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for pension purposes until the individual had received an amount in payments equal to the amount of his personal contributions to them. Effective January 1, 1965, Public Law 88–664 amended 38 USC 503 (6) by striking the recoupment provision and substituting language which permitted the exclusion from determinations of annual income of ten percent of payments received from these retirement plans or programs.
In a decision of February 5, 1946, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs, in response to the question of whether civil service annuity payments should be considered income for pension, said:
"Since, however, it is not only inequitable but not legally necessary that the amount deducted from a civil service employee's salary for the retirement fund and later paid to the veteran in the form of an annuity should be twice considered as annual income within the meaning of Part III, Veterans Regulation No. 1(a), it is believed that the portion of the annuity representing the consideration or cost thereof to such employee should no longer be counted.”
Restoration to law of the recoupment provision, in addition to retention of the 10 percent exclusion, would be equitable and would materially assist those otherwise eligible to pension in making the transition from an employed status to one in which many adjustments have to be made because of reduced income.
We urge favorable action on the amendments proposed in HR 3132.
PERMANENT AND TOTAL DISABILITY DETERMINATIONS
HR 3060 propostes two amendments of section 502 of title 38, United States Code. The first would authorize a finding of permanent and total disability of an unemployed veteran on attainment of age 65. The American Legion believes that this liberalization of the permanent and total disability criteria will reduce to some extent the cost associated with medical examinations and adjudication. In addition, this amendment would remove an apparent inequity against a small group of unemployed, needy, and aged veterans who have not been able to establish, on medical examination by the VA or by a private physician, the existence of a 10 percent disability. Our conclusion that it would not involve a large number of veterans is supported by the five separate tabulations on disposition of claims by regional offices. The latest, April 1966, discloses that of 9520 denied, 4 age 65 and over were denied disability pension because of a failure to demonstrate a 10 percent disability. This represents less than one-tenth of one percent of the 9520 denied disability pension during April 1966.
Our proposed second amendment of this section would correct the troublesome area related to determinations of entitlement to disability pension of a veteran hospitalized for tuberculosis. VA regulations provide that active pulmonary tuberculosis, not otherwise established as permanently and totally disabling, will be presumed so after six months of hospitalization without improvement. Where, in the application of this principle, it is necessary to employ a waiting period to determine permanence of totality of disability, and a report is received from the hospital at the end of the period that the veteran's condition is unimproved, permanence may be established as of the date of hospitalization. Although payments do go back to the first day of hospitalization when a determination of permanency is made, it does not overcome the fact that the veteran during this period is removed from an income-producing statusin many instances, he may have little or no income. Granting the Administrator the authority to assign a permanent and total rating in these cases would materially aid the veteran in meeting those expenses and obligations which continue during the period of institutional treatment.
RESTORATION OF THE FORMER HOSPITALIZATION REDUCTION PROVISIONS
HR 3059, introduced at the request of The American Legion, would amend 38 USC 3203 to provide that when any veteran having neither wife, child, nor dependent parent, is being furnished hospital treatment, institutional, or domiciliary care by the Veterans Administration, pension shall continue without reduction until the first day of the seventh calendar month following the month of his admission. If the treatment or care extend beyond that date, his pension shall be reduced to one-half, or $30 per month, whichever is the greater. Upon satisfactory discharge from this care or treatment, the amount by which pension was reduced shall be payable to him in a lump sum. Restoration of this language to title 38, United States Code, would remove the distinction in treatment
between those receiving under the new pension provisions and those receiving under the old pension statute.
One of the hardships imposed by the new law is that a veteran, although without a dependent wife or child, may have other obligations (such as a dependent parent) or continuing expenses. Another area of complaint is that on discharge from care or treatment, many are without funds to establish themselves in a community or to meet the cost of drugs and medication or to meet the added costs of staying in a nursing home. In some respects, the new law provision appears to contradict the efforts of the VA and others designed to restore the veteran to the community upon completion of hospital care. We think this is particularly true in the case of the aged or chronically ill veteran.
