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Estimated cost H.R. 4786, 90th Cong. (if amended to cover period beginning Feb. 1, 1955)
Sec. 1: Title of bill.
(Peacetime rate equalization).
to A. & A. cases.
Mr. ROBERTS. I want to compliment Mr. Driver on the staff he has out in the Philippines. Those of us who went out and worked with those people know you have a magnificent group of people. We are very proud of them.
I notice that the Administration recommendation does not eliminate the 10-percent disability requirement for pensions, and this committee eliminated it in H.R. 17488, which was reported and passed by the House last year. Do you have any serious objection to elimination of the 10-percent disability requirement at age 65?
Mr. DRIVER. No, sir. Mr. ROBERTS. I thought your previous statement was that because of the cost of physical examinations, you would possibly save money by eliminating this requirement. Mr. DRIVER. We don't think the cost is significant. Mr. DORN. Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Mr. Kornegay spoke of Cabinet status for the Veterans' Administration, and it has been said that there are too many people in the Cabinet, already, that it would make it unwieldly, and yet, we would want to everything reasonable for veterans.
Would your job be more easily handled if the Veterans' Administration, or the Administrator, was a member of the Cabinet?
Mr. DRIVER. I cannot think that it would, Mr. Scott. It seems to me that it would just naturally be a lot more formal than it is, which would of course take time, as you can imagine.
From an operating standpoint, I cannot conceive of an advantage. I admit that there would be a status symbol attached to it, without any question.
Mr. SCOTT. When you have conferences among your own staff at the top level, how many people do you generally have present?
Mr. DRIVER. About 20.
Mr. DRIVER. Yes, sir. I think if you get beyond that, really, in any number, you get to the point where you are not accomplishing very much in a meeting.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you.
Mr. Dorn. I will call on my good friend from Pennsylvania, Mr. Saylor.
Mr. SAYLOR. Mr. Driver, first let me say that I join with my colleagues in welcoming you here.
I think that you have done an outstanding job as the Administrator of veterans' affairs.
The fact that I think you have done an outstanding job does not remove you from the realm of those that I inquire about. Your change of heart and your testimony this morning. leave me so flabbergasted that I must proceed with a series of questions that have worried me ever since I sat in this room several weeks ago and heard the chairman of the full committee state that we were about to get for the first time in modern history a message from the White House concerning veterans' affairs.
I have before me, Mr. Driver, the hearings of the Subcommittee on Compensation and Pensions, the Committee on Veterans Affairs of the House of Representatives, held in July last year. Most of the members of this subcommittee are the same members who were here
a year ago, and I would like to remind them that we did not call you
In fact, it was not necessary, because beginning on page 4352 of the hearings, and going through to page 4404, are a series of letters which you forwarded to the chairman of the committee commenting on the pending bills. There is a striking similarity in all of the letters, because they contain the following sentence: “I am unable to recommend favorable consideration of H.R. 222."
"I recommend that H.R. 1167 be not favorably considered."
says here that: "Enactment of H.R. 3935 would not be in accord with the Administration's program."
At least it was a change of terminology.
"For the reasons indicated, I recommend that H.R. 1505 and H.R. 1553 be not favorably considered."
"For the reasons indicated, I recommend that H.R. 5677, H.R. 6455, and H.R. 4535 be not favorably considered.”
“I recommend that H.R. 2655 and H.R. 5683 be not favorably considered."
“I recommend that H.R. 4010 be not favorably considered.” "I recommend that H.R. 3364 be not favorably considered." "I recommend that H.R. 7009 be not favorably considered.”
Then, lo and behold, you, we received a letter signed by Mr. Brickfield, for you, and in your absence.
“In view of the reasonableness of the proposal, and the desirability of the equality of treatment, I recommend its favorable consideration by your committee, if amended as suggested." That had to do with the payment to veterans' wives and children.
It came with such a shock that I don't think the committee could even report on it.
And all the other bills, Dr. Driver, that you reported on 8 months ago
-it was recommended that they not be enacted. Then the other day we received a message from the White House, and you are now here before us with great persuasiveness. You telí us that these bills should be enacted.
Now, what has happened from July, 1966, to March 6, 1967 ?
Mr. DRIVER. As someone has said, "Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”
I think that over that whole period that you have been talking about, we were busy making favorable recommendations in other areas.
As the President indicated in his message, in the last 2 years he recommended pay raises for the military, which, of course, results in an increase in the DIC rate for veterans' widows.
He recommended a servicemen's group life insurance program, a 10 percent increase in disability compensation.
