a payment which is not rightfully his. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The veteran is a proud man. He has served his country well, his patriotism is unquestioned, his loyalty unswerving. He justifiably feels that he has earned his pension through the agonizing months of battle which he has borne. Yet, after risking his life in defense of his country, he is confronted not with grateful tribute, but with a longer and less rewarding struggle here at home to obtain the pension which he has honorably earned.
It is sad enough that we have made the veteran's pension system into a sort of welfare program. It is lamentable that we force these men to abandon their pride and plead for something which we should give freely in view of the debt of gratitude which we owe them. But it is even more inconceivable that the pensions these men do receive are so paltry-in many cases insufficient for them to exist on. The highest income a veteran can have today and still qualify for a pension is $1800 per year. With his benefit he may have a maximum income of $2316. This is barely above the so-called poverty level, which is adjudged by many to be an extremely conservative estimate in any case, yet it is considered sufficient remuneration by this Nation for its defenders' services. We do not value our soldiers very highly gentlemen, if this is our response to their needs.
Today, the problem of those who live on a fixed income is generally regarded with sympathy. We recognize that many are faced with the necessity of living on a too small pension in a world where the standard of living is increasing all out of proportion to their ability to keep up with it. While increases are made to remedy the problem, often this only creates a worse problem by raising the person to a higher income level at which he is ineligible for the pension he has been receiving. Thus he is actually forced to take a cut in income. This happened to many veterans after the last Social Security increase. It will no doubt happen again if the present pending increases are enacted in some form. Those who are hardest hit by such a rise are the older veterans whose needs are often the greatest and whose incomes, perversely, the smallest. They have been the most notoriously poorly recompensed for their services to their country, yet we cannot say that their sacrifices were any the less great.
Thus the principal beneficiaries of this bill would be the valiant men who fought in defense of our country during World War I. Their average age today is over 71 years; many are infirm and physically unable to work. Yet the nation has seen fit to reward them in a far less generous way for their service, than it has done for any veterans of other wars. They must frequently exist, and I use the word advisedly, on a mere pittance which daily grows more insufficient in the face of rapidly rising inflation. It would be necessary to turn the clock back over a quarter of a century to find a time when the pension many of these veterans receive would supply the funds necessary to meet a “modest but adequate budget.” These men answered the call of their country in her hour of need; we cannot ignore their need now.
It is in view of these facts, Mr. Chairman, that I feel the effect of my bill, if enacted, could only be beneficial. Not only would our older veterans be spared the humiliation of receiving a pension which has come close to resembling a dole, but they would receive a pension more in keeping with their present needs, and they would be spared the worry of a cut in income every time that their other sources of income are slightly raised.
For nearly two centuries the United States has been a great and free nation. We owe that freedom in large measure to the men who have carried our flag into the battle and risked their lives that we might triumph. If we are to preserve the spirit of devotion which has sparked our victories we must be no less devoted to the welfare of our returning soldiers.
STATEMENTS BY HON. A. SYDNEY HERLONG, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C., March 7, 1967. Re H.R. 4725. Hon. OLIN E. TEAGUE, Chairman, Committee on Veterans Affairs, House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I take this opportunity to urge upon your committee favorable consideration of H.R. 4725, a bill introduced by me which would provide to certain veterans of World War I who have been permanently and totally disabled for twenty years or more, even though their disabilities are not service-connected.
I testified before this Committee on this bill last year when it was H.R. 14143 of the 89th Congress. At this time I reiterate what I said then and hope that the Committee can see its way clear to reporting this bill favorably at an early date. Most sincerely,
A. SYDNEY HERLONG, Jr.
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C., March 7, 1967. Re H.R. 4116. HON. OLIN E. TEAGUE, Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I take this opportunity to urge upon your Committee favorable consideration of H.R. 4116, a bill introduced by me which would provide for a special pension for World War I veterans and their widows.
I am sure the Committee has heard ample testimony on this and anything that I would say would be reptitious. These World War I veterans are dying off mighty fast and they've had the short end of the horn for a long period of time. I hope that the Committee sees fit to help them. Most sincerely,
A. SYDNEY HERLONG, Jr.
STATEMENT BY HON. ALBERT H. QUIE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM
THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee. I wish to express my sincere appreciation for the privilege and the opportunity to present my views in support of H.R. 6290 which I introduced on February 28, 1967. This proposal would provide that where the entitlement of a veteran, widow, or child to a pension from the Veterans' Administration is based upon the veteran's having served in World War I, II, or the Korean Conflict, the bene ficiary shall, if otherwise eligible, have the right to elect payment of pension under either the provisions of title 38 as in effect on June 30, 1960, or as amended by the Veterans' Pension Act of 1959, whichever provides the greater benefit.