Mr. Chairman and Members of this Subcommittee, as always, there will be those who resent the distinction given war veterans, and who will decry the expenditure of Federal funds for this purpose. Some will project the costs to the year 2000 or beyond—for some reason, this is not done for the Great Society programs. Bankruptcy of the national wealth will be predicted. Statements will be made that the cost will be borne by a few. These predictions of cost and their effect on the national economy are not bolstered by facts. They fail to consider that increased Social Security benefits in combination with more and more private and public pension plans will bar many potentially eligible from entitle ment because of excessive income. As to the ability of the Nation to bear the cost of a sound and generous veterans' benefits program, comparing expenditures to the Gross National Product will disclose that the percentage of the Gross National Product expended for veterans' benefits has declined from 2.4 in 1949–50 fiscal year to 0.9 for fiscal year 1964-65. There is every indication that it will remain at this figure for the current fiscal period. Of the major income maintenance programs, it is the least costly in terms of percentage of Gross National Product.
Again, gentlemen, The American Legion thanks you for permitting us to appear and to express our views on these two aspects of veterans' benefits.
Mr. GOLEMBIESKI. As you know, when the 89th Congress enacted Public Law 358, it did for the first time establish, for this group of veterans, the Vietnam era people and those who have served since January 1955, many of the wartime benefits that previously had been restricted to those with wartime service.
We proposed in our bills that have been submitted and introduced by those that are interested in this program, that the area be enlarged to include all of the wartime benefits now available to veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean conflict.
With respect to the other subject, death and disability pension, I think the position of the American Legion has been well established in previous appearances before this committee.
And with those remarks, sir, I would conclude our statement.
your statement setting forth the position of the American Legion, but there is something that has disturbed me for some time in regard to the position of our organization.
The American Legion has taken the position that if you served in Vietnam or in the waters of that area any time after August 5, 1964. vou are entitled to become a member of our organization.
Am I correct in that?
Mr. GOLEMBIESKI. A former member of the Armed Forces, not restricted to Vietnam, sir.
If he were a member of the Armed Forces on or after August 5, 1964, he is eligible for membership in the American Legion,
Mr. SAYLOR. All right. Now, how did you pick August 5, 1964?
Mr. GOLEMBIESKI. As you know, the American Legion in the 1964 convention had about 30, I believe, resolutions that pertained to eligibility to membership in the American Legion.
These had a variety of dates, some back from 1955 forward, and the national commander, in the interest of resolving this problem, appointed a committee to study the history of membership in the American Legion, the history of all the campaigns and everything that the Armed Forces of the United States has been involved in since the Korean conflict, and it was the consensus of this study committee that the date of August 5, 1964, would be the most representative of the eligibility criteria for membership in the American Legion, based on the fact that we are an organization of war veterans, and on August 5, 1964, you will recall, in the Bay of Tonkin incident, we went from an advisory-defensive to an aggressive role; that we were fired on, that we returned the fire, and it was on that theory that the committee recommended that the date of August 5, 1964, be selected if these people were to be considered for eligibility for membership in the American Legion.
Mr. SAYLOR. Well, if this committee and the Congress would have taken the same attitude as the group that your national commander selected, veterans' benefits for members of the Armed Services would have started, then, on August 5, 1964.
Now, what would have been your position if we had taken that action?
I can just see you coming up here, or your national commander, telling what a horrible job this committee had done, because people have been in the Armed Services involuntarily, some of them, since January 31, 1955, which was the date that we terminated wartime benefits before.
This committee, that I think has more knowledge of what happens in the military than any committee, and I include the Armed Services Committee, because we not only handle them when they are in the service but we handle them when they are out of the service, and from there on through until they are interred, was determined with respect to legislation already enacted, that we should go back and pick up everybody from 1955 right on down to date.
And it comes with rather poor grace, I am afraid, as far as I am concerned, that the American Legion has taken the position that August 5, 1964, marks the establishment of eligibility in the American Legion.
I would certainly hope that in the 1967 convention somebody will have the courage to get up and see to it that the American Legion follows the pattern of this committee.
I don't think there is any reason for excluding people who were out there but were separated the day before the Tonkin Bay incident.
It just so happens I know a couple of boys who had served in Vietnam and were discharged the day before, and they are not eligible to join the American Legion. It seems to me rather strange that somebody who was there the day before is not eligible to join the American Legion.
Mr. GOLEMBIESKI. I think, Mr. Saylor, there is this conflict in eligibility all the way down the line, even for World War II and World
War I and the Korean conflict, that our cutoff dates for eligibility for membership don't necessarily correspond to the war periods that are used in title 38 for wartime benefits.
This is a strange fact, but they coincide with dates of hostility. Mr. SAYLOR. It seems that the American Legion has set up its own standards as a matter of wartime service.