He recommended, as you indicated, a 30 percent increase in subsistance allowance for veterans receiving vocational rehabilitation training, a 10 percent increase in pension, a whole range of very positive things.
But, as he also indicated, despite all of this, and despite the other programs for our people that also helped veterans, he feels that we must do more, and I think that this was a very positive step forward.
Mr. SAYLOR. Well, I don't say that it is not, but I want to see the step. I don't just want to see words.
I am concerned, because, you know, last year this committee reported out substantially the same bill. In fact, it went a little further than the President recommended. We reported out and passed, with only two dissenting votes in the House of Representatives, H.R. 17488. In the closing days of the 89th Congress, in fact on the 28th day of September, 1966, you wrote to Senator Long setting forth your views on that bilí.
Now, this bill among other things increased monthly pensions to the Spanish-American War widows. In commenting on such increases,
The standard for the payment of pensions to such widows are already more liberal than those relating to widows of later war periods, and there is no test of need, income limitation, or corpus of estate requirement.
Additionally, widows of earlier wars, to whom this section relates, are, without a child present, receiving a dollar per month more than the highest rate, $64, applicable to any widow of a later war period without a child.
Now, Mr. Driver, less than six months later, you come before this committee, and ask for an increase for this same group of widows.
Now, what happened?
Mr. DRIVER. It is not the same increase, but it may very well be the same group, Mr. Saylor.
All I could say on that, and on all the other features of the bill, is that any one period, when you pass a bill to us for a comment, we have to give you our best judgment at the moment.
At that particular time, we had not a dime in the budget to pay for any of this legislation. We do now.
And I think that we, with good right, could change from one year to the next.
It is a matter of judgment at the time.
Here we come to you with a very positive program, with the money in the budget.
Mr. SAYLOR. Now, Mr. Driver, last year, when we passed one of these pieces of legislation, and it was brought up in the House under suspension, so that there could be no amendments, we had a roll call vote. We did not have a dissenting vote on the floor. When it got to the Senate, and it passed, all 89 of the Senate members voted in favor. When we went to the White House, on the occasion of the signing of that bill, the President commented that the bill went further than he was willing to ask, it exceeded his budget request by $245 million the first year, but that he was politically astute enough to have seen the handwriting on the wall, and if he vetoed that bill, it would be passed over his veto.
Now, my question to you is: When, in the 1967 budget, did you get this increased amount of money that you now refer to? Because that budget, you know, went into effect on July 1 of last year.
Mr. DRIVER. Are you talking about the bill that was passed, or the bill that did not pass ?
Mr. SAYLOR. Îhe bills that were passed, and the bills that you say you now have money in the budget for.
Mr. DRIVER. The bill that was passed—we had to come back for supplemental funds. It was not in the budget.
The bills that we have recommended are in the President's budget. The costs of the legislation we have recommended are in the 1968 budget of the President.
Mr. SAYLOR. Oh, they are in the 1968 legislation, but they are not in the 1967 ?
Mr. DRIVER. Our effective date recommended is July 1, which would make the moneys available.
Mr. SAYLOR. How much have you asked the Bureau of the Budget to increase the Veterans' Administration's allowance for funds for the ensuing year, for 1968?
Mr. DRIVER. For 1968? Approximately $170 million as direct appropriation needs to the Veterans' Administration; $87 million of this was specifically included in the VA portion of the President's budget as proposed for later transmittal. About $84 million needed for the pension increase is included in the President's budget under his contingency fund item. In addition to the $170 million earmarked in the President's budget for new legislation to be directly appropriated to the VA, the fiscal year 1968 budget for all other items is up $173 million over the 1967 estimated level. Therefore, the budget for 1968, assuming that the legislation the President has recommended is passed, is up $343 million over 1967.
Mr. SAYLOR. So that there is approximately $300 million?
In addition to this legislation, it includes increased staffing in the medical program, and things like that.
Mr. SAYLOR. Now, what about increased cost of nurses, doctors, and so forth?
Mr. DRIVER. That is all in there. In the medical program, there is approximately a $65 million increase from last year, in this budget.
Mr. SAYLOR. Even with a $65 million increase, you are having difficulty in procuring competent personnel. Is that right?
Mr. DRIVER. Yes, sir. And, quite frankly, we thought of asking for more money. I think that we could use people in certain areas. But realistically, we know that we cannot hire them.
You cannot get some scarce category medical personnel in some places in this country, today.
Mr. ADAIR. Would the gentleman yield at that point?
Mr. ADAIR. Upon the point of budgeting, there are a good many people in the Congress, including myself, who feel that if you have a contingency fund, it is just that. It is a fund for unforeseen contingencies.