Gentlemen, I think that you will concur with me when I say that the time is clearly at hand to rectify a distressing state of affairs in which a substantial number of our men and women who served this Nation unselfishly and to the best of their abilities in past times of greatest national threat and danger is penalized under the operations of the dual veterans' pension plans. The penalties and hardships incurred extend to the survivors and beneficiaries of these uniformed men and women as well. Briefly, we are confronted with a situation which finds one existing pension plan well suited to the needs of one person, but simultaneously working a severe financial hardship on another individual. This seems to pose an acute problem for a number of our World War I veterans—too many of whom currently find themselves in less fa vorable financial positions as a result of the veterans' pension provisions that became effective as of July 1, 1960. It would be to the advantage of many such persons to be covered under the terms of the earlier pension legislation.
It is my firm belief that favorable consideration of this measure by the Congress would go far in alleviating the inequities now imposed. H.R. 6290 would allow each eligible pensioner to determine which pension plan most satisfactorily meets his individual or family needs and the freedom to elect coverage under the appropriate pension system. What is more, it provides a measure of flexibility in that it allows for the uncertainties of change in an individual's status by granting him the right, at any time in the future, to convert his coverage to the alternative pension system and thereby be afforded the opportunity to enjoy to the maximum degree those benefits to which an appreciative Nation feels he is duly entitled.
Ī respectively request that the members of this Committee give careful consideration to the merits of the legislation that I have introduced.
STATEMENT BY HON. ROBERT N. GIAIMO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM
THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Mr. Chairman, I am happy to have this opportunity to testify in support of H.R. 2394, legislation I introduced to amend section 501, Title 38, of the United States Code.
My bill provides that under certain conditions service on the Mexican border before World War I may be included in determining whether a veteran meets the service requirements that are prerequisites to the payment of a pension. This legislation would rectify an injustice to those men who served on the Mexican border during the military skirmishes of 1916–1917, and who are denied pension benefits today.
Forty-one years ago this month, Congress authorized the army to recruit up to full war strength in preparation for retaliatory measures against Pancho Villa and his group who had attacked Columbus, New Mexico, killing innocent American civilians. The ensuing campaign against Villa necessitated the Federalization of the National Guard upon the emergency call of President Wilson.
One veteran of this undeclared war described it in these terms:
I'm proud to be a Mexican Border Veteran. We served our country during an emergency call for more troops to protect our border. We served in Uncle Sam's Last Volunteer Army to prevent further raids and bloodshed to the American citizens in our border cities and towns. We served for $15 per month, no bonus, G.I. Rights, Adjusted Compensation, Hospitalization, or Terminal Leave. The only reward was a medal issued by our government for that service . We had no barracks. We made our own camps, lived under the hot sun of the desert, with snakes, scorpions, vultures, prairie dogs, and tarantulas, with poor equipment and food. We served under war conditions and orders. Our ranks grow thin as years pass on, but we are proud we served in Uncle Sam's Last Volunteer Army.
The extreme hardships of this conflict are illustrated in the following statement by another of these unsung veterans who answered the President's call to arms:
These minute men of 1916 answered the call on very short notice and made monumental sacrifices. There was not time for financial arrangements. Many of their families had to resort to charity and help from other services outside of aid from the Federal Government. There were not any Federal allotments at that time. The Army pay was 50 cents a day, hardly enough to support a family back home.
In addition to the very real service these men performed on the Mexican border, their experience proved to be extremely valuable training for our subsequent involvement in World War I. Veterans of the Mexican border clashes were the backbone of the three National Guard Divisions that were landed in France in 1917.
The fighting qualities, the high degree of patriotism and personal sacrifice displayed by these men who served on the Mexican border in 1916–1917, entitle them to the consideration which they receive under my legislation. I cannot understand the unjust discrimination that has been imposed upon these veterans. For over fifty years now, we have ignored the valor of these men who risked their lives to defend our nation.