It seems that the organization would be a great deal more consistent if they followed the dates set up by Congress, rather than their own dates.
Mr. GOLEMBIESKI. I think, Mr. Saylor, that our philosophy is that when the organization was founded, it was an organization dedicated to extinction, in the sense that if we have no more wars, no more war periods, gradually the membership in the American Legion would decline to zero.
But unfortunately, we had World War II, and in the Korean conflict a period of hostilities, and now we are having
hostilities again. Mr. SAYLOR. I was here yesterday to hear Mike Dwyer give us a review of World War I. Xe gave the members of this committee a great lesson in history. It reminded us of some of the things that we might have heard of and that have long since been forgotten, and I think it is true that the American Legion was formed out of the men who fought in World War I, who thought they had made the world safe for democracy:
But if the principles that I have read in the preamble and the constitution of the American Legion are good—and I think they arethen I think honorable service in our military should entitle people to membership in the American Legion.
So it will not be something that disappears because the men who established the American Legion did it because they were the men who fought for freedom and survival.
That battle for freedom is going on today just as much as it ever did. Those who went ashore at Lebanon on the Mediterranean were just as interested in freedom as the boys out there now in the far reaches of the Pacific.
I hope that your organization, that our organization, because I am a very active member in it, will take a new look at it.
I introduced another bill the other day, and while you have not had a convention, and anything that you say as representatives of the American Legion is limited to mandates, I am going to examine and ask you to feel free to comment just as individuals.
This administration was described in the 89th Congress as the most antiveteran administration in history, and suddenly we received a message in which they said they had seen the light. Now they were going to be a great administration in favor of veterans' benefits.
A couple of days after that pious message was received by the Congress, the Army released new criteria on eligibility for burial in Arlington Cemetery.
I happen to be one of those that is in a position to look at the present administration and the Army and tell them, “I told you so," because 10 years ago I saw what was happening in our national cemeteries, that there was not enough room for the men who had fought in our armed services to be buried in the national cemeteries. But the administration then, and all succeeding administrations, have come up to this committee and the House Interior Committee, and have said, “Our policy is that we want to fill up all the cemeteries, and then go out of business except Arlington. We must always have an Arlington.”
I think that you will find that a former Congressman and State commander of the VFW from Texas, Mr. Rutherford, and I, conducted some hearings in this matter and called to the attention of veterans organizations, the Veterans' Administration, and particularly the Army, that there could not always be an Arlington unless they changed the rules and regulations as to who was going to be buried there.
As it stands right now, you probably have seen the new criteria for burial in Arlington: Killed on active duty, high ranking Government officials and medal of Honor holders.
By the way, I think it very interesting to note that my latest inquiry has indicated that members of the legislative branch of the Government are not considered by the Army as high Government officials.
I knew that we were not respected very much by certain agencies of the Government, but I did not know it was quite that bad.
If you became one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, you could be buried, but serve in Congress long and illustriously, and you could not get buried.
The people up in New York have no place to bury their war dead. If you get out here on the turnpike any day of the week, you will see people coming down from New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, to bury their dead in Arlington. Now that has all stopped.
I introduced on the first of this month, 2 days ago, a bill that has been given the number H.R. 6395. It calls for the expansion of our cemetery system to take care of those who were killed in Vietnam.
I wonder whether or not the American Legion might lend its support to that piece of legislation.
I am going to fight to get that bill out on the floor.
Two of the boys that I appointed to West Point lost their lives in Vietnam. I want to know whether we are going to be able to bury valiant men like them in a cemetery close to home, or whether we are going to have to bring them down to Arlington.
I just hope that you might comment, as an individual, as to what you think of that kind of a program, to see what we can do with regard to the cemetery situation.
Mr. GOLEMBIESKI. As you know, Mr. Saylor, I think Warren McDonald, here last year, before this subcommittee, presented the program of the American Legion with respect to the national cemetery system, that we do, as an organization, favor a planned program of national cemeteries, and not the type of system that grew up as a result of the Civil War or one that followed our Armed Forces as they moved from the east to the west coast in pioneering this country.
And the cemeteries that were established are in no way related to the needs of the veteran population, and those who would want to use them. As you point out, because of their geographical distribution, some bodies would have to be shipped hundreds of miles. Some, because the expense is too great, are buried in community cemeteries.
Now, as to whether we would favor the restriction of burial to any one group of war veterans, that I don't know.