Mr. Chairman, my legislation helps us—belatedly—to meet our obligation to these veterans of the Mexican Border Campaign. It is my deepest hope that our committee will include this legislation in your recommendations to the whole House.
Mr. Dorn. I am going to call Mr. Stover to the witness stand, and I might say, of course, that Mr. Stover is a young friend of old standing here.
We are delighted to have you, and I say again how much I enjoyed your national convention last year, and the reasonable program presented by the members of your great organization.
You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF FRANCIS W. STOVER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEG
ISLATIVE SERVICE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. STOVER. Thank you very much. I would first like to introduce my companion, Mr. Norman Jones, Director of our National Rehabilitation Service.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before this distinguished subcommittee to present the views of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, with respect to this most important legislation, which proposes to provide additional assistance to veterans, widows, and children, and also will consider Vietnam era bills.
With respect to S. 16 and related Vietnam era bills, the Veterans of Foreign Wars is in full support of this legislation.
Our organization lent its full support to a similar bill, S. 3580, 89th Congress, which was unanimously approved by the Senate and favorably considered and reported by this committee to the House during the last few weeks of the 89th Congress.
Unfortunately, this bill failed to go forward, and died when the 89th Congress adjourned.
Again, the Senate has approved a bill similar to S. 3580; namely, S. 16.
This and similar House bills now before you propose to make veterans of the Vietnamese conflict full-fledged veterans for the purpose of entitlement to veterans' benefits, as administered by the Veterans Administration.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars urges this subcommittee and the full committee to give favorable consideration to the proposal which will make Vietnamese veterans equal to wartime veterans.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, however, has one recommendation with respect to S. 3580 and similar bills introduced in this Congress.
The VFW has long held that all campaign and expeditionary service for which a badge or medal was authorized should be considered as equal to wartime service for entitlement to veterans benefits.
The date of entitlement for veterans of the Vietnamese conflict in S. 3580 would begin for veterans who served on or after August 5, 1964, which, as you know, is the Bay of Tonkin incident, and would end on a date to be determined by a proclamation of the President, or a resolution of the Congress.
There are many veterans who have served in the Armed Forces prior to August 5th, 1964, for which service a badge or medal has been authorized
It has been the recommendation of the VFW that equal benefits for Vietnamese veterans should be extended to include all those who have served in the Armed Forces since the official end of the Korean conflict, which was January 31, 1955.
By selecting this date, all those who served in campaigns and expeditions will be included.
The cold war GI bill which was approved last year by the Congress provides a bundle of readjustment rights and other veterans' benefits to all veterans who have served since January 31, 1955.
Uniformity in the law is a most desirable objective. If all veterans who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States since January 31, 1955, are entitled to the rights and benefits provided under Public Law 89-358, the cold war GI bill, then is it not logical that they be granted full recognition as proposed under the Vietnam era readjustment assistance bills?
As the old saying goes, the Congress should keep away from making fish of one group of veterans and fowl of another.
It is the recommendation, therefore, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that equal benefits for all veterans be extended to those who have served in the Armed Forces since the end of the Korean conflict, and in the same manner and on the same basis as veterans of the Korean conflict and previous wars.
With respect to the pension bills pending before this subcommittee, the Veterans of Foreign Wars was extremely disappointed when H.R. 17.488 failed approval by the Senate during the dying days of the 89th Congress.
The proposed cost-of-living increase in pension rates in that bill, which was reported by this subcommittee, was most urgently needed by the more than 1 million veterans and widows and children who would now be enjoying the increased payments.
Now, this subcommittee is again considering a pension rate increase. The Veterans of Foreign Wars invites your attention to H.R. 506, which, by the way, was introduced in this Congress by the distinguished chairman of this subcommittee, Mr. Dorn of South Carolina, and this bill represents the VFW position on this proposal.
The features of H.R. 506 are similar to the provisions of H.R. 17488. H.R. 506 will provide a cost-of-living increase for the more than 1 million veterans, widows, and children who have had their pension payments eroded by the cruelest tax of all-inflation.
These 'veterans and their survivors are at the bottom of the economic scale, and their entire pension payments are spent on the basic needs and necessities of life. Thus, a small percentage increase looms very large and most important to them.
Please note that the Veterans of Foreign Wars' bill calls for an increase in the income limitations.
Back in 1959, when the Veterans' Pension Act, which we call Public Law 86-211, was approved by the Congress, and which has governed